The temperatures are dropping, and the air is getting crisp. The Apple orchards are opening, and soon the leaves will start dropping. Don’t miss your chance to enjoy the beautiful fall colors. Rib Mountain State Park in the fall is the perfect place to enjoy the beauty of Wisconsin in Autumn. If you are looking for another great place to see the fall colors check out Timm’s Hill. It is a charming county park North of Rib Mountain.
Fall Chairlift Rides
Rib Mountain may not be the tallest point in Wisconsin, but it does house the highest ski resort in Wisconsin-Granite Peak. It gives an amazing view of the surrounding area. Granite Peak runs the chair lifts to the top of Rib Mountain State Park in the fall and gives everyone an opportunity to take in the colors. Park at the bottom of the hill in the ski lot parking area, jump on the chair lift at the bottom, and enjoy a bird’s eye view of the trees on the way up. Check out Granite Peak’s site for advance ticket sales. The most popular weekend almost always sells out, so get your tickets ahead of time to reserve your spot.
Once at the top of Rib Mountain, take your time exploring the rocky trails around the top of the loop. If you want to go even higher, take the climb to the top of the observation tower. Or, if you’d rather, find a nice spot at the top to relax and enjoy the peaceful surroundings and fall weather. When you’re ready, hop back on the lift for the ride down.
Hiking to the top of Rib Mountain in the Fall
While the chairlifts are fun, they aren’t for everyone. You can still drive up to the top of Rib Mountain and park there to get the same views (and not have to pay for the chair lift). Keep in mind on peak fall weekends, parking gets a little tight. If you’re ready to break a sweat, park at the bottom of the park road. (The parking area is near Bone and Joint). Then hike the trail up! You can stay on the sidewalk if you prefer, or watch for the yellow trail that breaks off to the left and walk under the beauty of the trees on dirt hiking paths.
Another option is to take the Quarry and Turkey Vulture trails. They come up from the northwest side of the mountain. It is a wider trail where you can walk a couple of people across if you’d like but still gets you to the top. If you are looking for more details on any of the trails, check out my post dedicated to this park in all seasons.
For the kids
For the younger kiddos, there is a playground at the top. It is near the concession stand, which sells a small variety of treats and trinkets. Friends of Rib Mountain State Park runs it. There are some rocks near the playground to climb on. There are bigger rocks to climb on at the base of the tower. My favorite hike for my 2 and 4-year-old is the blue trail around the base of the tower. It is fairly short, and there are rocks along the entire thing to explore. (It’s also fun for adults!)
The Best Apple Orchard
My favorite fall activity, outside of hiking and enjoying the colors, is visiting apple orchards. Helene’s Hilltop Orchard is wonderful for the whole family and is about 30 minutes north of Rib Mountain State Park. They have a huge tractor playground, amazing baked sweets, a sunflower field, lots of photo ops, a small bar area, and delicious fresh picked apples!
Other local fun and food
Check out my main post about Rib Mountain for more recommendations for things to do in the Wausau Area. And if you love state Parks, be sure to check out Council Grounds while you are in the area. It is just over half an hour north of Rib Mountain and close to the apple orchard.
One of my favorite places to eat near Rib Mountain State Park is Red Eye Brewing. They focus on local ingredients, and the food is delicious. You can’t go wrong with their wood-fired pizzas. Wausau on the Water (WOW) has burgers and brews, laser tag, and an indoor arcade area to keep the kids busy. They also have a beautiful patio overlooking the Wisconsin River.
For breakfast or brunch, we love the Sixth Street Filling Station, they make their own bread, and it is so amazing! Era is a new breakfast place that is awesome and close to the park. Whitewater Music Hall and Brew Works always has a fun vibe. You can count on them for coffee, beer, and creative cocktails but check the website for food. They usually have a limited selection and often host food trucks. Briq’s Soft Serve is a local favorite and has several locations in Wausau as well as some in Northern Wisconsin.
Rib Mountain State Park is beautiful any time of year, but it really shines in the fall. From a challenging hike to a peaceful chairlift, there are lots of options to get to the top. Once there, scramble on some rocks or find a bench and enjoy the views. Wausau has plenty to offer outside of the park as well.