From the 15,000 lakes and lush forests to the countless miles of hiking and biking trails and beautiful waterfalls, Wisconsin is truly a haven for outdoor enthusiasts.
To highlight the very best outdoor areas and preserve access for everyone, Wisconsin has created over 60 state parks. That’s a lot, we know, so we’re highlighting eight of the best state parks in Wisconsin.
8 Best National and State Parks in Wisconsin
Whether you want to get way off the beaten path or stay downtown — literally — you’ll find a Wisconsin state park to suit you.
1. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
There are technically no national parks in Wisconsin, but it’s easy to understand why many people believe Apostle Islands National Lakeshore should be one. Referred to as the “Jewels of Lake Superior,” the lakeshore encompasses 21 islands and 12 miles of pristine mainland coast. Apostle Islands actually has more lighthouses (9 in total) than any other site in the entire National Park Service!
The lakeshore offers year-round recreation, but beware — Lake Superior is notoriously cold. Still, you can fish, boat, or dive most of the year and of course, you can enjoy the hiking trails or tour a lighthouse in any season.
2. Copper Falls State Park
No matter what you’re looking for in state parks in Wisconsin, Copper Falls has it. This scenic park truly has a bit of everything: waterfalls, a lake, hiking and biking trails, and even rustic and historic CCC cabins.
Get a literal lay of the land by hiking the relatively easy 1.7-mile Doughboy's Nature Trail, which will let you get a peek at several of the park’s waterfalls. Looking up at the towering red gorge walls, or down at the waterfalls from the lookouts above, you’ll hardly believe you’re in Wisconsin.
3. High Cliff State Park
Centered around The Badger State’s unique history and its largest inland lake, High Cliff is one of the best state parks in Wisconsin. The park is perched on ancient limestone cliffs overlooking Lake Winnebago, where you’ll find beaches, a marina, covered picnic areas, and much more.
No matter what you come to enjoy, make sure to stop by the 12-foot statue of Winnebago Indian Chief Red Bird overlooking the lake.
4. Devil’s Lake State Park
No list of state parks in Wisconsin is complete without discussing Devil’s Lake, the largest of all. Of course, the park’s crown jewel is 360-acre Devil’s Lake, but that’s only the beginning of everything visitors can enjoy here.
With year-round recreation, Devil’s Lake State Park is one of the most scenic spots in Wisconsin year-round. During warmer seasons, enjoy the park’s sandy beaches, go swimming or SCUBA diving, fish, or paddle around the lake. Any time of year, enjoy the hiking and biking trails with panoramic views.
5. Harrington Beach State Park
Small-but-spectacular, this is one of the best state parks in Wisconsin. Harrington Beach State Park sits on a one-mile-long stretch of Lake Michigan, making it feel much more like a “real” ocean beach than one on a lakeshore.
Hike around the limestone quarry lake, enjoy the dog-friendly beaches and picnic areas with Fido, and check out an astronomy program at the Jim and Gwen Plunkett Observatory.
6. Lakeshore State Park
You may not associate the best state parks in Wisconsin with one of its biggest cities, but Lakeshore State Park proves that you don’t need to get remote to enjoy Mother Nature. This urban park is in the core of downtown Milwaukee, featuring a beach, paved trails, boat slips, and more.
Lakeshore State Park sits directly on Lake Michigan and is open year-round, making it easy to get a dose of fresh air even when you’re short on time. The trail system links other nearby lakefront parks and a number of museums and other attractions are within easy walking distance as well.
7. Natural Bridge State Park
As you may have guessed from its name, the star attraction at Natural Bridge State Park is the natural arch made of sandstone. It’s impressive, with its opening measuring about 25 feet tall by 35 feet wide.
Aside from just being scenic, though, this state park is an important part of U.S. history. It’s believed to be the very first site of human habitation in the Midwest! Just below the arch is the Raddatz Rockshelter, a place where Native Americans hid to wait out inclement weather. You can easily see both in a short day trip.
8. Wyalusing State Park
It’s easy to see why Wyalusing was one of the first state parks in Wisconsin. The park overlooks the confluence of the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers and offers something for everyone. Hop on one of the many hiking trails to search for hidden waterfalls and watch for wildlife, then go fishing or paddle the canoe trail.
Don’t miss this Wisconsin state park’s most unique feature, the Native American burial mounds. These ancient mounds are well-preserved and vary from basic dome-shaped mounds to animal-shaped effigies, such as the bear mound.
Visit the Best National and State Parks in Wisconsin in an RV
With so many wonderful state and national parks in Wisconsin to explore (remember, this was just eight!), you’ll want plenty of time. Why not get an RV rental from Cruise America and make a road trip out of it? With numerous convenient pickup locations and several RV models to choose from, you can custom-tailor every aspect of your Wisconsin road trip!
So, which state park in Wisconsin will you head to first?