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In the upper Midwest region of the country, Wisconsin is the perfect destination for outdoor lovers. There are many state parks here that offer outdoor recreation, wildlife viewing, and opportunities to relax and learn about nature. Although there are so many great Wisconsin state parks to choose from, here are a few of our favorites to help you get active outside and embrace the environment around you.
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Devil’s Lake State Park, Baraboo
A popular weekend getaway in Wisconsin, Devil’s Lake State Park is a very popular state park because of its awesome recreational opportunities and reasonable proximity to the Chicago metro area. It’s located in south-central Wisconsin near the town of Baraboo and is open all year long. There’s a nature center here where you can learn about this park that was founded in 1911 and is the third-oldest state park in Wisconsin. Here you’ll find an impressive 360-acre lake, 500-foot quartzite bluffs, and 29 miles of hiking trails. This is a prime spot for rock climbing and finding some solitude in the backcountry too. Other activities are swimming in the lake, kayaking, boating, fishing, hunting, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. For camping, there are 423 sites that accommodate one to six individuals at the various park campgrounds.
Mirror Lake State Park, Baraboo
Mirror Lake State Park is also in the Baraboo area of Wisconsin and also close to the Wisconsin Dells area. It’s named after its iconic lake that is very calm and has a wooded shoreline. There are 50-foot-high cliffs here, as well as a swimming beach, and 2,200 acres to explore. Wooded campsites and picnic areas are available here too. There’s a concession stand by the boat launch that rents out boats and also sells ice. For camping, there are 151 family campsites in three campgrounds and seven group sites here, as well as a special cabin available for campers with disabilities. Biking, fishing, hunting, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing are also favorite activities at Mirror Lake State Park.
Harrington Beach State Park, Belgium
You’ll enjoy over a mile of Lake Michigan beach when you visit this 715-acre state park in Wisconsin. Harrington Beach State Park is known for its white cedar and hardwood trees, as well as the wetland ponds and limestone quarry lake. This is a great place to watch the stars because there is an observatory that’s open to the public for occasional night-sky viewings. This park is about 35 miles north of Milwaukee. There’s a family campground here with some electrical hookups. There’s also an accessible cabin and kayak campsite that you can reach by water.
Peninsula State Park, Fish Creek
Peninsula State Park is a sprawling state park that has a little something for everyone, including an 18-hole golf course, 468 campsites, bike trails, and a sandy beach. There’s also a summer theater in Peninsula State Park. At Nicolet Beach, you can stock up on ice, supplies, and souvenirs. There’s a snack bar open during the summer and also rentals for water and land sports. With five campgrounds, this is the most popular camping destination in the state. There are also six picnic areas at the park as you come for the weekend and enjoy the scenic views of Green Bay. The park has eight miles of Green Bay Shoreline, awesome sunset-watching spots, and historical burial sites to check out. It’s also a popular state park in the United States for fall foliage viewing.
Amnicon State Park, South Range
With stunning waterfalls and fascinating geology, Amnicon State Park is a top destination in Wisconsin. It has rapids in the Amnicon River, which you can view from the shore, river trails, or a covered footbridge. Picnicking, camping, and hiking are all popular activities here to learn about the rock formations that created these waterfalls. The park is about seven miles from the town of Superior. In the summer, you can stop by the concession stand for firewood, souvenirs, and soda. There are 36 campsites here, as well as vault toilets, drinking water, and a small playground in the campground for families.
Copper Falls State Park, Mellen
Copper Falls State Park is an impressive Wisconsin park that offers deep gorges, waterfalls, forests, and historic buildings when you visit. It was formed by ancient lava flows and is one of the most scenic and beautiful places in the state. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built log buildings here in the 1930s, which you can still see today. Come here for fishing, swimming, hiking, biking, and picnicking. There’s a concession stand open between Memorial Day and Labor Day, extending through mid-October on weekends. For camping, there are 24 sites available with electrical hookups. There’s also a backpack campsite, accessible cabin, and group camp here.
Perrot State Park, Trempealeau
Perrot State Park is a western Wisconsin park along the Mississippi River and near the town of Trempealeau. From here you can enjoy the views from river banks and 500-foot bluffs. This is a prime spot for birdwatchers since migratory birds pass through there twice per year. There’s a concession stand that offers ice and firewood, while the headquarters offers nature guides and souvenirs. You can also rent out equipment here, such as canoes, volleyball, and horseshoes. You can camp in the 102 campsites in the campground here that has flush toilets, showers, and a dump station.
Natural Bridge State Park, Leland
Just east of Leland, Natural Bridge State Park is another Wisconsin destination worth visiting. The iconic landmark and namesake of this south-central Wisconsin park is the natural sandstone arch that has been created over time by wind and water. The natural bridge opening is about 35 feet wide by 25 feet high. This is a day-use park that does not allow overnight camping. However, you can have a picnic here, trap and hunt in designated areas, hike, and snowshoe here in the winter.
Pattison State Park, Superior
To see the highest waterfalls in the state and the fourth-highest one east of the Rocky Mountains, take a trip to Pattison State Park. Big Manitou Falls here is 165 high. This is a 1,436-acre park with a lake, beach, 9 miles of hiking trails, and a nature center. For camping, there are 59 regular campsites, 18 of which have electric hookups. There are also three backpacking sites that are about 1.6 miles from the parking area and give you a more remote experience in the park.
Potawanomi State Park, Sturgeon Bay
Head to Potawatomi State Park near Sturgeon Bay on the Door County peninsula for 1,200 acres of terrain to explore. Here you’ll find steep slopes and rugged cliffs as you spend time on the hiking trails. There are picnic areas here, as well as boating, kayaking, biking, fishing, hunting and trapping, and cross-country skiing on several miles of groomed trails. Set up camp in the 123 campsites in two loops at the Daisy Field campground.
Brunet Island State Park, Chippewa County
Where the Chippewa and Fisher rivers meet, you’ll find Brunet Island State Park with its over 1,300 acres of beauty. Wildlife watching and canoeing are popular activities in the quiet lagoons. In this forested environment, there are more than eight miles of hiking trails and a couple routes for biking. There’s also a swimming area, about 20 acres of picnic area, 24 campsites with electricity at the south campground, and 45 campsites at the north campground.
New Glarus Woods State Park, New Glarus
The New Glarus Woods State Park is a smaller park coming in at about 435 acres and offering access to the Sugar River State Trail. This is a 24-mile trail that’s great for hiking, biking, and snowmobiling. In the park, you can also picnic, snowshoe, and camp. There are 18 drive-in campsites for small RVs, tents, and pop-up campers here and also 14 tent camping sites that are about 50 to 1,000 feet from the parking lot. The woods here have about 8 miles of hiking trails, including 5.5 miles of self-guided natural trails with interpretative panels and guide bookmarkers.
Willow River State Park, St. Croix County
Enjoy the 3,000 acres of prairie forests and river views when you visit the year-around destination of Willow River State Park in Wisconsin. It’s about five miles from Hudson and a great spot for picnicking by the beach, dog sledding, ice fishing, and hiking. You can camp here in the tent, trailer, and motorhome sites. The boat ramp has been closed here and the lake drained. However, you can still kayak in the river. Trout fishing is limited but usually best upstream of the waterfall.
Blue Mounds State Park, Blue Mounds
While there are many additional Wisconsin parks to explore, the last one we’ll mention here is Blue Mounds State Park. It has the highest point in southern Wisconsin and more than 20 miles of hiking and off-road biking trails. There’s even a swimming pool open here in the summer. Bike into your campsite by accessing the Military Ridge State Trail. Overall, there are 77 wooded sites and 12 hike/bike-in sites. This park is unique because of its aquatic center that has a 1,950-foot swim pool and splash pad. The pool is warmed to 80 degrees and is three to four feet in depth.