As someone who loves the outdoors and spends many weekends camping all around Wisconsin, I have found myself being asked “where do you recommend I camp for my first time” or “what are some of your favorite state parks to visit in Wisconsin” by a lot of friends and college students. So, as quarantine comes to an end and people start to plan camping trips, I have created a list of the top Wisconsin State Parks, based on my own personal experience and research.
Please note, that to enter some state parks, a state park pass or a fee at the entrance may apply (a yearly Wisconsin State Park pass will range from $28-$38 depending on resident status, and a daily fee is typically $10-$15 depending on residence).
If you choose to spend the weekend, weekend fees will apply (usually around $15-$35 per night) and reservations can be made online the day of, however it is recommended that you reserve a campsite at least the week before your planned stay.
It is also important to remember the CDC recommends social distancing measures and to go to the Wisconsin DNR website (https://dnr.wi.gov/covid-19/) to educate yourself on rules and regulations that may apply during this time.
Here is a list of the top state parks to visit in Wisconsin, along with a little information about each one and drive time from UW-Whitewater.
- Devil’s Lake State Park: Baraboo, WI.
Devil’s Lake is one of the best-known state parks in Wisconsin and offers a lot of outdoor activities to enjoy. Devil’s Lake is best known for its beautiful bluff views over the lake and has rustic cabins you can stay in for the weekend. People may also know about Devil’s Lake State Park because of its famous landmark of Pewit’s Nest, which serves as a common area for swimming and photography. This state park is about a 1 hr. 34 min. drive from UW-Whitewater.
- Kettle Moraine State Forest- Southern Unit: Eagle, WI
Kettle Moraine State Forest is another well-known state park in Wisconsin. It covers over 55,000 acres and spans across southern Wisconsin, making it an easily accessible state park. This state park is highly recommended by all its visitors, as its size allows there to be a wide variety of activities you can do here. The Kettle Moraine Southern Unit is in Eagle, Wisconsin which is a short 30-minute drive from UW-Whitewater, making this the perfect quick getaway or day trip for college students.
- High Cliff State Park: Sherwood, WI
High Cliff State Park is known for its amazing views that look over Lake Winnebago, the largest lake in Wisconsin. Covering 1,147 acres, this state park offers activities ranging from fishing, to rock climbing, to walks along the shore. It is about 2 hours and 10 minutes away from UW-Whitewater, making it the perfect distance for a weekend getaway, or for a day trip full of adventure.
- Mirror Lake State Park: Baraboo, WI
Mirror Lake State Park offers amazing views of the famous sandstone bluffs you see in the Wisconsin Dells. This park is best known for its fishing, and scenic kayaking. This park is about 1 hour and 30 minutes away from UW-Whitewater, and visitors are welcome to just come for the day, or camp at the many campsite options that they offer.
- Wyalusing State Park: Wyalusing, WI
Wyalusing State Park is located on both the Wisconsin and Mississippi River, making it the perfect place to visit if you’re a water lover! This state park is best known for its river valley views and the nationally recognized Native American burial grounds that visitors can view. This park is located about 2 hours and 30 minutes away from UW-Whitewater, making it a longer drive. However, visitors are welcome to camp at the beautiful campsites.
- Blue Mound State Park: Blue Mounds, WI
Blue Mound State Park has a lot to offer its visitors. With over twenty miles of hiking and off-road biking trails, this park is perfect for those who love the outdoors. Located about 1 hour and 15 minutes from UW-Whitewater, this park is just the right distance for a day trip, and offers a wide range of campsite options, such as rustic cabins, campsites, bike-in campsites, and backpacking campsites.
- Point Beach State Forest: Two Rivers, WI
Point Beach State Forest offers six miles of Lake Michigan shoreline full of breath-taking views and dunes that visitors can enjoy. This state park is located about 2 hours and 30 minutes away from UW-Whitewater, making it a longer drive from campus. However, this state park offers year-round activities, from biking, hiking, skiing, and snowmobiling. You won’t regret visiting!
- Perrot State Park: Trempealeau, WI
Perrot State Park offers over 1,243 acres of scenic views overlooking both the Mississippi and Trempealeau River. This park is located about 3 hours away from UW-Whitewater, making it a longer drive from campus, but is worth the drive if you love hiking the bluffs that Wisconsin has to offer. This park is also best known for its wide range of natural, archaeological, and historical resources, all of which are highlighted at Brady’s Bluff Natural Area where visitors can learn about the history of Perrot State Park.
- Governor Dodge State Park: Dodgeville, WI
Governor Dodge State Park offers a lot of activities for its visitors year-round. It is located about 1 hour and 30 minutes away from UW-Whitewater, making it the perfect distance for a day trip or weekend stay in one of the many offered campsite options. Governor Dodge State Park also offers hiking trails, biking trails, horseback riding and so much more!
*Please make sure to make reservations if you plan on horseback riding, and to contact Doby Stables Inc. (the Governor Dodge State Park horseback riding company) about additional fees and information on their COVID-19 response. You can visit their website at https://dobystablesinc.webs.com/
- Peninsula State Park: Fish Creek, WI
Peninsula State Park is located about 3 hours and 30 minutes away from UW-Whitewater, making it the longest drive on this list. However, this park has some of the most famous views that Wisconsin has to offer. With over eight miles of Green Bay shoreline to visit and scenic views, it is common to find photographers up before sunrise to get photos at Welcker’s Point or Eagle Tower. If you are someone who has been to the Door County Peninsula in the past and loved it, it is highly suggested that you make another trip up to camp at this beautiful state park.
Overall, the Wisconsin State Park system has a lot to offer. The list above, only covers ten of the sixty-six state parks that are in Wisconsin, leaving you with so much more to explore! Don’t underestimate the fun that can be had in your own state and remember to get outside of your comfort zone every once and a while.
For more state parks or outdoor recreational areas to visit in Wisconsin, go to https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/.