With the well-known water borders of Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, and Mississippi River, and the natural wonders of The Dells, stunning island sea caves, and the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, the hardest part about camping in Wisconsin is deciding where to go.
There are over 5,000 campsites in the state park system, and many more options for remote rustic camping, family campgrounds, and wilderness cabins. It’s important to think about what kind of experience you want. Trust that the Badger State will live up to its outdoor recreation reputation – but for those looking for a tame trip camping in Wisconsin’s forests, hopefully not its nickname.
Factoid: Wisconsin got its nickname, The Badger State, because of lead miners in the 1800s that often lived in tunnels burrowed in the hillsides to shelter in the winter. The miners were nicknamed “badgers.” Actual badger encounters are incredibly rare in Wisconsin.
For those who might be mildly disappointed by the lack of badger action, you’re probably the type looking for a rustic wilderness experience. Some of the best options for more remote camping in Wisconsin include Bagley Rapids Campground, Kettle Moraine State Forest, Rock Island State Park, Big Bay State Park, and the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.
One of the most visually stunning and unique places to experience in Wisconsin is the Apostle Islands archipelago off the southern shore of Lake Superior, with camping available on 19 of the 21 islands. Great options are available for all levels of tent or wild camping, with traditional sites, group campsites, and remote backpacking zones. One of the main attractions is the sea caves. They’re best viewed by a kayak, and unless you know the area, it would be smart to get a guide or take part in a tour to find the best spots, and more importantly, stay safe amongst the spectacular geological formations, sculpted by the same unpredictable water that needs to be respected when visiting the area.
If you’re looking for the true family fun experience while camping in Wisconsin, that doesn’t necessarily require wilderness survival skills, check out the Wisconsin Dells. This 5-mile glacially formed gorge is carved in sandstone on the banks of the Wisconsin River, with incredible naturally formed sculptures and canyons. The area has become one of the primary destinations in the state for outdoor recreation and family fun. There are a multitude of Wisconsin Dells cabins available for a memorable trip to “The Waterpark Capital of the World.”
When you’re looking for Wisconsin Dells cabins to rent, there are several cabin resorts boasting nearby outdoor activities, access to the Dells, and comfortable accommodations. Pay attention to the actual distance between your accommodations and The Dells, and be aware of the wide ranging term “cabin”, as some might not fit your definition. Just remember, go for the scenic views and natural beauty, stay for the water slides and food.
When camping in Wisconsin, it’s hard to go wrong with the state or national park system, with so many options and levels for all types of campers. With state’s like Wisconsin that have such variety, stick with us at The Dyrt for on-the-ground information about the region.
We stayed 1 night on our way home from a long road trip. That is what it is meant for, and they do it right. The staff was terrific and the campground is clean. The pool is dated and really needs an upgrade, but the water was wet and relaxing. The pull through space was level and allowed staying hooked up to truck. Full hook ups was nice for the last stop before parking til next trip.
I took my kids camping to the Pinewoods the first weekend in May 2019, the weather was great if a bit cool for my kids taste. The sites were far enough apart for some privacy and the trails were very well kept up. We had great hiking weather and some great scenery at the Overlook View. It was really about camping, tho. The unfortunate thing was that, apparently, there was some sort of project being done at the campsites, looked like a series of tanks had rumbled thru the camp sites and gutted the area. If I didn’t know any better it looked like the Battle of the Ardennes. We still had tons of fun and will go back except we’ll wait until next year.
Small clean park. Super tight sites. Nice little pool and splash pad. Camp store and polite staff. They actually vacuum out the fire pits after each camper. Nearly no privacy, but you’re probably net here for the nature. Spendy but secure.
Nice size camp sites. More privacy as trees and bushes fill out throughout the spring. Shower house no hot water, made for a quick shower.
A basic state park, mostly for tent camping. Clean bathrooms with showers. Pretty quiet and lots of trees. The first time we stayed they had a terrible gypsy moth infestation that had denuded all the deciduous trees. There was a carpet of caterpillars on the ground as well as caterpillar poop falling from above. Not as bad as it sounds. Ok, it was…. It proximity to The Wisconsin Dells is one of the attractions to this campground as it is about 5 miles north of town. An inexpensive way to stay near an expensive destination.
If you want a more peaceful getaway in Door Co (in the fall) Potawatomi is a good bet. It's not in the center of the Door Co hubBub - but it's close and a lovely park in it's own right. The campground is away from the water but trails leave right from the campground to get into the park and near the water…and there is a nice selection of trails to choose from. Our campsite was one of many surrounding an open area that was nice as it was quite rainy when we were there so less claustrophobic than being buried deep in the woods. Our campsite was separated nicely from adjacent ones though a little small, especially as we also had a tarp (did I say it was rainy?!?!). So often I think this Park is overlooked because it is south of the main Door Co energy - but it is a park well worth visiting - It's also where the Ice Age Trail starts!!!
while not directly on the Lake - this campground is just across the road so you never feel far from the water. The sites are relatively secluded with ample room. We were tent camping the in fall which is a spectacular season to visit as the crowds are less, the colors are gorgeous, and the beaches go on forever. There are many trails in the forest, including part of the Ice Age Trail - as well as miles of sandy shore. We were glad to not be right next to the bathrooms as the fan noises were evident and that's not our idea of a peaceful night under the stars. Nearby in Two Rivers, there is an excellent Wood Type Museum, and in Manitowoc - the Maritime Museum - fun area to spend some time in.
Very dirty pool, rude owners and don’t bother reserving a specific site because they move people all the time without letting you know. The playground toys are from the 70’s and the rest of the things for the kids are only available on the weekends. So if you are there for a week, everything is closed except the dirty pool. Will never go back.
If you want privacy, some spots are better than others. There are a lot of wide open sites with no trees or vegetation, so it’s like staying on someone’s yard with a bunch of strangers. That said, this is a beautiful park. Lots of cool trails and the lake is perfect for canoeing and kayaking. Showers were very nice and the warm water lasted a long time. Nice playground right next to the shower so the kids could play while we showered.
We live near here, so mostly go for day use but we have stayed in the group campsite J, which was nice, large, and private. There were a ton of Boy Scouts staying at another group site and a large group of adults who were having a really good time but the only time you could hear anyone else was when you were walking to the toilets. The beach on whitewater lake is one of our favorite places to go in the summer. We drove through the regular campsite and there is a lot of vegetation so it seems like it would be pretty private.
We’ve stayed here three times now- one last minute middle of summer spontaneous trip, one Memorial Day weekend trip, and an October fall trip. The park has beautiful trails and the lake is perfect for canoeing and fishing. We tried to go up to the supper club for dinner on our last trip, but the wait was too long. Appetizers and drinks on the patio were wonderful though!
Our group stayed at sites 268, 269, and 270 in the Twin Valley campground. Sites 268 and 270 were large, but our site on 269 was the smallest and half of it was unusable due to the river that flowed through it in the rain! Had to set our tent up right next to the fire ring, as that was the only spot that wasn’t muddy, so we couldn’t have a decent fire. During the rain the water was ankle deep under the picnic table. It appears that a water runoff pipe goes under the path that leads to 271 and flows into this site. 268 was electric, 269 and 270 were not and were walk to sites. Gravel trails leading from parking to the sites were well maintained. 270 also has a private trail leading out to a beautiful bluff area. We walked down and checked out 271, which is where we will stay next year! The park itself is huge. We walked to Steven’s Falls which is beautiful. There are a lot of slippery stone stairs up and down, but if you take your time it’s well worth the effort. We also took the Lakeview trail which was pretty. Unfortunately the weather didn’t cooperate so we weren’t able to go out canoeing, but the lakes looked nice from the shore. Firewood is sold at the park for $5 a bundle, but there are also private sellers along the road who have better prices- we were very happy with the wood sold off the trailer next to the Don Q Inn.
Nice campground - It was a May spring day - so filtered light through early foliage. We had a cliffside site - non electric - (so very private as most were in electric sites) We could see the Lake through the new growth - but no clear view. Imagine later in the season- there is no view. Large site - with easy access to trails right from the campground. And consequently we also had many hikers walking right in front of our site - especially towards sunset. The trillium were in full bloom and added some magic to our site, the limestone formations are really interesting and close to the site. We did not have reservations but the campground hosts were very helpful and were also able to sell us some firewood (nice on those cooler May evenings). The trails in the park are varied - from accessible (a lovely hike around a pond with MANY birds) and a more challenging hike along the cliff side and Lake - but lovely - especially this time of year. Mayflies could be heard near the lake but we didn't run into any major issues with them (which we have sometimes experienced at Devils Lake) The history of the park is also part of the intrigue with the defunct lime kilns.
The camp ground is off 169 south. It is very small maybe 5 sites No power and did not see water and there is one vault toilet Perfect for tent camping but not for big trailers. Easy walk to the upper Falls. Quite and pretty clean some trash in the fire pits but that would be my only complaint. I would stay again but would worry it would fill up fast on the weekends.
Stayed here last year with a group of friends! Had 2 different group sites and both were awesome! A lot of space and not close to other group sites so it was nice to not have to worry about surrounding people! We have a loud group and had no complaints since they are nice and spaced apart. The hiking trails are awesome and some beautiful sights! Would definitely recommend.
I can't get over the groves of trees between every campsite. Quiet, private, perfect place for Shinrin-yoku. We come back every year - even when we don't really feel like going to Door County, this campground is our destination! Management is so friendly and helpful.
Vet's Park has direct access to the La Crosse Great River Trail where you can connect onto Elroy/Sparta Trail to the east and it directly to La Crosse Great River Trail to the northwest. You can also take the bike trail along the highway into town. It’s a great place to stop and camp while biking!
This park has a lot to offer and is relatively large in size. Vet’s Park has baseball fields, playgrounds, a couple of group shelters, volleyball courts, and tons of space for activities. Lots of group events going on here so this place is usually pretty busy on weekends. It does quiet down at night. In comparison to the place up the road by Lake Neshonoc, this place is quiet… Not a lot of bells and whistles but peaceful. Each campsite has a fire pit, picnic table and tent pad. You can also find hot showers, restrooms with flush toilets, river access (to kayak!), shuffleboard, horseshoes, drinking water, and a camp store. Watch for down trees when kayaking!
When entering from the highway you will pass some fishing ponds and the La Crosse River (which wraps around the campground). If you're into fishing, try checking out the entrance of La Crosse River Trail. It’s a little bit of a walk but there’s some great fishing right off the “puppy trail” near the river. Enjoy!
Variety of sites - we had a very wooded one - semi private. The hiking is great - with wonderful views of the River - Also near Trempealeau and the old hotel, barge traffic, and the Great River Road - also the national wildlife refuge….
Devils Lake’s campground is a well situated campground within the park. I have only been able to camp there once after trying close to 10 times. This park tends to fill up months in advance and Reserve America requires a two night minimum during the high season. If you are able to lock in a site it will be well worth the effort however book well in advance if you plan on staying there.
Wheelers is a great, well established campground close to Devils Lake State Park. The camping comes with flushable toilets and warm showers.
Only negative is that the bugs can get unseasonably bad there due to some of the low lying areas with water… certainly not their fault.
Autumn camping along the lake - we chose an electric site even though we tent as it was in mid autumn and it gets darker earlier - it was mid week so no issue getting a site. Love the hiking here and easy lake access - Plus it's near Sheboygan and Kohler with all they have to offer
The Wisconsin Ridge Campground has great views IF you can get one of the sties with a view. Not all view sites are reservable and none have services. But if you can snag a view site the view of the Mississippi and Wisconsin River confluence is spectacular. Sites vary a lot in size and view access but there is a video out there which walks through all the sites which can be helpful. The bathroom is modern, showers, and the NOAA weather is constantly on. The fan noise from the restroom can be bothersome if you are sensitive to white noise. Hiking at Wyalusing is exceptional, and the canoe rental option (right from the campground) is fun. Also options for some good biking, Indian mounds, tennis, a modestly stocked concession stand in the campground. Nearby is Prairie du Chein, and what that has to offer.
Nicolet Bay Large campground, but easy water access, amenities reduced come mid Sept. but lovely in the fall - water front sites don't have water or electric - Park is great for hiking, and biking and proximity to what Door Co has to offer. -
We stayed 2 nights in a PT. The first site they had us in was a back in right behind the office, but the ground was so uneven (sloped up) we bottomed out and still couldn't reach our utilities. We upgraded to a pull through in the back of the park. Everything was just run down, and the playground was all broken… luckily we don't have human children. The fire rings have been moved around and there are several burn spots across the campsites. We had fun in the Dells, but will try to find somewhere else to stay next time. Don't miss the tiki fire logs for sale in the gift shop; they are AWESOME!
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