2017 Fall Festivals and Events at Wisconsin State Park System Properties

MADISON – From fall color hikes, runs and bicycle rides, to releasing small sturgeon, pumpkin carving and Halloween activities, visitors to Wisconsin State Park System properties have multiple opportunities to enjoy fall in Wisconsin. More than 20 fall festivals and events are planned at properties over the next month.

Fall color festivals begin this weekend at Wisconsin State Park System properties.  Copper Falls will be holding
Fall color festivals begin this weekend at Wisconsin State Park System properties. Copper Falls will be holding “Art in the Park” with hikes on the parks Doughbou’s Waterfall Trail.
Photo Credit: DNR

“Fall is one of the best seasons of the year to get out and enjoy our state parks, forests, trails and recreation areas,” said Wisconsin State Parks Director Ben Bergey. “The combination of the heavily forested areas and the great vistas make our parks and forests key destinations for fall color viewing. And thanks to our many friends groups and partnerships with other organizations, our properties are able to offer a wide variety of fall activities.”

Festival events kick off Sept. 30 with fall color bike rides at the John Muir Trails in the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest, SturgeonFest at Milwaukee’s Lakeshore State Park–where people have an opportunity to release a live young sturgeon–and Fall Color Weekend at Governor Thompson State Park. Events then run each weekend through the end of October. For a complete list of events, search the Department of Natural Resources website, dnr.wi.gov, for keywords “Get Outdoors.” To find fall festival events, click on the checkbox for “festivals” under the “Type” button.

  • September 30, 2017 – Fall Color Festival Bike Rides on the John Muir Trails, Kettle Moraine State Forest – Southern Unit – a full day of heart pounding, side aching, gear grinding mountain bike excitement for the entire family. The Fall Color Festival is an annual mountain bike fundraiser held at the John Muir trails in Southeastern Wisconsin. 7 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • September 30, 2017 – Art in the Park, Copper Falls State Park- Hike the signature Doughboy’s waterfall trail, check out art exhibits from local artists and a wood carving demonstration. Nature activities for kids, T-shirt stamping and pumpkin carving (while supplies last). Refreshments available at the Concession Building. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Followed at 7:30 p.m. by a “Universe in the Park” program.
  • September 30 & October 1, 2017 – Fall Color Weekend, Governor Thompson State Park – hike on the best marked “Color Trail” and when you’re done, enjoy snacks and refreshments in the Visitor’s Center. 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
  • People can release their own sturgeon at Sturgeon Fest.
    People can release their own sturgeon at Sturgeon Fest.
    Photo Credit: SturgeonFest
  • September 30, 2017 – Sturgeon Fest w/RiverEdge Nature Center at Lakeshore State Park – Pre-sponsor a sturgeon at Sturgeonfest.org to release your own sturgeon. The festival is free for all ages; a donation of $10 is appreciated for sponsoring a sturgeon. Pre-register to sponsor a fish; registration closes at 2 p.m. Sept. 29, but if there are still sturgeon left, people can register at the event. The festival continues all day with games and crafts for kids, a scavenger hunt, an Adventure Rock climbing wall, prairie tours, a live performance of “The Great Global Extravaganza” from the Milwaukee County Zoo, educational booths, local food trucks and more. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • September 30, 2017 – Fall Festival, Roche-A-Cri State Park – Celebrate fall and the end of the camping season with the Friends of Roche-A-Cri State Park. Games, hayrides, crafts and fun for the whole family. Free admission day, food and drinks available for purchase from the friends group. 1 to 5 p.m.
  • October 7, 2017 – MacKenzie Center Fall Festival – Participate in many activities including archery, compass skills, geocaching, wildlife tours, fire building, hiking, pumpkin painting, a hay bale maze, gunny sack races, face painting, scarecrow making, hayrides, and much more. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Hayrides are a popular feature at the MacKenzie Fall Festival.
Hayrides are a popular feature at the MacKenzie Fall Festival.
Photo Credit: DNR
  • October 7, 2017 – Changing Colors Ride and Family Game Day, Stower Seven Lakes State Trail – Participants can take a leisurely ride as far as they want to go – up to a 28-mile round-trip – with stops at Wanderoos and seven points of interest along the trail. Family games will be set up at the Soo Line Park in Amery all day. 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • October 7, 2017 – S’more Fun Trail Run, Mirror Lake State Park- Join the Friends of Mirror Lake State Park and trail running volunteers for the 2nd annual S’more Fun Trail Run. There will be 5K and 10K runs as well as a 1-mile hike that is great for all ages. All proceeds benefit Mirror Lake State Park. 7 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • October 7, 2017 – Run Wild 2017, Potawatomi State Park – The Friends of Potawatomi State Park present Run Wild 2017. Events include a 5K run/walk, quarter marathon run, and Smokey Bear Fun Run for the kids. 7:30 a.m.-noon.
  • October 7, 2017 – Fall Candlelight Hike in the Park, Kohler Andrae State Park – Come enjoy a fall evening at Kohler-Andrae with family and friends. Visitors are asked to park in the picnic lots and walk to the outdoor shelter. The hike will be self-guided on a torch-lit trail starting at the outdoor shelter near parking lot #8. Master Naturalist Chris Lilek will entertain with songs and stories around the campfire. Weather permitting there will be telescope viewing by the UW-Sheboygan Astronomy Dept. Cider and snacks will be provided at the outdoor shelter. All children must be accompanied by an adult. No pets please. 6-8 p.m.
  • October 7, 2017 – Fall Candlelight Hike, Governor Dodge State Park – Stroll down the Lakeview Trail lit with glowing candlelight. Enjoy s’mores around the bonfire after your walk. The Iowa County Astronomers will also have telescopes set up on the Cox Hollow Lake Dam for visitors to view the night sky. Sponsored by the Friends of Governor Dodge. Start at Cox Hollow Beach. 7-9 p.m.
  • October 13, 2017 – Harvest Moon Festival, Capital Springs State Recreation Area – Join our autumnal celebration of the natural world featuring educational exhibits along a torch-lit trail with many live critters, kids’ tree climb, and interactive games! Warm up by a roaring bonfire, roast s’mores, and listen to live music from the Poor Hearts. Visitors can also enjoy the silent auction with many locally-sources items and seasonal treats such as homemade pie, chili hot dogs, and cider for sale. Admission is $5 per person (ages 5 and under are free). Military children are free with parent’s military identification. Sponsored by the Friends of Capital Springs. 6-9 p.m.
  • October 14, 2017 – Kinnickinnic State Park Fall Festival- Kids up to age 12 can join us in their Halloween Costume as we celebrate all things fall. We will have fun, nature-based activities and crafts for kids of all ages to enjoy – including the parks largest leaf pile to jump in! 2-4 p.m.
  • October 20 & 21, 2017 – Halloween Nature Hikes Kettle Moraine State Forest – Northern Unit – Join us for a fun-filled stroll through the dark autumn woods to meet some fascinating characters including the mighty dragonfly, invading crayfish, wriggly worm, and stealthy preying mantis. This is not a scary hike and is best for those more than five years of age. 6:30-9:30 p.m.
  • October 21, 2017 – Halloween Mystery Candlelight Hike, Mirror Lake State Park – We will have an easy 1-mile torch lit trail to hike. Kids of all ages can help us find clues and discover our mystery guest. There will also be an activity for the kids at the Amphitheater. The Friends will have food and beverages available for purchase, and everyone can enjoy the roaring bonfire. 6-8 p.m.
  • October 21, 2017 – Spooktacular and Food Drive, Mead Wildlife Area – Join us for our 7th annual non‐scary, family fun night Halloween event: Play games, make crafts, decorate a pumpkin or cookie, warm‐up by the campfire. Admission is free with a non‐perishable food item, or $2 per person.6-8 p.m.
  • October 21, 2017 – Halloween Campground Walk, High Cliff State Park – Traditionally campers decorate their campsites for the Halloween Holiday at High Cliff State Park. The Family Campground roads are closed to motor vehicles from 4-8 p.m.
  • October 21, 2017- “Not So Spooky” Hike, Merrick State Park – Join us for a “Not So Spooky” self-guided night hike on one of our trails lit by jack-o-lanterns and tiki-torches. Try your hand at making fall decorations or just hang out by the bonfire and roast a hot dog or marshmallow! 6-8 p.m.
  • October 21, 2017 – Friends Halloween Hike, Devil’s Lake State Park – You can go on a 1-mile torch lit hike; show off your costume by the campfire while roasting a marshmallow or two, and listen to the songs of Campfire Kevin; enjoy some tasty treats sold by the Friends group; and find out about snakes! You can even make a snake to take home with you. 6-8:30 p.m.
  • October 21, 2017 – Eco-Halloween Hike, Richard Bong State Recreation Area- non-scary, family event. Enjoy jack-o-lanterns, Halloween nature skits, campfires, games and crafts. Refreshments for sale. You may arrive anytime between 6:30 and 8 p.m. to sign up for a hike. Hikes take about a half-hour. 6:30-8:30 p.m.
  • At many events, friends groups--like the Friends of Lake Kegonsa--sell refreshments as a fundraiser for the property.
    At many events, friends groups–like the Friends of Lake Kegonsa–sell refreshments as a fundraiser for the property.
    Photo Credit: DNR
  • October 21, 2017 – Candlelight Hike, Lake Kegonsa State Park – Spend a beautiful fall evening hiking along the 1.2-mile White Oak Nature Trail, which will be lit with hundreds of glowing jack-o-lanterns and luminaries. When you are finished, warm up by the bonfire and enjoy refreshments sold by the Lake Kegonsa State Park Friends Group. There is no fee for this event, but a valid park admission sticker is required. Sorry, pets are not allowed on this trail.: 6-9 p.m.
  • October 28, 2017 – Campers Halloween, Kohler Andrae State Park – There are several campers that return each year and set up very elaborate Halloween decorations on their sites. It has become a popular attraction for the public. The best way to see it is by walking. Due to the large numbers of pedestrians, the North campground will be closed to vehicles from 5-8 p.m. on Sat., Oct. 28. Children are encouraged to “Trick or Treat” While walking through the displays.
  • October 28, 2017 – Willow River Halloween Bash, Willow River State Park – Join Friends of Willow River and Kinnickinnic State Parks at the Nature Center for this fun, even spooky evening. Don’t forget to wear your costume! Games, crafts, snacks, storytelling and more for the family to enjoy. 5:30-7:30 p.m.