The 25 Best State Parks in Wisconsin

By Miriam B. Weiner March 23, 2021
(Credit: marchello74/Shutterstock)

Wisconsin encompasses more than 60 state parks, each of them offering visitors access to the state’s great outdoors. From hiking, fishing and camping in the warmer months, to snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the wintertime, Wisconsin’s state parks provide plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation. To help you decide which park to visit, we’ve evaluated amenities, acreage, available activities and visitor opinion to identify the 25 best state parks in Wisconsin.

1. Copper Falls State Park

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Copper Falls State Park in Wisconsin (Credit: Keith Homan/Shutterstock)

Hours: 6 am–11 pm daily, year round
Admission: Vehicle sticker required; $8 per day with a Wisconsin license ($3 for residents ages 65 and up), $11 per day for out of state vehicles.

Copper Falls State Park ranks as the best state park in Wisconsin because of its views. Ancient lava flows and gaping gorges meander across this 3,000-plus acre state park in northern Wisconsin. Seventeen miles of trails lead to cascading waterfalls and historic log cabins. (The 1.7-mile Doughboys Nature Trail, which follows the Bad River to Brownstone and Copper Falls, is said to be the most scenic hike in the state.) In the summer, Copper Falls State Park provides opportunities to swim, fish, picnic and camp. In the winter, the park remains open for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ice fishing.

2. Devil’s Lake State Park

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Devil’s Lake State Park in Wisconsin (Credit: MarynaG/Shutterstock)

Hours: 6 am–11 pm daily, year round
Admission: Vehicle sticker required; $13 per day with a Wisconsin license ($3 for residents ages 65 and up), $16 per day for out of state vehicles.

Around 30 miles of hiking trails will lead Devil’s Lake State Park visitors back in time. Located along the Ice Age National Scenic Trail just northwest of Madison, this 9,000-acre park touts some incredible geological features, including towering quartzite bluffs surrounding an expansive lake. You can learn all about the region’s history at the nature center. In the summer Devil’s Lake’s beaches fill up quickly, with picnic areas and concession stands ensuring no one goes hungry.You can also rent boating equipment. Meanwhile, the bluffs attract rock climbers from all over the state. 

3. Peninsula State Park

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Peninsula State Park in Wisconsin (Credit: Hank Erdmann/Shutterstock)

Hours: 6 am–11 pm daily, year round
Admission: Vehicle sticker required; $10 per day with a Wisconsin license ($3 for residents ages 65 and up), $13 per day for out of state vehicles.

When it comes to amenities, Peninsula State Park doesn’t disappoint. This nearly 4,000-acre park northeast of Green Bay on the shores of Lake Michigan offers a whopping 460 campsites, not to mention 20 miles of hiking trails, a historic lighthouse, an 18-hole golf course and even a theater. Visitors who enjoy the water will find lots of opportunities to swim, boat and fish. Meanwhile, those who prefer cold-weather recreation can come to Peninsula State Park in the winter for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, as well as snowmobiling, sledding and even ice fishing. 

4. Amnicon Falls State Park

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Amnicon Falls State Park in Wisconsin (Credit: V-ron/Shutterstock)

Hours: 6 am–11 pm daily, year round
Admission: Vehicle sticker required; $8 per day with a Wisconsin license ($3 for residents ages 65 and up), $11 per day for out of state vehicles.

Sitting just south of Lake Superior in the northern reaches of Wisconsin, Amnicon Falls State Park delights visitors with its four gushing waterfalls. The short Trails Around The Falls leads to several spectacular viewing locations, as well as a number of pools and rapids along the Amnicon River. While swimming and wading are permitted, be sure to exercise caution. If you want to visit for multiple days, the park encompasses 36 campgrounds, including one that is accessible for visitors with disabilities. In the winter months, a designated snowshoeing trail allows visitors to enjoy this scenic river valley draped in snow.

5. Kohler-Andrae State Park

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Kohler-Andrae State Park in Wisconsin (Credit: Tony Savino/Shutterstock)

Hours: 6 am–11 pm daily, year round
Admission: Vehicle sticker required; $8 per day with a Wisconsin license ($3 for residents ages 65 and up), $11 per day for out of state vehicles.

Just south of Sheboygan, Kohler-Andrae State Park is one of the last remaining nature preserves along the Lake Michigan shore. Visitors can learn all about this special ecosystem and the plants and animals in it at the Sanderling Nature Center. Discover the wetlands and sand dunes along one of several hiking trails, or on a bike or horseback ride. Boating, fishing and swimming opportunities abound in the warmer months, while winter marks the opening of the park’s cross-country ski and snowshoeing trails. Kohler-Andrae State Park is also home to campgrounds and picnic areas. 

6. Kettle Moraine State Forest

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Kettle Moraine State Forest in Wisconsin (Credit: Jason Patrick Ross/Shutterstock)

Hours: 6 am–11 pm daily, year round
Admission: Vehicle sticker required; $8 per day with a Wisconsin license ($3 for residents ages 65 and up), $11 per day for out of state vehicles.

This sprawling state forest occupies roughly 52,000 acres of southeastern Wisconsin, just north of Milwaukee, providing plenty of space for those seeking a break from city life. Kettle Moraine State Forest is divided into two parts. The northern portion attracts visitors with an interest in geology thanks to its glacial land forms, accessible via the Ice Age Trail. The southern portion of the forest also houses some ancient topography, but perhaps its primary draw is its 100 miles of biking trails. Both sections of Kettle Moraine State Forest are open year round, providing access to hiking, camping and even equestrian opportunities.

7. Willow River State Park

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Willow River State Park in Wisconsin (Credit: Ken Wolter/Shutterstock)

Hours: 6 am–11 pm daily, year round
Admission: Vehicle sticker required; $10 per day with a Wisconsin license ($3 for residents ages 65 and up), $13 per day for out of state vehicles.

This 2,800-acre park just east of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, boasts 13 miles of hiking trails, opportunities to boat and fish, and plenty of picnic areas. But this Wisconsin state park’s crowning jewel is Willow Falls. Set in the Willow River Gorge, this beautiful, multi-tiered waterfall provides a scenic place to cool your feet after a long summer hike. Willow River State Park also features a nature center where visitors can learn about local wildlife, learn about the region’s Native American and prairie settlement history, and participate in interpretive events. Several campgrounds provide places to stay for overnight visitors. 

8. Harrington Beach State Park

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Harrington Beach State Park in Wisconsin (Credit: MarynaG/Shutterstock)

Hours: 6 am–11 pm daily, year round
Admission: Vehicle sticker required; $8 per day with a Wisconsin license ($3 for residents ages 65 and up), $11 per day for out of state vehicles.

Occupying more than a mile of Lake Michigan shoreline, this relatively small state park is a stargazer’s dream. During the summer and fall, the Northern Cross Science Foundation opens park’s Jim and Gwen Plunkett Observatory to amateur astronomers. There’s plenty to do during the day, as well. Seven miles of hiking trails meander through a cedar and hardwood swamp, and around wetland ponds ideal for bird watching. Opportunities to swim, boat, fish and sunbathe also abound along Lake Michigan’s coast. Harrington Beach State Park features camping and picnic facilities, as well.

9. Big Bay State Park

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Big Bay State Park in Wisconsin (Credit: Hoogz Photography/Shutterstock)

Hours: 6 am–11 pm daily, year round
Admission: Vehicle sticker required; $8 per day with a Wisconsin license ($3 for residents ages 65 and up), $11 per day for out of state vehicles.

Occupying the eastern portion of Madeline Island, just off the coast of northern Wisconsin, Big Bay State Park offers spectacular views of Lake Superior. The park is known for its four miles of picturesque sandstone bluffs stretching four miles along the island’s shore. But there’s plenty more to do here besides admiring the water. This 2,350-acre space also boasts a beach, seven miles of hiking trails, opportunities to fish and boat, and several campgrounds. In the winter, several Big Bay trails remain open for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. To reach Big Bay State Park, you’ll need to take the ferry from Bayfield. Vehicles are accommodated.

10. Wyalusing State Park

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Wyalusing State Park in Wisconsin (Credit: Anan_R/Shutterstock)

Hours: 6 am–11 pm daily, year round
Admission: Vehicle sticker required; $8 per day with a Wisconsin license ($3 for residents ages 65 and up), $11 per day for out of state vehicles.

Overlooking the confluence of the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers, Wyalusing State Park is one of the oldest and most beloved state parks in Wisconsin. Wyalusing promises an excellent mix of recreational and cultural activities. Visitors can explore the park via its hiking or canoe trails, discover the region’s Native American heritage at preserved burial mounds, or take in the night sky at the Huser Astronomy Center. Wyalusing State Park also offers opportunities to fish, bike and picnic. Don’t miss the chance to lunch outdoors on the park’s 500-foot-tall bluffs overlooking the rivers. Camping is available, or you can rent space in the park’s group lodge.

11. High Cliff State Park

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High Cliff State Park in Wisconsin (Credit: BriceW/Shutterstock)

Hours: 6 am–11 pm daily, year round
Admission: Vehicle sticker required; $8 per day with a Wisconsin license ($3 for residents ages 65 and up), $11 per day for out of state vehicles.

Earning its name from the towering limestone Niagara Escarpment, High Cliff State Park has no shortage of spectacular views. For the best vistas, follow the 3.4-mile Red Bird Trail, which travels the length of the Niagara Escarpment, which overlooks Lake Winnebago. Along the way, trekkers will also pass the iconic Chief Red Bird statue, an homage to the legendary Cherokee leader. If you prefer to be on the water, High Cliff State Park’s marina has slips available to rent. And both Winnebago Lake and Butterfly Pond are great areas to fish. In the winter, High Cliff State Park offers cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and fat-tire biking. 

12. Rib Mountain State Park

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Rib Mountain State Park in Wisconsin (Credit: Michael Tatman/Shutterstock)

Hours: 6 am–11 pm daily, year round
Admission: Vehicle sticker required; $8 per day with a Wisconsin license ($3 for residents ages 65 and up), $11 per day for out of state vehicles.

Dating back one billion years, Rib Mountain is one of the oldest geological features on the planet. And today, it provides visitors with a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities. Thirteen miles of hiking trails lead to historic homesteads, abandoned quarries and, of course, stellar vistas. For some of the best views in the state, pack a picnic lunch and make your way to the Rib Mountain Amphitheater. Come winter, Rib Mountain State Park’s Granite Peak Ski and Snowboard Area draws powder hounds with 55 trails and four terrain parks. Built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, Granite Peak is home to the state’s first downhill ski runs. 

13. Perrot State Park

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Perrot State Park in Wisconsin (Credit: Robert Vandenbeg/Shutterstock)

Hours: 6 am–11 pm daily, year round
Admission: Vehicle sticker required; $8 per day with a Wisconsin license ($3 for residents ages 65 and up), $11 per day for out of state vehicles.

Sprawling across 1,200 acres along the Wisconsin-Minnesota border, Perrot State Park dazzles with its spectacular views of where the Trempealeau and Mississippi rivers meet. Visitors can enjoy the scenery from the park’s 500-foot-high bluffs. Perrot State Park also appeals to those looking for outdoor adventure with the 24-mile Great River State biking trail. Or, explore Trempealeau Bay as fur-traders did in the 1600s along the 3.4-mile Voyageurs Canoe Trail. The park also features more than 12 miles of marked hiking trails, as well as designated cross-country ski and snowshoe trails for winter visitors.

14. Newport State Park

Newport
Newport State Park in Wisconsin (Credit: Hank Erdmann/Shutterstock)

Hours: 6 am–11 pm daily, year round
Admission: Vehicle sticker required; $8 per day with a Wisconsin license ($3 for residents ages 65 and up), $11 per day for out of state vehicles.

A designated Dark Sky Park, Newport State Park is a must for any stargazer. Located on the tip of northeast Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula, which juts out into Lake Michigan, this 2,300-acre park boasts spectacular views of the night sky thanks to its lack of light pollution. Be sure to reserve a camping spot, and devote some time to identifying prime viewing locations while the sun is still up. There’s plenty to do during the day, as well. Newport State Park sits along 11 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, providing lots of space for boating and fishing. The park also features 30 miles of hiking and biking trails through lush meadows and boreal forests. 

15. Whitefish Dunes State Park

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Whitefish Dunes State Park in Wisconsin (Credit: Jacob Boomsma/Shutterstock)

Hours: 6 am–8 pm daily, year round
Admission: Vehicle sticker required; $8 per day with a Wisconsin license ($3 for residents ages 65 and up), $11 per day for out of state vehicles.

The environment of Whitefish Dunes State Park is exceptionally fragile, which is why camping is not permitted. That said, the rolling sand dunes for which the park is named are well worth exploring. Discover Whitefish Dunes’ spectacular landscape along one of its designated hiking or biking trails, or cool off during the summer months with a swim in Lake Michigan. Learn about Whitefish Dunes’ landscape at the nature center, which hosts regular activities. Or discover its history at the Village Site, where two archaeological digs have revealed that the area has been occupied by humans during eight different time periods over the past 3,000 years. 

16. Rock Island State Park

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Rock Island State Park in Wisconsin (Credit: KDK70/Shutterstock)

Hours: 6 am–11 pm daily, year round
Admission: $11 for adults, $5 for children. An additional $10 fee will be charged for those bringing a canoe, kayak or stand-up paddleboard. Tickets can be purchased at the Northport Pier Ticket Booth or aboard the ferry (cash only).

Make sure to wear comfortable walking or hiking shoes, as Rock Island State Park is completely car-free. The effect of the vehicle restriction can be felt all across the island, accessible via ferry  from Jackson Harbor on Washington Island. Rock Island is peaceful and rustic, offering a glimpse of what life was like on Lake Michigan in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Explore the historic Pottawatomie Lighthouse, constructed in the mid-1800s to guide steamships safely around the island. Rock Island State Park also features around 10 miles of scenic hiking trails, as well as walk-up campgrounds.

17. Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area

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Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area in Wisconsin (Credit: Maarten Daams/Shutterstock)

Hours: 6 am–11 pm daily, year round
Admission: Vehicle sticker required; $8 per day with a Wisconsin license ($3 for residents ages 65 and up), $11 per day for out of state vehicles.

Located along the Ice Age National Scenic Trail just north of Eau Claire, Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area is littered with evidence of glaciers. Stop in at the David R. Obey Ice Age Interpretive Center to learn all about the region’s geological history before setting out to explore its many kettle lakes and other ice-carved features. To get a sense of what the landscape was like during the Ice Age, plan a winter visit and explore Chippewa Moraine via cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. Ice fishing is also a popular winter activity. In warmer months, the park offers opportunities to hike, boat and camp. 

18. Hartman Creek State Park

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Hartman Creek State Park in Wisconsin (Credit: Joshua Mayer/Flickr)

Hours: 6 am–11 pm daily, year round
Admission: Vehicle sticker required; $8 per day with a Wisconsin license ($3 for residents ages 65 and up), $11 per day for out of state vehicles.

Located on central Wisconsin’s beautiful Chain O’ Lakes, Hartman Creek State Park is the place to go for water recreation. The park’s access to multiple calm, scenic bodies of water make it a great spot for fishing, canoeing and kayaking. There is also a 300-foot long stretch of sandy shoreline along Hartman Lake set aside for swimmers. There’s plenty to do on dry land, too, from hiking and biking to horseback riding. And for those visiting during the winter months, Hartman Creek State Park offers nearly 10 miles of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails, as well as designated space for snowmobiling.

19. Kinnickinnic State Park

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Kinnickinnic State Park in Wisconsin (Credit: Tony Webster/Flickr)

Hours: 6 am–11 pm daily, year round
Admission: Vehicle sticker required; $8 per day with a Wisconsin license ($3 for residents ages 65 and up), $11 per day for out of state vehicles.

Sitting along the Wisconsin-Minnesota border, not far from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Kinnickinnic State Park caters to two types of adventurer. If you’re looking for a peaceful escape, find it along the park’s 10 miles of wooded hiking trails. Or, come in the winter and explore the snowy landscape by cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, winter hiking or snowmobiling. But if you’re interested in rowdier recreation, the St. Croix River is a popular spot for water activities. During the warmer months, the water is rife with swimmers, boaters and windsurfers. The park also allows overnight boat mooring, or “boat camping”, for a $15 fee.

20. Natural Bridge State Park

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Natural Bridge State Park in Wisconsin (Credit: Dave/Flickr)

Hours: 6 am–11 pm daily, year round
Admission: Vehicle sticker required; $8 per day with a Wisconsin license ($3 for residents ages 65 and up), $11 per day for out of state vehicles.

Natural Bridge State Park earns its name from it’s most iconic landmark: an ancient sandstone bridge. Formed over millennia by erosion caused by wind and water, the bridge stands 25 feet high and 35 feet wide. Unlike much of Wisconsin, this geological formation was left untouched by glacial activity during the last Ice Age. A self-guided nature trail leads to the bridge and to a rock shelter used by people during the glacial melt 11,000 years ago. Several other hiking trails meander throughout the 530-acre park. In the winter, those trails welcome cross-country skiers and snowshoers. Camping is not permitted.     

21. Wildcat Mountain State Park

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Wildcat Mountain State Park in Wisconsin (Credit: Wildnerdpix/Shutterstock)

Hours: 6 am–11 pm daily, year round
Admission: Vehicle sticker required; $8 per day with a Wisconsin license ($3 for residents ages 65 and up), $11 per day for out of state vehicles.

Overlooking the Kickapoo River in western Wisconsin, Wildcat Mountain State Park boasts spectacular views and ample recreational activities. The park encompasses more than 20 miles of hiking and equestrian trails. For a short trek with maximum return, follow the half-mile stretch of the Old Settler’s Trail to Taylor Hollow Overlook for fantastic views of the nearby town of Ontario. If you prefer to explore by water, the Kickapoo River is ideal for canoeing and kayaking, and equipment rentals are available in Ontario. In the winter Wildcat Mountain State Park welcomes cross-country skiers, snowshoers and snowmobilers.  

22. Lakeshore State Park

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Lakeshore State Park in Wisconsin (Credit: Tony Savino/Shutterstock)

Hours: 6 am–10 pm daily, year round
Admission: Free

Located in the heart of Milwaukee, Lakeshore State Park offers a breath of fresh air for an urban crowd. As its name suggests, this Wisconsin state park features wonderful views of Lake Michigan. A 20-slip marina accommodates those who wish to admire the scenery from the water, while the park’s lagoons are great for kayaking. Lakeshore State Park’s multi-use waterfront trail features excellent views of the city skyline and is open to walkers, bikers and runners. The trail also connects to the Hank Aaron State Trail, which leads to a number of top Milwaukee landmarks, including American Family Field and the State Fairgrounds.

23. Heritage Hill State Park

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Heritage Hill State Park in Wisconsin (Credit: Courtesy Heritage Hill State Park)

Hours: Hours vary by season; the park is closed during the winter months.
Admission: A $5 per person donation is suggested.

Heritage Hill State Park in Green Bay makes for a fantastic family outing. This living history museum offers a glimpse at what life was like in Wisconsin between the 18th and early 20th centuries. The park is divided into four sections where visitors can learn about the fur trade in the 1760s, Fort Howard in the 1830s, Wisconsin’s small towns in the 1870s and the Belgian farms of the early 1900s. The 56-acre park features 24 historical buildings where visitors can interact with reenactors of each era. Heritage Hill also offers regular events. When it’s time for a break and a snack, picnic areas can be found throughout the park.  

24. Governor Thompson State Park

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Governor Thompson State Park in Wisconsin (Credit: SkyBlodgett/Shutterstock)

Hours: 6 am–11 pm daily, year round
Admission: Vehicle sticker required; $8 per day with a Wisconsin license ($3 for residents ages 65 and up), $11 per day for out of state vehicles

Encompassing nearly 3,000 acres of northeastern Wisconsin, Governor Thompson State Park provides opportunities to hike, cross-country ski and boat. But perhaps its most popular feature is the Peshtigo River, an ideal setting for canoeing, kayaking and fly-fishing. The park also boasts more than six miles of pristine shoreline along the Caldron Falls Flowage and several small lakes, making this an ideal spot for swimming and picnicking in the warmer months. Governor Thompson State Park is home to several peaceful campgrounds, including several that can accommodate boats.

25. Ellison Bluffs State Natural Area

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Ellison Bluffs State Natural Area in Wisconsin (Credit: Joshua Mayer/Flickr)

Hours: Opens 30 minutes before sunrise and closes at 11 pm daily, year round
Admission: Free

Also known as Ellison Bluff County Park, the Ellison Bluffs State Natural Area doesn’t have as many facilities as a Wisconsin state park. But what it lacks in campgrounds, it makes up for in views. Follow the short trail from the designated parking area to spectacular views of Green Bay from the towering limestone cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment at the tip of the Door Peninsula. The path to the viewing area features an easy-to-navigate wooden boardwalk, making the vista relatively easy to access. For more of a challenge, try the 1.2-mile looping trail leading off the parking lot through the peninsula’s forest, a prime spot for bird-watching.

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