Day 3 of the weeklong hiking and camping mini honeymoon (mini-moon) adventure brought us further north to Brunet Island State Park. If you missed the beginning of the trip, catchup on DAY 1 and DAY 2 if you want to see what brought us here.
Located outside the small town of Cornell, the island sits between the Chippewa River and Fisher River. Most of the park’s activities are found on the island, but the adventure continues on the mainland too with trails extending east of the island. The park has opportunities for hiking, biking, watersports, swimming, camping, and other activities.
If you have time to check out Cornell, you’ll find it’s a cute small town with a lot of history. Stop by Millyard Park to see the last remaining pulpwood stacker of its kind. In the mood for ice cream? The Main Scoop is the place to go!
The park has about 7 miles of hiking across 5 different trails. About 3 miles of trail are on the island itself across 4 different trails. During this visit, we hiked all the trails on the island without venturing onto the mainland trail.
We started our hike at the boat landing on the east side of the island, at the Spruce Trail head.
Looking north you can see the bridge connecting the mainland to the island (left photo) and looking south you can see the open river (right photo.)
Length: .75 mile linear
Description: This short, flat trail connects the boat landing parking lot to the playground/beach area.
This trail follows the river as it travels through the woods. It’s an easy, flat, and pleasant trail.
From the trail you can see the bright blue Cornell Bridge.
Length: 1.5 miles
Description: These two trails crisscross the center of the island, connecting the swim area, the campground, and the boat landing.
The south side of the island has the beach area, allowing swimmers to enjoy the Chippewa River. It was early in the season, cloudy, and cool, which meant that no one was swimming, but I can see this area being a popular spot on the warmer days.
Back on the trail, the Timber Trail connects to the pine trail as it travels north. I lumped these two together because they are similar and not all that scenic. Like the first trail, they are flat and pleasant trails through the woods.
Length: .8 mile, linear
Description: A self guided trail with signs describing the nature around it, this trail travels around the norther tip of the island.
Who was Jean Brunet you ask? Well, he helped open the first dam and sawmill in Chippewa Falls in 1836 before deciding to explore further north. He settled 30 miles upstream and built a supply depot and meeting spot for other travelers. The town of Cornell was first named Brunet Falls after the founder, before being renamed after Erza Cornell (the same Cornell for whom the university is named.) There’s a lot more to the story and you can learn more about it on the park’s website, if you’re interested.
This trail was the most scenic on the island. Whereas the other trails were in the center and surrounded by woods, this trail opened up to the surrounding rivers and reminded you that you were on an island.
It was amazing how the environment changed from a green tint to a blue tint depending on the surrounding trees and lighting at the time.
Popular at many parks now, the Travel Wisconsin selfie stand!
Also on this trail, deer! They were everywhere. We saw 5-6 deer on the northern tip of the island, one of them slowly strutting in front of our car on the bridge when we were driving into the park.
While the hiking we did at this park wasn’t anything to write home about, this park is still pretty unique. Not many parks allow you the chance to stay on an island without having to take a ferry. I’ll get into our campsite next time, but if you like camping with a water feature, this is a great park for you. Wildlife, swimming, and a cute little town a few minutes away? I can see why most of the campsites were full.