With more than 100 state parks, trails and forests in Wisconsin, it is easy to get outdoors to enjoy nature and recreation in any portion of the state. Visitors can enjoy a variety of experiences from hikes through prairie grasses and Great Lakes swimming to gorgeous rushing waterfalls and towering bluffs.
“No matter what type of outdoor experience you’re looking for, the Wisconsin State Park system will have an option for you,” says David Spiegelberg, regional tourism specialist at Travel Wisconsin. “Hiking, biking, paddling, camping, fishing or just relaxing and enjoying the scenery – I know that you’ll find just what you’re looking for in Wisconsin.”
While there are many places to explore and very well-known favorites like Devil’s Head and Kettle Moraine, below are a few lesser-known but equally as fabulous parks and trails to enjoy any time of year.
Point Beach State Forest
Nearby Community: Two Rivers (Manitowoc County)
With six miles of beachy shoreline on Lake Michigan, Point Beach offers biking and hiking trails, a forest adjacent to the coastline and a great beachfront pavilion for picnics. Point Beach State Forest is home to Rawley Point, one of the largest and brightest lighthouses on the Great Lakes operated by the U.S Coast Guard since 1853.
Point Beach has more than 120 campsites including many with electric hook-ups as well as an indoor group camp.
What we find fabulous: Tent camping within sight of the beach as the sound of the surf lulls you to sleep.
Wyalusing State Park
Nearby Community: Bagley (Grant County)
Tucked into the southwestern corner of the state at the confluence of the Mississippi River and Wisconsin River sits Wyalusing State Park. With a variety of elevation from bluffs that overlook the backwaters of the Mississippi River, this park has some of the best picnic and sunset spots overlooking the valley below. Bird watching, bike riding and hiking are all abundant at this 2,700-acre state park. Guests can also learn about the more than 60 remaining Indian burial mounds on property during their explorations.
Several camp options are available including individual sites, family campgrounds, outdoor group camps and a large dormitory/lodge-style indoor camp for organized groups.
Rent a canoe at the park for paddling out to the river sandbars, or start further up the Wisconsin River using local outfitter Wisconsin River Outings in Boscobel and enjoy a day float ending at Wyalusing State Park for the night.
What we find fabulous: The sunsets! Pop a bottle of Champagne and end the day with gorgeous views 500 feet above the rivers flowing waters.
Newport State Park
Nearby Community: Ellison Bay (Door County)
Nature seekers looking for a real wilderness experience, look no further than Newport State Park in the upper portion of Door County. Newport is a hike-in/bike-in camping park with only a handful of sites and limited amenities. Fat Bike trails offer great fun during colder months.
Newport State Park is Wisconsin’s only International Dark Sky Park (and only one of 18 total in the United States) and an incredible way to see a full moon or stargaze on a no-moon night.
What we find fabulous: Great secluded beaches along 11 miles of Lake Michigan that you will most likely have all to yourself.
Governor Thompson State Park
Nearby Community: Crivitz (Marinette County)
Located in wild river country and waterfall capitol of Wisconsin is Governor Thompson State Park. The park includes more than six miles of shoreline on the Caldron Falls Reservoir, part of the Peshtigo River where visitors can find world-class fishing.
The campground has 100 sites for tents, campers or RV’s as well as three boat-accessible sites (canoe or powerboat) that are open year round for backpack camping.
What we find fabulous: Embracing the cold weather with winter nature hikes and cross-country skiing. Bonus fun when the park hosts candlelight hikes and skiing!
Mirror Lake State Park
Nearby Community: Baraboo (Sauk County)
Located just three miles from Wisconsin Dells, Mirror Lake is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the Dells. Sandstone bluffs surround half of the 139-acre lake that offers a sandy beaches and calm surroundings. Visitors can rent pontoon boats, paddleboards, kayaks and canoes during the summer season. Accommodations include more than 150 family campsites in forested areas. For more a little additional luxury, guests can also rent the Seth Peterson house, which was designed by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
What we find fabulous: Arriving to dinner in style! Rent a canoe and paddle across the Lake to Wisconsin’s No. 1 supper club, Ishnala, situated on the banks of Mirror Lake.
Interstate State Park
Nearby Community: St. Croix Falls (Polk County)
Interstate State Park is nestled along the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway and is comprised of two adjacent parks on the Minnesota and Wisconsin borders. Visitors can explore gorges and learn all about Ice Age history at the visitor center at this oldest state park (circa 1900) in the system. Various levels hikes are available as well as 82 family and two primitive camping sites.
What we find fabulous: The western terminus of the 1,200-mile National Scenic Ice Age Trail starts in the park. The fall colors hikes are unbeatable!
A full list of Wisconsin State Parks can be found at nr.wisconsin.gov/topic/Parks
Park passes are needed for most vehicle entry and are available as annual or daily passes. For more information on Wisconsin State Park passes, visit dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/parks/admission.
Photo credit: Rachael Muhlenbeck