Wisconsin state parks offer multitude of different activities


Clarion File Photo

Devils Lake State Park

Alison Ahlgrim, News Editor

For the intrepid explorer, Wisconsin manages 66 state parks with a multitude of different activities, including camping, hiking, bicycling, fishing, canoeing/boating, swimming, horseback riding, rock climbing, and much more.

Some state parks even include outdoor theater or viewing towers. There is truly something for everyone.

The daily entrance fee is just $8 per vehicle, while an annual state parks pass is $28 per vehicle. Some biking and horseback riding trails require a trails pass, which is $5 for a daily pass or $25 for an annual pass. Hiking is always free. Camping fees range from $16-$30 per night depending on the park.

Here is a guide to a few of my favorite Wisconsin State Parks.

Governor Dodge State Park

Located only about an hour west of Madison, this park truly offers something for everyone. The park has over 40 miles of trails leading to diverse landscapes including canyons, caves, waterfalls, streams, lakes, oak savannahs, cliffs, and meadows. In addition, with three large campgrounds and two sizeable lakes (with swimming beaches and rentals), it’s easy to spread out and enjoy nature in relative solitude. Bicyclists can even ride all the way to the park from Madison on the gravel Military Ridge Trail.

Peninsula State Park

While this park is about a three and half hour drive from Madison and Milwaukee, it is totally worth the drive! Located in Door County, this park provides expansive views of Green Bay and Lake Michigan, great campsites, excellent water recreation (including rentals), bike trails, and even an outdoor theater. The large swimming area is an oasis on a hot summer’s day, with a sandy beach, clear waters, snack shack, boat and paddle board rentals, and plenty of space for large crowds.

Kohler-Andrae State Park

Carved out of the shore of Lake Michigan about two hours northeast of Madison, Kohler-Andrae provides a classic Great Lakes experience. Waves lash the shore of the public beaches. Boardwalks snake through the adjoining sand dunes and feature educational signage about this unique habitat. Nearby inland marshes provide excellent bird and wildlife viewing. A large campground and comprehensive nature center top off this state park’s experience.

Kettle Moraine State Forest

While Kettle Moraine is a State Forest, not a State Park, it makes the list because it encompasses a huge swath of land between Madison and Milwaukee. Named for its unique geologic features formed by glaciers, this state forest features a variety of terrain, a couple of lakes, campgrounds, a section of the cross-state Ice Age Trail, and extensive hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking trail systems.

Devil’s Lake State Park

Located near the Wisconsin Dells, this park is both the largest and the most-visited Wisconsin park. Despite its popularity, the park is large enough that explorers can get away from the crowds out on the trails. The lake is spring-fed, making it more clear and cold than Madison’s lakes. The 500-foot bluffs reward hikers with beautiful views and unique rock formations such as Balanced Rock and the Devil’s Doorway.

For more information

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources hosts a website with detailed information about all of the parks, including activities, maps, trail descriptions, and weather. The site also provides search tools to find a park based on certain activities and/or locations. Check it out at: http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/.