10 of the best Wisconsin state parks to visit this summer
Summer is a time for visiting old favorites and exploring new spots.
That includes Wisconsin's extensive state park system, made up of nearly 70 parks, forests and recreation areas.
From popular hot spots like Devil's Lake to hard-to-get-to gems like Rock Island, the state is packed with parks to visit in the summer.
Use this list of 10 of the state's hot spots as a starting point for exploring.
Two waterfalls tumbling over brown-black basalt rock are the highlight of this park in northern Wisconsin near Mellen. A section of the North Country National Scenic Trail also cuts through the park.
The state's most popular park in Baraboo features beautiful quartzite cliffs surrounding the 360-acre Devil's Lake. Hike the bluff trails for views of the lake and Instagram-worthy rock formations like the Devil's Doorway.
One of the system's largest parks, Governor Dodge in the Driftless Region outside of Dodgeville has two lakes for swimming and paddling, plus 40 miles of hiking trails among the rolling unglaciated terrain, including one trail that leads to a small waterfall.
Hike along the stunning Dalles of the St. Croix at Wisconsin's first state park in St. Croix Falls. Look for glacial potholes in the rock — deep, smooth holes created by raging rivers from melting glaciers.
Kettle Moraine State Forest
Southeastern Wisconsin's outdoor gem includes two major units — northern and southern — plus a handful of smaller units — including Lapham Peak and Pike Lake — for exploring. Hike to the top of the towers at Lapham Peak or Pike Lake, or follow the Ice Age Trail through the entire northern and southern units.
The state's only wilderness park is on Door County's quieter eastern side, with 11 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline and remote backpacking campsites with prime stargazing opportunities.
On the other side of Door County, the state's second most popular park buzzes with activity in the summer — everything from biking the Sunset Trail and hiking along the Niagara Escarpment on the Eagle Trail to kayaking and swimming at Nicolet Beach and touring Eagle Bluff Lighthouse.
Stunning bluff-top views — available from trails as well as some campsites — abound at this park at the confluence of the Trempealeau and Mississippi rivers. Brady's Bluff, home to a rare dry prairie, offers some of the best views.
The journey to this state park off the tip of Door County, which requires two ferry rides, is worth it for the rewards: secluded lakeshore campsites, prime nature trails, the state's oldest lighthouse and interesting Nordic architecture at a giant stone boathouse.
The Mighty Mississippi and Wisconsin River meet at this state park south of Prairie du Chien. Hike along both as well as the park's interior forest, then pitch a tent on a bluff overlooking the Wisconsin River.
Know before you go
Most parks and forests require a state parks admission sticker. They cost $8 per day or $28 for the year for Wisconsin residents and are available at park offices or self-registration stations. Annual passes also are available online.
Dogs are permitted in state parks and forests as long as they're on leashes. They're usually not allowed in picnic areas and buildings and on beaches and nature trails.
For more information, see wiparks.net.