Wisconsin is home to a plethora of state parks that provide year around opportunities for outdoor exploration. Whether you’re interested in escaping to the great outdoors for education, physical exertion or quiet contemplation, there’s something for everyone at these lesser-known state parks. So avoid the crowds and take the road less traveled at these six Wisconsin State Parks.
Newport State Park, near the tip of the Door County Peninsula, is Wisconsin's only formally-designated wilderness park. The park’s 2,373 acres offer a peaceful alternative to the comparatively busy towns in Door County. For an interactive outdoor experience, head to Fern Trail, where a variety of installed panels provide audio interpretation, illustrations, guided imagery and tactile elements. With 11 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline and 30 miles of hiking trails, forests and meadows, visitors will feel as if they’re truly on vacation.
Step back in time at this 54-acre outdoor museum in Green Bay. Heritage Hill State Park is the perfect stop for inquisitive minds, history buffs or those who just want to play make believe. Featuring 24 structures from Wisconsin's past, visitors can explore replicas from the fur trade in 1762, march in a military drill at Fort Howard or take a guided tour from costumed interpreters.
What does lava have to do with Wisconsin? A whole lot, as it turns out. Ancient lava flows helped to form deep gorges and spectacular waterfalls at Copper Falls State park in northern Wisconsin. To fully experience the park’s beauty, ride the North Country National Scenic trail, or stop to fish and swim in the cool blue water. Keep your eyes peeled for the charming log buildings built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. For a sweet treat, grab some well-deserved ice cream at the concession stand on your way out.
Natural Bridge State Park is home to – you guessed it – a spectacular natural bridge. The park’s massive 25 foot high arch is akin to what you might expect to find out west. Near the bridge is a rock shelter used by native people more than 11,000 years ago. A partial excavation at the site revealed artifacts dating back to 8,000 B.C – now that’s old!
Ironically devoid of wildcats, Wildcat Mountain State Park offers hiking trails with spectacular views overlooking the Kickapoo River Valley. Here you’ll find camping for families, groups and horseback riders. This state park, home to a river with a funny name, provides excellent opportunities for water enthusiasts to canoe the Kickapoo River. In the winter, the park’s ice cave is a lesser known alternative to the busy caves of Bayfield.
Tap into your inner Thoreau and head north to Straight Lake State Park. Here, you’ll be able to detach from the outside world and become one with nature. This lightly developed natural area is complete with two undeveloped, wild lakes and two state natural areas – perfect for finding a zen moment. Make sure to seek out the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, celebrating 60 years in 2018. This 1,000-mile footpath is one of only 11 National Scenic Trails and is a place for both mental and physical rejuvenation.