Exploring Five Wisconsin State Parks

Did you know, and if you really don’t care, you probably don’t know…anyways, I was going to tell you that Wisconsin plays home to around fifty state parks.  I wish I could tell you that every one of them is awesome.  Truth is, I’ve been to less than half, so I can’t speak for every park.  Yet, and I mean this sincerely, most parks, with very few exceptions, cause me to turn to Heidi, as we head out the park gates, and simply utter, “Hey, that place was awesome!”

So, today, as I gave myself a ton of downtime, I’ll list my five favorite park visits –  at least for this year.  Most likely, as I glance back at this past summer, I’ve probably visited closer to ten, but I’ll highlight the ones that left a significant impression on me.  It won’t be my top five of all-time, but these were this year’s most stellar visits.

Point Beach State Forest

Okay, this Two Rivers site, set along rural Wisconsin countryside, isn’t a designated state park.  Yet its size, being an adequate 2,903 acres , certainly suggests it is- and you  need a park sticker to enter.  Plus, this place has anything, and maybe a bit more, that any other state park has: hiking, biking, a campground…oh, and one dune laden, lighthouse hosting, Lake Michigan bordering beach.

Of our activities while visiting this year, we went on an excellent hike,

and sought the solace of Lake Michigan’s icy waters; we did that on a 90 degree day.

We also enjoyed the lighthouse towering over the dunes.

Some of the premier activities, as I feel I should mention them, include biking, hiking swimming, camping, bird watching and dog walking.  Point Beach State Forest also plays host to winter pursuits such as skiing and snowmobiling.

Whitefish Dunes State Park

My second choice, staying with the Lake Michigan shoreline, hosts the largest dunes in the state.  Trees…grass…flowers all cling to these gigantic, sandy mounds. 

While one can’t camp in this particular park, picnicking, beach going, hiking and biking offer stellar outdoor excursions…oh, and Old Baldy, a 93 foot tall sand dune, which happens to be the tallest in the state, offers a panoramic view of Door County’s green and Lake Michigan’s blue.  This place, as is the case with Point Beach State Forest, also sports a dog beach.

As an added bonus, along with the 867 acres of State Park, you’ll find a cool county park, one that’s encompassed by Whitefish Dunes.  There, at Cave Point County Park, you’ll find a dolomitic limestone cliff, one that has been carved for centuries.

Atop this precipice, you can listen to Lake Michigan thumping the caves below. Better yet, one can  jump into the lake from this cliff.  And, at one of the  beach accesses in Whitefish Dunes, one can register for a seafaring kayak adventure along the caves!

High Cliff State Park

This park, which is situated on Lake Winnebago’s shore, and just east of the Fox Cities, has a full compliment of outdoor adventures.  Equipped with the Niagra Escarpment’s limestone rock face, which juts from a lush forest floor, the 1,187 acre High Cliff State Park provides scenic hikes for any soul.

As is with the case with many badgerland parks,  this area played host to ancient indigenous peoples.  That fact is evidenced in the effigy mounds atop High Cliff’s bluff.

But beyond that, with a marina, campground, biking paths and a history museum, this park, which gets its name from a defunct mining town, will satisfy many recreational quests.

Devil’s Lake State Park

The last remains of an ancient North American outcropping, the Baraboo hills sport crumbling, forested facades. And it’s the only place where you’ll find Baraboo quartzite, a durable purplish hued rock.  If you’d like to see ancient geological features, part of the Baraboo range, with a crystal clear lake held at its center, resides in the gigantic 9,217 acre Devil’s Lake State Park.

This is the busiest park in the state…and for good reason.  Besides being near Wisconsin Dells, and with over 400 campsites available, Devil’s Lake boasts some awesome hikes.  Our choice of trail, which is probably the most difficult, being that you’re ascending a precipitous bluff, was the Balanced Rock Trail.  It’s unparalleled when it comes to awesomeness!…well, it’s awesome if you don’t mind steep climbs on slippery quartzite.

Besides the hikes, Devil’s Lake offers rock climbing, boat  rentals, beaches, picnic areas and a boardwalk, which wraps around the lake’s southern edge….oh, and an amphitheater.

Governor Dodge State Park

My final entry, and this was probably my favorite excursion, was set in the driftless area.  In this spot, it’s obvious that Ice Age glaciers bypassed the terrain, allowing a place of ancient hills and valleys.

When you compare Governor Dodge State Park, which is a sprawling 5,270 acres, to other Wisconsin parks, much is the same: excellent hiking trails, lakes with beaches(and boat rentals), off road biking trails, multiple campgrounds….I think you get the gist.  Yet the thing that makes this place different, at least in my book, is the park’s horse back riding trails.  Rider  beware, the hills are steep and muddy!

During our visit, we camped at the Twin Valley campground,

rented a canoe,

and hiked both the Lost Canyon Trail,

which sported a waterfall,

and the Pine Bluff Trail.

So, that’s my bit on our summer travels, and a rundown of the five best parks I’ve visited during the season.

Who am I?  I’m certainly not an authoritative voice, nor will I ever be.  I’m your average Wisconsinite, proud Air Force veteran and restless middle aged guy that loves to explore this state…with my girlfriend by my side. 

Am I going through a midlife crisis?  I’m not really sure…but I’ve been doing this for five years, so that’s pretty doubtful.  During those past five years, I’ve discovered how cool Wisconsin scenery, culture and festivals  really are.

I do try to put a positive spin on my featured places.  I do this for several reasons.  First and foremost, there’s real people responsible for these attractions, so respect is warranted.  Secondly, if I try some place out, and don’t care for it, for whatever reason, I simply won’t write about it…I think that’s fair.

So with all that said, go find a state park near you. If not one of these, I’m sure others can be an apt substitute. A park sticker, which allows access to every park, is 28 bucks. If you care for a one time visit, there’s a 10 dollar price tag. With fall around the corner, there’s sure to be spectacular scenery in these picturesque spots.

Safe Travels!

8 responses to “Exploring Five Wisconsin State Parks”

    • Thanks, Diana. I really do enjoy them, especially after a stressful work week. And you’re most certainly right, I’m talking about your comment on scenery in general, a simple drive through Wisconsin countryside is just as pleasant.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. This is a great post! I like how you and Heidi love to explore the parks. I do plan sometime to plan a summer exploring Wisconsin’s state parks. Maybe August 2024. Much of 2023 is already planned. I am sure I would love Wisconsin’s summers. One year, many years ago, my daughter had a summer job taking a youth group on a bike tour. They rode from Wisconsin state park to Wisconsin state park. I love your enthusiasm. Now, if you don’t like a place, maybe you should write about it – so I don’t go there. LOL. Thanks for your post! Keep enjoying nature! It is a joy in my life, too.

    Liked by 1 person

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