Thursday, August 18, 2016

Variety of trails found across St. Croix Cnty.

Willow Falls at Willow River State Park.
Wisconsin's St. Croix County consists of several communities with great hiking trails. Most sprung up as agricultural centers, though during the past couple of decades those closest to the Minnesota border increasingly serve as bedroom communities for the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. The county’s communities neatly fall into one of three groups based on the level of this transition from farm to bedroom town.

The Great River Road communities sit in the western third of the county, which is rapidly urbanizing. Wis. Hwy. 35, also known as the Great River Road, runs north-south connecting these cities. So also do four major rivers.

The county seat, Hudson, with its neighbor North Hudson, are located where the St. Croix River joins a tributary, the Willow River. Beautiful Willow River State Park sits just east of town; a hike to Willow Falls is a must for any visitor to this part of Wisconsin.

North of Hudson is Somerset, which the Apple River flows through on its way to the St. Croix. The city enjoys a colorful history as a rough logging town and bootleg alcohol production center during the Prohibition. One great Somerset hike is the Parnell Prairie Reserve Trail.

South of Hudson is River Falls. Partially in neighboring Pierce County, the city is home to the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Hiking trails abound on the Kinnickinnic River, which flows through town en route to the St. Croix. The most scenic part of the Kinnickinnic is just a mile south of the St. Croix-Pierce county line at Glen Park.

The central third of the county is farming country though the population of cities along the Interstate 94 and Wis. Hwy. 64 corridors is growing at a faster rate than most other communities in Wisconsin.

The most populous, New Richmond, sits just east of Somerset in the county’s north. During 1899, an F5 tornado wiped out the community, killing 117 people. Today, the city is a vibrant town with many great local hiking options. Among them is the New Richmond Heritage Center and Paperjack Creek Trail.

Much smaller Star Prairie and Deer Park sit to the north and northeast of New Richmond. Roberts is to the south where Wis. Hwy. 65 and I-94 meets. Hammond and then Baldwin, the latter beginning as a railroad town, are east of Roberts on the I-94 corridor. The Casey Lake Trail near Baldwin offers an opportunity to see great blue heron near their rookery.

The eastern third of the county is farming country with cities no larger than a population of 1500, but quality trails can be here as well. Woodville and Wilson are east of Baldwin off of I-94. Glenwood City is to the north; nearby Glen Hills County Park boasts a number of great hikes. The Wildwood Trail links Woodville to Spring Valley, home of Crystal Cave and the Eau Galle Recreation Area.

Learn more about nearby day hiking trails in my Day Hiking Trails of St. Croix County.