Just across the Wisconsin border, north of Hudson, Willow River State Park features nearly 3,000-acres of rolling prairie, hardwood forest, and picturesque views of the river and Wisconsin countryside. A popular destination all year round, this park attracts hikers, runners, skiers, and rock climbers. There are in total 17 miles of hiking trails, all of which take you through beautiful landscapes.
What Makes It Great
The several roofs that overhang are what make Willow Falls sport climbing so difficult. The cruxes of most routes are the roofs, which hide large pockets above the overhang. Some holds have worn out throughout the years, requiring strenuous dynos. Leaps of faith are always dicey, even for the experienced climber. But, with the right technique and some good wingspan, advanced climbers will have a heyday. The park does not permit climbing on the opposite side of the river. Please do not climb on this side because it will jeopardize access to the area.
If you’re looking for something technical that will keep you busy all day, walk towards the falls and look for where the rocks are wet. To the left, halfway up the amphitheater, you will see a horizontal roof that houses the routes Water Music (5.12a) and its extension Brass Monkey (5.12d). A bit chossy at times, this route requires skilled footwork and a huge roof pull. If chossy isn’t your style, then be prepared for some loose rock because Willow Falls is full of it. Most routes have some breakage and require some improvisation and blind faith.
The most popular route is Sudden Daydreams (5.12a), which is an extension of Sudden Shock (5.11d). Within a dark streak in the rock and below a small roof, Sudden Shock starts out with a 30-degree overhang. After 4 bolts, veer right and work your magic on Sudden Daydreams. Though strenuous,this stellar route is technical and fun.
Who is Going to Love It
With some of the most technical routes in Wisconsin, advanced climbers from all over the Midwest come to Willow Falls to test their skills. Ranging from 5.9 to 5.14b, climbers can work on their endurance and strength against Willow Falls’ dolomite cliffs.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Climbing is permitted on cliff north of the river. No top-roping or rappelling from top of cliff. Climbers must use existing bolts only. A handout is available at the park office. Park managers manage access to the routes very carefully, so tread lightly and be kind to the park officials. With kindness, this area can continue being open for future climbing.
Hours (Year Round) Monday-Thursday: 6 am -11 pm Friday: 6 am - Noon Saturday: Closed Sunday (May 15th to Sept 15th): 6 am - Noon Sunday (Sept 16th to May 14th): 6 am - 11 pm
From the main parking lot, follow the trail down a gradual hill. The trail veers right and within a couple hundred yards, you reach a bridge. This bridge crosses the Willow River and offers great views of the waterfall. To the left of the falls is the Amphitheater, which houses the majority of the climbing routes in Willow Falls State Park.
Cross the bridge and find the pedestrian made dirt trail that leads to the cliffs. The trail first takes you to an outcrop below the waterfall. A perfect place to take a midday dip during a hot summer day or for a dramatic photo of the falls, this spot also allows you to see what the cliffs have to offer.