Wisconsin is home to a variety of beautiful waterfalls, making for great moments of awe, photo ops and perhaps even the setting for a picnic. But several of these water wonders are also located in a park that allows camping. Why not take the adventure one step further?
The largest waterfall in Wisconsin is Big Manitou Falls, a raging plume of whitewater plunging 165 feet in Pattison State Park just outside Superior. You can walk to the falls in five minutes from the park’s 59-site modern campground. Hiking trails offer views from both sides, and a longer hike to the south takes you to Little Manitou Falls.
Set in the Driftless Area of southwestern Wisconsin, Governor Dodge offers two dam-made lakes with swimming areas, nearly 40 miles of hiking trails through varying terrain, and one photogenic waterfall.
At one end of the Lost Canyon and its namesake trail, Stephen’s Falls drops into a wooded passage amid carved sandstone outcrops. The trail follows the canyon to Cox Hollow Campground, one of two camping areas in the park offering a combined total of 269 sites.
Tumbling through volcanic rock, the Amnicon River rushes over Upper and Lower Falls, passing under a covered bridge in between. Travelers stop for selfies here but are missing out on the overnight experience. A short walk away are 36 rustic campsites where you can listen to the falls at night.
Don’t miss Snake Pit Falls, an often-missed couple of 10-foot drops in a narrow branch of the river that breaks away above Upper Falls and rejoins below Lower Falls. A seasonal and picturesque fourth option is the appropriately named Now and Then Falls.
Just west of Mercer, where the Turtle River drops over two cascades as it flows into Lake of the Falls, you can camp and fall asleep listening to the falls. Of the three camping areas, the Quiet Side sites are arguably best with rustic sites right at the water’s edge. But you can still use the modern facilities at the other two camping areas, also near the water.
If one or two waterfalls just isn’t enough for you, head to Marinette County in northeastern Wisconsin. In a single weekend on the county’s famed waterfall tour you can see fourteen of them.
County parks offer affordable rustic camping within earshot of the water, including McClintock Park, Twelve Foot Falls Park (which has two waterfalls on the Pike River) and Goodman Park, with 15 sites along the Peshtigo River a short walk from Strong Falls. A short drive away, Twin Bridges and Morgan Park give you modern campsite options with showers and electricity.
In the heart of Copper Falls State Park, Tyler Forks joins the Bad River on its tumbling journey to Lake Superior. Before the two rivers meet, Copper Falls descends 40 feet as it rushes through a deep gorge on the Bad River, and Brownstone Falls, on Tyler Forks, drops 30 feet.
From the 56-site camping area, hike one mile along the North Country National Scenic Trail, which continues past both falls. Bonus: A hike along Red Granite Falls trail to the south reveals another cascade often missed by visitors and for this one, you can walk right up to the edge.