Soak in the Fall Colors of Northern Door County

The tradition of making a Sunday drive may seem old-fashioned in our jam-packed 21st-century lives. However, a new season is an important shift to notice, and taking pause to appreciate the beauty of fall has its benefits. When my husband and I moved to northern Door County four years ago, we vowed never to take its natural beauty for granted. And while I seldom get in the car just for the sake of “taking a drive,” I do have a 30-minute daily commute during which I make a point to notice the subtle changes that occur each day. Each fall I try mightily to catch the trees mid-metamorphosis, and each year their brilliant phase surprises me with its arrival. Slowing down to reconnect with nature is enjoyable in the moment and good for the soul.

According to Travel Wisconsin, northern Door County’s fall colors will peak between late September and mid-October. Whether you walk, hike, run, bike or drive, Peninsula State Park is one of the best places on the peninsula to take in the radiant hues. Enter into the forest on the north end of the park, park at site of the old Eagle Tower and hike Sentinel trail, a fairly even and easy hike, or from the south end of the park, park near the tennis courts on Shore Road and hike the Skyline and Hemlock trails for a little more of a challenge. To see magnificent panoramic vistas, bike along Shore road and stop at Eagle Terrace or one of the overlooks on Skyline Road. Earlier in the season you’ll see soft greens and yellows, and, at peak change, you’ll enjoy bright reds and fiery oranges.

Distance from the Blacksmith Inn: Driveable in 17 minutes (8.6 miles)

Pre-registration required: No

Cost: Day or annual state parks pass required; cost varies

For another stunning vista, make the drive north to Ellison Bay Bluff State Natural Area. Here, a scenic overlook perches visitors 200 feet above the bay below. The fall colors here will be a beautiful mix of coniferous greens and the reds, oranges and yellows of maple, beech and birch leaves, among many others.

Distance from the Blacksmith Inn: Driveable in 24 minutes (15 miles)

Pre-registration required: No

Cost: None

After taking in this view, head to one of Ellison Bay’s fine establishments for a warm beverage or a bite of something sweet. Kick Ash Products is a family business known for its deliciously addictive Door County Love Artisan Granola and small-batch coffee. With a steaming cup in hand browse a petit but well-curated display of local artists’ goods or take a seat on the lawn and watch the world go by.

Distance from the Blacksmith Inn: Driveable in 21 minutes (14.4 miles)

Pre-registration required: No

Cost: Varies

Likely the best place to immerse oneself in the change of the season is just near to the Blacksmith Inn. The Ridges Sanctuary is a privately-funded land preserve with an active educational nature center. Learn more about the transformation of the sanctuary’s swales on one of the Ridges’ guided hikes. Join in on one of the many educational programs offered, like Ales and Swales, a beer-themed guided hike ending at the Door County Brewing Tap Room scheduled for mid-September.

Distance from the Blacksmith Inn: Walkable in 1 minute

Pre-registration required: No

Cost: $5 to hike for non members; program costs vary

No matter how you choose to experience the fall colors, be sure to plan enough time to soak them in. Check the Blacksmith Inn’s availability for your fall weekend retreat.

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