By Gregg Hoffmann Special to Published Oct 05, 2008 at 4:35 PM

Wisconsin has many wonderful places to view fall colors, but one of the best has to be Blue Mound State Park, west of Madison.

The 1,153-acre park is on the highest hill in southern Wisconsin -- 1.716 feet above sea level -- and the seventh highest point in the state overall. So, from it you can see miles of beautiful color.

Year around, Blue Mound is a popular place for swimming, hiking, camping, cross-country skiing and mountain biking. This time of the year, it really shines because of its vistas for color gazing.

You can see why the park is called Blue Mound as you approach it. Even with the trees changing, it has a rather blue tone, especially in the morning and evening sun.

If you really want to enjoy Blue Mound, you should hike in it.

Indian Marker is named for an oak tree that was bent over 100 years ago and points towards a natural spring. The trail meanders along the north face of the mound through rock outcroppings. Native Americans and early settlers once used the tree marker to help locate water.

Flintrock is a wooded 1.5-mile trail that offers interesting interpretive signs explaining the geology of the Blue Mound area. Watch for flintrock boulders scattered along this trail as the trail takes you along the north side of the mound.

Pleasure Valley Hiking Trail is a one-mile extension of the multi-use Pleasure Valley Trail. The trail follows Ryan Creek, a spring-fed creek, down into a glen. A beautiful rock face wall is located at the bottom with water from springs seeping out of it.

The park provides six miles of challenging off-road bicycle trails. You may also access the 40-mile Military Ridge State Trail from the park's trails.

Military Ridge State Trail, in Iowa and Dane counties, connects Dodgeville and Madison, Wisconsin, by way of the communities of Ridgeway, Barneveld, Blue Mounds, Mount Horeb, Riley, Klevenville and Verona.

The trail follows an 1855 military road between Verona and Dodgeville. It runs along the southern borders of Governor Dodge and Blue Mound state parks. The land around the trail is primarily agricultural, but also includes woods, wetlands, prairies, villages and small cities.

All these trails have great vistas for color viewing. But, you also should try the observation towers, at the far east and far west ends of the picnic area. Each tower is 40 feet high and equipped with a landmark locator to help pinpoint the location of various cities and geologic features.

At the top of the towers, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside hundreds of feet below and views of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway and Baraboo Bluffs.

If you are hardy enough for cooler weather camping, the Blue Mound campground is open year round. It contains 77 wooded sites and a rustic accessible cabin for people with disabilities. Each site including the cabin has a picnic table and fire ring.

Near Blue Mound State Park, you will find the communities of Blue Mound, Mount Horeb and Barneveld. Each are charming small towns with shops, restaurants and other interesting places to visit and things to do.

On weekends, Blue Mound can get a little busy, especially if there is a UW football game in Madison. If you can take it in on a fall weekday, you'll have the park relatively to yourself and can hike and view colors at your leisure.

Blue Mound State Park is just north of the Village of Blue Mounds, about 25 miles west of Madison via U.S. Highway 18/151. From Highway 18/151, go north on County Highway F and turn left on County Highway ID into Blue Mounds.

Go west on Highway ID about a half mile to Mounds Road. Turn right (north) and follow Mounds Road north through town. (Mounds Road becomes Mounds Park Road once you leave the village.) The park entrance is one mile north of the intersection of Highway ID and Mounds Road.

Gregg Hoffmann Special to
Gregg Hoffmann is a veteran journalist, author and publisher of Midwest Diamond Report and Old School Collectibles Web sites. Hoffmann, a retired senior lecturer in journalism at UWM, writes The State Sports Buzz and Beyond Milwaukee on a monthly basis for OMC.