101 Things To Do: Willow River State Park
Editor's note: This is the latest stop in the series 101 Things To Do. Each week through December 2020, we will select one place or activity around the region to highlight. The stories are compiled at www.rivertown101.com.
More than 1 million visitors per year stop at Willow River State Park, five miles northeast of Hudson, Wis., according to Aaron Mason, park superintendent. Most of those visitors have plans to hike to Willow Falls.
"We have a spectacular waterfall inside the park," Mason said, "and that is what drives most people to come here. We get a lot of people that come here to camp, hike, and go to the waterfall."
Seeing the waterfall requires hiking in on a choice of two popular trails. The first, the Willow Falls Hill Trail, is slightly less than half a mile, but requires hiking over a steep hill, according to Mason.
The second, the Willow Falls Trail, is longer but flatter. It starts at Campground 300 and follows the edge of Little Falls Lake and south bank of the Willow River. It is one mile each way.
"It is definitely worthwhile to get out there to see the waterfall," Mason said. "There are a lot of people that venture out there everyday."
The park has 16 miles of hiking on a dozen trails and offers visitors a color-coded trail map to make navigation easy.
One of the busiest state parks in Wisconsin, Willow River State Park features a traditional campground with 150 campsites and a group camping area, a picnic shelter, playground, and swimming beach. Campsites and the shelter may be reserved by calling 1-888-WIPARKS (947-2757).
The park is open for hunting in the fall Nov. 15 to Dec. 15.
Pets are allowed, but must be on a leash. Drones are not allowed.
Normally the park offers boat rentals for canoeing and kayaking, however, Little Falls Lake has recently been drained to allow crews to work on the dam. When the lake is refilled, boat rentals will resume.
"That is a big project going on here," Mason said. "We are hoping to have the lake restored by 2020. During the summer of 2019, the lake will be drained, but the river still runs through the park."
If you go...
Name: Willow River State Park
Address: 1034 County Highway A, Hudson, Wis.
Hours: The park is open daily from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Admission: An annual vehicle admission sticker for Wisconsin plates is $28 and for out-of-state plates is $38. A daily pass is $11 for in-state and $13 for out-of-state.