One of the first things I wrote about when I started my blog was about my trip up north last summer. I then became embroiled in writing about all these other things, and I totally forgot that I hadn’t written about my trip to Copper Falls State Park, in Northern Wisconsin. I chose to not include it when I initially wrote about the trip because my post about the Upper Peninsula included places I hadn’t gone to on that specific trip, and because I was focusing on the U.P. as a whole. So it felt right to keep Wisconsin sites separate.
Copper Falls State Park – Mellen, WI
Copper Falls was such a hidden gem! When I learned that we were going to be heading up north with a seven year old in the dead of summer, I knew that we would need to have some stopping points. It was actually his first road trip that was longer than 3-4 hours.
I hopped onto Google to check out fun outdoorsy places that we might be able to stop and run around while on our drive. Copper Falls came up, and it seemed like an interesting place to stop! Now, I browsed very briefly and didn’t take note of anything beyond that there was a trail to see waterfalls, and that it was basically directly on our way up to the Apostle Islands.
We arrived at the state park and paid the fees to get in. Once we were talking to the employees there, we learned that it was not, in fact, a place where you could drive your car up to the waterfalls. No. It was a 1.7 mile hiking trail to see some waterfalls.
It was the weekend of the Fourth of July. It happened to be almost 90 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny, that day. I had dressed for sitting in an air conditioned car for 7 hours, wearing black leggings, flip flops, and a cotton t-shirt. My brother and step-dad were dressed similarly. None of us were prepared for the hike that ensued.
Upon learning it was more than a one-and-a-half mile hike, I knew I needed to change my shoes. Old Navy flip-flops, as good as they are, were not going to be the best shoes for hiking 1.7 miles. I quickly threw on some gym shoes and we headed up to the trail head. Despite it being the Fourth of July weekend, the trails actually weren’t all that crowded! We wanted to hike the trail called “Doughboys Trail,” which would allow us to see 3 different features of the state park, Brownstone Falls, Copper Falls, and the cascades.
Right when you enter the trail head, you have the option to simply walk the loop around and see all the waterfalls, or you can first climb the sixty-five foot observation tower to get a lay of the land. We decided that it was entirely too hot to be doing that many stairs, and opted to skip it. We headed straight to Copper Falls, enjoying the nice walk through the trees.
As you can see, much like Tahquamenon, Copper Falls also has the rust-colored water due to the tannins. It’s so interesting to see water that color! The walk to Copper Falls was very relaxing as it was relatively level ground and shady.
After viewing Copper Falls, we continued down the trail towards Brownstone Falls. This is the point where I began to believe that I was going to die. I was so sweaty and disgusting from the heat! This is also when our walk became a lot more challenging, as there were now stairs to maneuver up and down. Everyone is always like, “you’re young! It’s way easier for you to do this, this, and this,” but honestly? I thought I was going to eat it on the stairs. The stone was slick even on a hot, dry, summer day! I actually read their website and it states that in the winter they have to close portions of the trail because the rock stairs become far too slick.
We detoured from the trail a bit to walk down to the shore of the river to skip rocks and take pictures.
We quickly headed back up to cross the bridge, where we discovered that what goes down must come back up. We were confronted with even MORE stairs, this time, heading upwards. This was the point where we all started to die. None of us have any sense of distance, so we’re thinking, “Man, has it been 1.7 miles yet? It must have been!” Unfortunately, nope! We were barely halfway. The sun was beating down and killing us. But what an adventure!
As you can see from the pictures, we really did have the whole place pretty much to ourselves, despite it being a holiday weekend. We did run across a few other groups of people occasionally, but for the most part we were alone on the trail. The next thing we came across were the cascades.
After seeing the Cascades, we finally found Brownstone Falls. These ones were the hardest to see clearly from the trail, and I would’ve loved to go closer, but you can’t set a bad example for a seven-year-old! Oh well, I’ll just have to go back one day!
Finally, we made it back to the parking area! We were melting. I felt so disgusting, all I wanted was air conditioning and some cold water. There is a small concessions area, which is air conditioned! They also serve ice cream and other cold drinks, which is the perfect way to end a hot and sweaty hike. We got some cold water and ice cream, and got back on the road towards the Apostle Islands!
Copper Falls State Park was so amazing, I would go back in a heartbeat. I’d love to go explore it some more one day!