- Where to Go
- The Best of Milwaukee and Madison
- The Best Wisconsin Weekends
- A Perfect Week in Door County
- Wisconsin for Recreationists
- Rustic Road Tripping
- Made in Milwaukee
- Madison Weekend
- Sports: The Packers and Beyond
- Out on the Town in Milwaukee
- Say Cheese!
- Four Days in the Mad City
- A Wisconsin Family Road Trip
- Wisconsin’s Best Brews
“Work hard, play hard” is the ethic in Wisconsin. There’s always a trail, a lake, or an activity within shouting distance. Wisconsin contains a fairly remarkable 95 state parks, forests, and trails, varying in size from Green Bay’s 50-acre living museum Heritage Hill to the 225,000-acre Northern Highland American Legion State Forest near Woodruff and Minocqua. A state park lies within an hour of every Wisconsin resident, a deliberate feature of the state park system; they’ve been dubbed the most diverse in the Midwest. A few of them—Devil’s Lake State Park, Peninsula State Park, and the Kettle Moraine State Forest, for example—rival other major state parks in the nation. Since 2000, Wisconsin’s state park system has been a finalist in the national Gold Medal Parks award for the best in the country.
Wisconsin alone has the Ice Age National Scientific Reserve, highlighting crucial zones of the state’s 1,200-mile-long Ice Age National Scenic Trail.
The state also boasts a mammoth national forest: the Chequamegon-Nicolet, totaling 1.5 million acres and inspiring two national scenic trails. And the final jewel is a rare national lakeshore—Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.
State parks and forests require a park sticker, which you can buy daily ($7 resident, $10 nonresident) or annually ($25 resident, $35 nonresident). Camping fees in state parks are also $10–15 (electricity and prime sites cost more), depending on location and campsite (some primitive camping is free)—nonresidents pay $2 more. Reservations in state parks are a good idea—a must for holiday weekends in summer—and be prepared to reserve 11 months ahead of time for the most popular parks. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR, 608/266-2181, www.wiparks.net) is an invaluable source of information on state lands and environmental issues. A separate entity, ReserveAmerica (888/947-2757, www.reservamerica.com) handles reservations for a $10 fee (fees for canceling or changing).
Wisconsin’s mammoth multiuse trail system is also under the Department of Natural Resources, and a trail pass (residents $4 daily, $15 annually) is needed; note that some trails are not state trails but county trails and you’ll need a different pass—them’s the rules! Also note that hikers do not need to pay; only those using bikes, horses, skis, or ATVs do.
National forests now charge a $3–5 daily user fee for things such picnic areas and beaches, and camping runs $8–18 (though things vary). Reservations (www.recreation.gov) are available at some campgrounds.
© Thomas Huhti from Moon Wisconsin, 5th Edition