Council Grounds State Park sign

Council Grounds State Park

We often try to double-up or triple-up our visits to state parks on our journeys. Council Grounds State Park would pair nicely with Rib Mountain State Park, since they’re only about half an hour apart from each other.

However, on this trip, since we had already visited Rib Mountain last year, we just took in Council Grounds, followed by Kinnickinnic, Willow River, and Mill Bluff, making this one of the most “productive” tours of the state we’ve ever taken.

The Northwest Trail Loop at Council Grounds

I think we did something that most visitors to Council Grounds don’t do. We parked in the small lot by the main office and hiked the loop called the Northwest Trail.

The trail was (mostly) well-marked with these snowflake signs, which felt like an unusual symbol to follow in late May. I guess the thought is that the Northwest is often snow-covered.

There were many, many benches along the path. I think they were always arranged in pairs (or more, as you’ll see). Based on the shade of the wood, these all seemed to be fairly new benches.

I got the idea that one bench was intended for hikers traveling clockwise around the loop and the other for counterclockwisers. This pair seemed to confirm my hypothesis – either that, or it’s for hikers who aren’t speaking to each other.

Nearly the entire trail is flat. An occasional boardwalk like the one below (one of the longest) leveled the path even more. These boardwalks also helped keep our shoes dry.

Getting back to the benches, along a part of the trail that comes out from under the trees, there is this group of seats arranged in a semi-circle. Is this supposed to symbolize the original “council ground”?

Flora and Fauna along the Northwest Trail

Other than the numerous mosquitoes (and ticks, as we found later), there wasn’t much in the way of animal life on the Northwest Trail. At some point though, there must have been a rather large bird in the area. This feather was about a foot long. Any idea what species it belonged to?

There were only a few flowers like this smallish white one.

The trees were a little more interesting. A few had some shelf fungus, and one birch was determined to keep growing, no matter which direction was open to it.

Council Grounds Beach Area

After the hike, we drove to the far (west) end of the park where there’s a beach along Alexander Lake, which is really just a dammed section of the Wisconsin River. You can see a bit of the dam in the distance in the picture showing the sandy beach.

We had a meal there while someone on the park staff took care of the lawn.

There is a shelter and playground nearby that we didn’t use, but others had been.

Though there’s nothing that really stands out about Council Grounds State Park, it is a nice place to visit. It’s probably also a good camping area, but we’re not into that.


Nearest City

Merrill, Wisconsin (3 miles)

Nearest Emergency Facility

Merrill, Wisconsin (3 miles)


6:00 AM to 11:00 PM, year-round


Vehicle admission sticker required

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