Not only are the colors glorious, but the rolling hills, golden fields, various waterways, and charming small towns combine to enhance the experience.
Any of the 7 tours described here will expose you to the best of Polk County in the fall. Enjoy!
The St. Croix Falls Area Tour offers the eye an ample dose of everything: rolling countryside exploding with color, balanced by beautifully maintained farms and fields. The River Road takes you along the scenic St. Croix River, also known as the “National Wild River”.
Don’t forget to stop at Lion’s Park just outside of St. Croix Falls on Highway 87. It’s a riverside park with a playground, shelter, and boat landing, and even has a quaint little bridge over the babbling brook which empties into the river.
Interstate Park, just south of St. Croix Falls on Highway 35 has endless possibilities, including hiking, camping, the Ice Age Center, picnicking, fishing, and wildlife watching. The Polk County Information Center at the intersection of Hwys. 8 & 35 can provide you with a complete selection of information and ideas.
Distance: 28 miles
See also: St. Croix River Road Hwy 87 Ramble
The Cascade Falls are simply breathtaking, and be sure to check out the Osceola Soo Line Depot. You might combine your tour with a 90-minute ride on the historic train on the Osceola & St. Croix Valley Railway.
Before or after your scenic tour, stop in some of the many unique art and gift shops in Osceola.
Distance: 25 miles
This tour takes you through northeastern Polk County and offers access to the McKenzie Greek Wildlife Area, and the Ice Age Trail, which is a wonderful hike.
Add a nostalgic air to your tour with a stop at the Frederic Depot and Museum. In addition to the picturesque route shown here, there are several lakeside parks to stop and rest at, including Coon Lake in Frederic and the beautiful Big Butternut Lake in Luck, with Luck Golf Course on its southern shore.
Distance: 42 miles
This tour brings you through the county seat, Balsam Lake. This tour offers a myriad of gorgeous lake settings in addition to a variety of leaf-peeping opportunities.
For a glimpse of the rich history of the area, be sure to see the elegant and stately Polk County Courthouse Museum, featured on the National Register of Historic Places. Balsam Lake is known for its top-notch fishing, many water sports, picnic, and camping areas, ballpark, and tennis courts.
Distance: 45 miles
This tour features the Turtle Lake area and many twisting roads with eye-popping scenery at every turn. Watch for wildlife such as loons, herons, bald eagles, bear, deer, and more.
The northwest portion of the tour brings you in and around the Rice Bed Creek Wildlife Area, which is state and federal land. Rice Bed Creek flows right down the center of this land and meets up with the well-known Apple River towards the southern end of the Wildlife Area. Trees include maple, pine, birch, and oak, among others for a generous array of colors.
Just east of the tour shown here, you will find the popular St. Croix Casino, art galleries, and gift shops.
Distance: 24 miles
This tour is a wonderful way to enjoy the peaceful beauty of Polk County and experience real small-town charm and friendliness. The mix of hills, woods, and farms are a delight to take in as you tour this lovely area.
Just outside of Clayton, Lake Camelia, and Lake Magnor provide a nice contrast to the blazing autumn colors.
Distance: 15 miles
You’ll be awed by the blaze of brilliant fall colors as you tour the Amery, Little Falls, and Clear Lake areas. Amery boasts the head of the Cattail Trail, and there are many antique, crafts, and gift shops to browse. Add a hint of nostalgia to your day at the Clear Lake Museum and the Veteran’s Memorial. A stop at scenic Clear Lake Park would be a lovely place to stretch your legs or enjoy a picnic.
Distance: 27 miles
Some Highlights of the Area
Osceola Cascade Falls – View the falls from the same boardwalk 1800’s steamboat passengers used, leading along the Osceola Creek to the foot of the waterfall. You can even view the falls from the “Enchanted Garden”. This deck overlooks the falls and is open to the public.
Balsam Lake Polk County Courthouse Museum – The 100+ year-old Courthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The many displays include early Polk County businesses, fine art, toys, dolls, railroad, farming, ethnic, fashions, and military.
You may also enjoy stopping at the Country School, 1 block south, 1 block west. Even though the museum closes Labor Day, you can call 485-3292 or 485-9269 and they will make arrangements to be open the day you plan your tour. You’ll be glad you did!
Cattail Trail – 18 mile trail on an abandoned railroad bed connecting Amery to Almena, while passing through Turtle Lake. Popular for hiking, biking, horseback riding, ATVs, and motorcycling. There is a campground near the trailhead in Amery.
Apple River County Park – An 18-acre park providing a picnic area, playground, hiking trail, shelter, and restrooms. Located near the intersection of 8 & 46: turn west at Main’s Crossing/125th Avenue, which is just south of Hwy 8 on County Road 46. Follow Main’s Crossing a short distance to the park on your left.
North of Tour 7
McKenzie Creek – A state-designated wilderness area 8 miles east of Frederic, with miles of undisturbed streams & lakes.