Wisconsin takes pride in its glaciated landscapes, forests and lakes. Wisconsin is well known for its camping appeal and for good reason. But if you want to get away from the crowded sites that make camping too easy and sink your teeth into a bigger adventure, Wisconsin camping can offer that too. Here’s a list of hike-in camp sites across the state.
The Kettle Moraine forest is nestled along the National Ice Age Trail. Separated into various units, each section of the forest has something to offer beyond the experience of hiking the Ice Age Trail. The Southern Unit is ideal for those campers coming from the Milwaukee or Chicago areas and is the closest area for backpack camping and hiking to either city. The park has 57 miles of easier trail to hike. There are Adirondack-style shelter sites and fire rings throughout the forest as well as walk-in sites and an overnight hostel.
- The Northern Unit of the forest has 133 miles of hiking trails and marks the beginning point of the Ice Age Trail.
- The Lapham Peak Unit of the forest has a 45-foot observation tower to see the glaciated topography as well as hike it.
If you want beautiful scenery, Copper Falls State Park is the place to go. Cascading waterfalls, an 80 foot gorge and lush forests make up this state park, which is part of the North Country Trail that stretches across seven different states. The Copper Falls Park offers seven miles of hiking trails as well as three mountain biking trails.
- The Brule River State Forest is also part of the North Country Trail. It’s a great place to go for whitewater canoeing, kayaking and trout fishing.
Whitewater canoeing and rustic camping go hand-in-hand at the Flambeau River State Forest no matter what skill level you’re at. The second largest property owned by the state of Wisconsin, the Flambeau River State Forest has campsites accessible only by watercraft and others areas where camping is permitted and guidelines have been established. Other opportunities available include fishing, biking, viewing wildlife and trails for ATVs.
If you’re a wildlife enthusiast, particularly a birding enthusiast, the Northern Highland/American Legion State Forest is the place to go. More than 73% of all bird species recorded in Wisconsin visit this forest, and bald eagles, osprey and loons often nest there. The forest offers a wilder environment for backpackers in their escapades and 39 miles of trail.
Right off the top of Door Peninsula on an island in Lake Michigan is Rock Island State Park. Visitors have to ride on a ferry to reach the island; no wheeled vehicles, including bikes, are allowed on the property for visitors. There are 40 backpack camping sites and 10 miles of trail to explore. The area has other attractions as well, such the Pottawatomie Lighthouse and stone buildings built by the island’s owner in the early 1900s.
For a similar experience in a different part of the state, consider Big Bay State Park in the Apostle Islands. Located on Madeline Island, visitors can immerse themselves in the varietal landscape—bogs, beaches, forests—or spend time on the boardwalk, visitor center or viewing platform. Like Rock Island State Park, ferry transportation is necessary to reach the island.