Wisconsin makes up for its lack of tall mountains with vast forests, countless lakes, and intriguing rock formations. keep reading for the 10 Best Wisconsin State Parks.
Wisconsin is home to some of the most distinctive natural landmarks east of the Mississippi, sandwiched between two Great Lakes. A lifetime of adventures await in the Badger State, from the 165-foot-tall Big Manitou Falls and the coastal sandstone cliffs of Lake Superior to the towering bluffs of the Mississippi River Valley. No matter where you live in the Midwest, Wisconsin is a budget-friendly and accessible weekend getaway.
Additionally, Wisconsin boasts an impressive 66 state parks that preserve the state’s natural beauty for present and future generations. There is something for everyone in Wisconsin state parks, especially if you’re willing to explore some of the less popular ones, whether they prefer hiking, biking, water sports, or camping.
1. Wisconsin State Parks: Devil’s Lake State Park
There’s a good reason why Wisconsin’s Devil’s Lake State Park is regarded as one of its most stunning natural sites. Towering quartzite bluffs and hardwood forests that light up in the fall surround the 360 acres. Kayakers, beachgoers, and campers visit during the summer to enjoy the two sizable sandy beaches with picnic areas and the numerous campsites dispersed among three campgrounds.
Among the most thrilling in the state are the hiking trails at Devil’s Lake. The Balanced Rock Trail rewards hikers with expansive views of the lake and the amazing Balanced Rock formation after a challenging ascent over rocky terrain. The East Bluff Trail then continues along the ridge to the opposite side of the lake and Elephant Rock views. The state’s stunning Ice Age National Trail connects with trails at Devil’s Lake for even more hiking opportunities.
2. Copper Falls State Park
Copper Falls State Park, which is close to Lake Superior, provides a singular escape into one of Wisconsin’s most breathtaking landscapes. This specific Wisconsin state park is well-known for its breathtaking waterfalls and rainbow-colored rock formations made of black lava, red granite, and various shades of sandstone. Over ancient gorges created by lava millions of years ago, three sizable waterfalls with the names Copper Falls, Brownstone Falls, and Red Granite Falls cascade.
Walk the 1.7-mile Doughboy’s Nature Trail while you’re there. Visitors can enjoy the best waterfall views by following this short loop through the Bad River Gorge, over lovely footbridges, and past observation decks. At Loon Lake, you can go swimming, boating, and fishing. If you want to spend the night in the park, there is some limited camping available.
3. Wyalusing State Park
One of the state’s oldest parks, Wyalusing State Park offers fantastic hiking and wildlife-viewing opportunities. You might see animals like bald eagles, hawks, beavers, and occasionally even otters if you’re lucky. The Mississippi Ridge Trail, also known as the Sentinel Ridge Loop, provides breathtaking views of the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers as they converge on 500-foot-tall bluffs. The historic effigy burial mounds along the trail with some interpretive signage along the way are another reason for the Sentinel Loop’s fame.
Another worthwhile hike through the well-known Keyhole and Treasure Cave is the Bluff Trail Loop. Take a canoe trip along the park’s 6-mile canoe trail to explore the Mississippi River’s backwaters for additional outdoor entertainment. Additionally, there are two campgrounds: the Wisconsin Ridge campground on a bluff and the Homestead campground by the river.
4. Peninsula State Park
The most comprehensive park in Wisconsin is thought to be Peninsula State Park. Three group camps, 468 campsites, an 18-hole golf course, and a summer theater are all available in this park. There are also miles of shoreline in Door County, a lighthouse, and a beach. Over a million people visit Peninsula State Park annually, making it one of the most visited and well-liked Wisconsin state parks. Hike to see the Niagara Escarpment up close, or visit Weborg Point in mid-May to see warblers stopping off there on their migration. Unlike other parks, Northern Sky Theatre offers visitors the chance to see professional actors perform, or they can skate on the gently rolling terrain.
Other leisure activities available to visitors include swimming, fishing, boating, sight-seeing and touring, picnicking, and biking. Popular wintertime activities include cross-country skiing, ice fishing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and sledding. There are numerous recreational opportunities at Peninsula State Park, something for everyone.
5. High Cliff State Park
The High Cliff State Park office hours may change, but the park is open daily from 6 AM to 11 PM. Additionally, it is the only state-owned recreation area on Wisconsin’s largest lake, Lake Winnebago. Fun fact: The limestone cliff of the Niagara Escarpment, which is next to Lake Winnebago, is where High Cliff got its name. Hike along High Cliff, visit the observation tower for beautiful views of five different cities, or visit the swim area, which has restrooms, showers, and changing areas.
Try your luck catching panfish and largemouth bass at Butterfly Pond and Lake Winnebago, where there are numerous fishing opportunities. Go skiing, snowshoeing, or fat tire biking in the winter. To facilitate these activities, trails have been created.
6. Governor Dodge State Park
One of Wisconsin’s largest parks is called Governor Dodge. This park has a lot to offer with its many picturesque acres of steep hills, bluffs, lakes, and a waterfall. Hiking, biking, horseback riding, camping, and picnicking are among the recreational activities that can be done here. You should be aware that riding a horse or biking on state trails requires a trail pass. Governor Dodge has two lakes—Cox Hollow and Twin Valley—where boaters can launch their vessels and go swimming and fishing. Cross-country skiing, ice fishing, snowshoeing, sledding, and snowmobiling are all winter activities! In terms of entertainment and wildlife viewing, Governor Dodge has a lot to offer.
7. Mirror Lake State Park
Mirror Lake State Park, which takes its name from the park’s central lake, is home to a wide range of wildlife that inhabits its wetlands. This park features a swimming beach as well as a wooded shoreline with 50-foot-tall cliffs. Hiking offers the best opportunity for wildlife viewing for tourists. Because the local wildlife is generally timid, it is best to observe it from a distance while making as little or no noise as you can. Off-road biking is permitted from May 1 to October 1 of every year; however, due to trail maintenance, biking is prohibited from November 1 to April 30.
Additionally, visitors can go boating, picnicking, swimming, and fishing. Cross-country skiing trails are kept up during the winter.
8. Kohler-Andrae State Park
Kohler-Andrae State Park, which is situated in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, is one of the last remaining natural areas along the shore of Lake Michigan. Kohler-Andrae is a wonderful place for rest and relaxation because it has stunning sand dunes and a lovely beach that is surrounded by the azure waters of Lake Michigan. In the dunes of Kohler-Andrae State Park, you can spot red foxes or white-tailed deer among other types of plants and animals. Visit the Kohler Dunes Natural Area for flora, which contains some threatened plant species. There are numerous recreational pursuits available in Kohler-Andrae, including hiking, camping, biking, and picnicking.
Visit the park’s crown jewel, Lake Michigan, and go swimming or boating there! The park has cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails in the winter.
9. Interstate State Park
Visitors to Interstate State Park, which is situated on the lovely St. Croix River, can hike up the St. Croix River Dalles, canoe through calm waters, watch kayakers race through rapids, or simply unwind on an excursion boat. A wide variety of wildflowers bloom in the spring, and the St. Croix River Valley forest is ablaze with the fiery red, gold, and orange hues of autumn in the fall. Visitors and geologists from all over the world visit this park because of the fascinating geology that created it. In the park, traces of at least ten different lava flows, two different glacial deposits, old stream valleys, and faults can all be seen. Explore the park’s distinctive glacial potholes while hiking the trails during the summer.
10. Willow River State Park
On County Road A, Willow River State Park is situated northeast of Hudson. This park is close to Little Falls Lake and has a beach, a boat launch, a campground, and a picnic area. Willow River receives about 300,000 visitors annually and is very well-liked. Check out the scenery at the river, forests, or prairie for some of the many beautiful views in this area. Willow River also provides a variety of recreational opportunities, including camping, picnicking, boating, fishing, hunting, and trapping. For the most well-known trail destination, Willow Falls, head over to the Willow River. The park offers dog sledding, hiking, snowshoeing, and skate skiing trails in the winter.