Copper Falls State Park in the northern part of the state is one of the most amazing parks in Wisconsin! The most popular and impressive area of Copper Falls is the Doughboy Trail which offers several views of the local falls but don’t count out the rest of this park. There are 17 miles of hiking trails, some of which you can tackle with bikes. There are waterfalls in other parts of the park, a lake with a sandy beach, and 4 different camping options to suit all needs. You don’t want to miss this park!
Hiking-The Doughboy Trail and Falls
The hike with the most bang for your buck and the one that is the most popular at Copper Falls State Park is the Doughboy trail. It is just under two miles and leaves from the main parking area near the concession stand and playground. The start of the trail leads across a rustic and sturdy ravine bridge. The trail is wide and mostly packed dirt alternating with well made stone steps. All along the walk you can hear the peaceful sounds of rushing water. The trail is wooded but there are several over looks where you can see Copper Falls, Brownstone Falls, and Tyler Forks rapids.
Roughly midway through you cross the Bad River. Depending on the water level, you may be able to walk the edges of the riverbed here. My kids had a blast trying to learn to skip rocks and digging in the dirt here. Many families stopped to enjoy this spot.
From the Doughboy trail just on the far side of the Ravine bridge you can elect to go east and take a slightly longer loop-the CCC 692 trail. This trail leads up to the Copper Falls observation tower. It is about a mile loop. The 65 foot observation deck is very sturdy with safe fencing on all sides. When I was there I was hoping to see the fall colors but unfortunately the trees are now taller than the tower which does limit the views. This observation tower is only one example of the gorgeous workmanship of the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC). Keep an eye out for their other projects including the concession stand and covered picnic area, fencing, overlooks, bridges, and more.
Hiking-The North Country Scenic Trail
Have you heard of the North Country Trail before? It is 4,800 miles and stretches from Vermont to North Dakota! It traverses the Copper Falls State park from north to south for 4 miles. You can catch it near the entrance of Copper Falls, the group camp site, the north campground, or near the main picnic area.
Hiking to Red Granite Falls
This 2.5 mile trail starts near Loon Lake. It’s a wide gravel trail great for families and groups. It winds through varied terrain and passes through some huge granite outcroppings. Dogs are welcome on this trail.
Biking and Hiking shared trails
There are two trails available for off road biking which are shared with hiking. The Takesson trails is 2.5 miles if you do the whole loop or you can cut through and do a smaller loop for 1.6 miles. The inner and shorter loop is less hilly and an easier ride. Both loops offer beautiful views of the Bad River. Both loops go past a beaver pond. Park at the Ballfield parking lot and use the connector trail at the North Campground to get to Takesson Trails.
The other shared hiking and biking trail is Vahtera and also leaves from the Ballfield parking lot. Again, the inner loop is easier and covers 1.2 miles while the outer loop is 1.7 miles featuring some hilly terrain. My husband and I are fairly confident mountain bikers and were able to manage this trail with our kiddos riding along but I would not have enjoyed this trail with a road bike. All the hills are short but some are quite steep. We meant to do the short loop but accidentally did the long loop and did just fine.
Playground and Picnic Areas
The main parking area next to the concession stand and the trailhead for Doughboy has a large picnic area. There are plenty of tables to some grills to use. There is a good amount of green space but the ground isn’t level and trying to play frisbee or soccer would be challenging. A newer playground has two small play-sets with several slides in addition to a swing, a baby swing, and a small sandbox. Perhaps a couple hundred yards away is an older play area with a sand base, a single metal slide, and another couple of swings.
There is a large flat green space at the Ballfield Parking area just down the road that would be a great place for a ball game, a soccer, game or a game of frisbee.
Swimming and Boating
Ready to dip your toes in? Head to Loon Lake near the entrance of the park. There is a 300 foot beach over-looking the beautiful lake. While there is a green space next to the beach it isn’t as large as many other parks in Wisconsin. They do have a paved path that leads all the way up to the sand.
To keep the peace and quiet at Copper Falls, only electric motors are allowed on the lake but there are plenty of lakes nearby that are better suited for larger boats. Kayaks other paddle craft are welcome to enjoy the lake. There are kayaks and paddle boards available for rent next to the beach on Loon Lake courtesy of the Friends of Copper Falls. If you want to minimize how far you are carrying your personal watercraft, check out the boat landing which is a bit past the beach.
There is a beautiful accessible fishing pier on Loon Lake. It is just to the west of the beach area. Both Bad River and Tyler Forks offer fishing. Please pay close attention to location and license requirements as it can be a bit tricky.
Copper Falls has several options to suit different camping needs. The North Campground as 32 sites and 28 of those have electrical hook ups. This campsite is centrally located in the park and provides easy access to the main parking area where the Doughboy Trailhead is as well as the main picnic area and playground. It is also very close to the trailheads for both Takesson and Vahtera trails. There are two vault toilets and several water fountains. To get to the showers you will have to head to the South Campground which is just under a half mile away.
The South Campground has 23 sites which are all non-electric. The sites here have small drives which would be a little harder to back a trailer into but it is certainly possible. Besides showers, the South Campground also has two vault toilets and several water fountains. There is a group campsites, which accommodates tents only. It is across from the South Campground.
Firewood is available at the concession stand seasonally. There were also signs for firewood for sale on our way into the park.
The showers and water fountains are open from Memorial day until October 1st but this can be somewhat dependent on the weather. Check below for more details on winter use.
Hike in Camping
If you prefer a little more privacy, check out the walk in sites. There are four of them at the end of the South Campground. The sites are about 100 yards from the parking area. They do have carts available to make getting your gear in a little easier.
If even the walk in sites seem a bit too busy or tame for you, check out the backpack campsite. There is one site available and it is a two mile hike from the parking lot. I did not get a chance to check it out personally but it’s said to be on the bank of the Bad River and overlooking sandstone ledges. There is a primitive fire ring. There is also a primitive latrine but you need to bring your own supplies and water.
Accessible areas for all
There is a rustic accessible cabin available. See the DNR site for more details. There is a paved path to the sandy part of the beach. Around 0.5 miles of the Doughboy trail is paved and can be reached by the disable access road. There are picnic benches which are accessible as well.
Concessions and Events
The Concession stand is near the main parking area next to the start of the Doughboy Trail. It is open daily between Memorial Day and Labor Day as well as weekends til Mid October. They sell firewood, ice cream, treats, drinks, and some small gifts. They also offer a small selection of necessary camping supplies. It is operated by the Friends of Copper Falls.
In addition to operating the kayak and paddle board rentals and concession stand, the Friends of Copper Falls group also helps organize events. Check out their facebook page to see what is happening.
Dogs at Copper Falls
Dogs are welcome on the Red Granite Falls trail, Takesson trail, and Vaherta trail. There is also a pet friendly picnic area next to the main picnic area. It includes water access to the Bad River. Like most parks your dog must be on a leash and you have to pick up after them.
Planning to bring your furry friend? There is plenty of fun to be had for dogs but it’s important to note dogs are NOT allowed on the very popular Doughboy trail. In addition, dogs are not allowed to be in the park unsupervised, including in the car or at a campsite. This means if your canine companion is with you, there is no way for you to see Copper Falls or Brownstone Falls. Dogs are also not allowed on the beach.
Winter at Copper Falls
I have not had the pleasure of seeing this park in the winter but it is on my list! The DNR site There are six campsites that are plowed and available for winter camping. These do include electric hook ups and are in the north campground. There are vault toilets at Ballfield. The rest of the campsite acts as a ski trail. There is potable water available from October 1st to Memorial Day. You need to use the hose on the stone maintenance garage.
The Waterfall Trail is a one mile loop that is rolled for snow shoeing and walking. You can ski too but it isn’t groomed specifically for skis. This trails allows you to see Brownstone and Copper Falls. There are snowshoes available for rent on a first come first serve basis. No pets allowed on the trail.
Sorry, there are no horse trails at Copper Falls.
Nearby State Parks
The closest State Park is Amnicon Falls which is about an hour and a half west. It has more awesome waterfalls as well as camping and a few short hikes. Pattison State Park is about 30 minutes past Amincon Falls and has several large waterfalls which can be accessed with pretty short hikes. It also has camping and a beach. Alternatively you could head north to Big Bay State Park which is on Madeline Island. You have to drive an hour North and then get on the ferry to see this amazing park. Check a list of all the Wisconsin State Parks here.
Just 10 minutes away is Copper Ridge a pub offering burgers, pizza, and wraps. A little further south is Drop Tine Bar and Grill. They don’t have a website but they have pub type food and drinks.
The closest town is Ashland which is 35 minutes north of Copper Falls. Try Copper Pasty for the traditional food of the UP miners. If you are looking for a cup of joe to start your day, check out Black Cat Coffeehouse. Looking for a bit fancier? Check out the Deep Water Grille and South Shore Brewery for surf and turf type selection.
This park is huge and beautiful. The popular Doughboy Trail is manageable in length and has stunning views. There are plenty of places to stop and enjoy the falls. With over 17 miles of hiking there is plenty of ground to cover if you want to put in some miles. The park road is gently rolling and a smooth bike ride. If you are looking to get off road there are several miles of bike-able trails as well. The beach is large and sandy with a beautiful view. Don’t miss this park!
Do you have any other tips of insider information on this park? Do you know of any great nearby activities? Please share in the comments below.