By Jeniece Smith
The untainted wilderness of the Black River State Forest is unlike any other woodsy Wisconsin offering for its union of dramatic sandstone overlooks with an ocean of pine and oak timberland. The 68,000-acre park on the fringe of the craggy Driftless Area is Wisconsin's largest chunk of protected forest outside the Northwoods.
Recreational opportunities are never-ending, with close to 90 miles of trails for mountain bikers, hikers, ATV riders and skiers. The forest has close to a hundred campsites spread across its three campgrounds, ranging from backpacking setups to modern amenities, and the surrounding Black River Country should be called "cabin country" for its wealth of Wisconsin-style vacation rentals. Here are five of our favorites.
Offering the perfect balance of rustic charm and modern amenities, you’ll love this hand-built log cabin nestled among a forest of natural beauty. Just 200 feet off the shores of Lake Arbutus, Thunderbird Village is ideal for swimming, fishing, canoeing, or relaxing on the sand beach. The cabin sleeps 14, and comes fully equipped with an updated kitchen (stocked with all the fixings for a pancake breakfast), spacious living area, and game room. The outdoor deck, grill, and firepit are prefect for evening campfires with family and friends.
Atop one of Jackson County's most scenic ridges, this large home is tucked into the timber by itself on a dead-end road. Pets and up to eight guests are welcome, though the multi-generational owners of the property will consider larger parties. All linens, a washer and dryer, grill and fire pit, and an open garage are provided, and the home has three decks.
This exposed-timber log home on peaceful little Buckhorn Lake was handmade by the owner and will transport you back to a simpler time. But there's still plenty of room to indulge in this 2,200-square-foot retreat, with a Jacuzzi and stone fireplace ready to pamper you and up to 10 of your friends. A canoe and kayak will allow you to explore the adjoining Black River without starting up the car.
A bit further north, this charming three-bedroom cottage has a beautiful patio and deck overlooking quiet Trow Lake. Take out the owners' small fleet of boats or swim off the pier and floating dock, or just bask in the sunroom or on the hammock. All you need to bring to this fully equipped home are your own beach towels!
Don't let the words "mobile home" scare you away – this 980-square-foot rental is decked out with two bedrooms, two baths, a full kitchen and a laundry room on its own private wooded acre along Robinson Creek. The home sleeps five, with a fully furnished screen room in the yard able to accommodate up to two more people. Bring up to three dogs and your fly rod! You'll love the extensive gardens and staircase down to the water.
If you love an escape in Wisconsin's timber, check out these four must-book cabins in the Northwoods!