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.
If your looking for a quiet, remote, good fishing camp Otter Lake is the right choice. Beautiful day park for scenic views for a picnic. Private camp sites. Some have private docks. Excellent fishing for Panfish, Bass, and Walleyes.
Note - this review is for the walk-up sites only This is our go-to campground when we decide we want to go camping with short notice. The park itself is neither very popular nor very interesting, so there are usually still sites available for reservation only a few days before your intended camping trip. The park itself isn't that interesting, but it is worth noting that it is located across the road from New Glarus Brewery. The brewery is an easy walk or bike ride from the walk-in campsites.
We have camped at several of the walk-in sites. The sites are all located along the bike trail, and carts are available for transporting your gear which means you can bring more gear than you would bring backpacking. The walk-in sites have a good amount of space between each site, however the sites on the east side of the bike trail get less level the further you get from the parking lot. All sites are shaded and have fire pits and picnic tables. The sites on the west side of the trail are more level but closer to the trail, so you have less privacy from passers-by. Our personal favorite site is #19. It is the closest site to the parking lot on the east side of the trail, but you have to take a short foot-path off the main trail to get to the site and the site itself can't actually be seen from the trail or the parking lot. This makes it very quiet and private, but still not too far from your car. The campgrounds do have a lot of raccoons so it is nice to be within an easy walk of your vehicle if you would prefer to secure your food. Site 19 is also very level and spacious, with plenty of room for at least two good sized tents. You can hear some road noise in all of the walk-in sites due to the highway being near by, but it's buffered a bit by the woods so it is more of a white noise.
The walk-ins have a vault toilet centrally located along the trail, and it has always been clean whenever we've camped there. A water spigot is also located centrally among the walk-in sites. You can take a short hike to the park's ampitheater from the walk-in sites, but they do not have programs very often.
Activities every week. Pool. Pond. Playground. Mini golf. Options for tent camping, cabin camping (both basic and deluxe), RV, seasonal sites. Friendly owners. Great gift/supply store.
Peaceful area! Esofea campground has a shelter, several ponds and streams, and some nice hiking trails.
The camping options range from full hookups to tent camping. The campground is open for camping between April 15th and October 15th each year. Esofea campground has 27 campsites in total (4 with full hookups, 8 with electricity and 15 primitive sites). Fresh water is available for campers and park users. Reservations are not always necessary but if you a planning on camping on holiday weekends or wanting electric sites book in advanced.
There is good trout fishing at this campground. Recommended spots are one of the 5 ponds or the Bad Axe River.
As a Ranger for the Dyrt, I get to test awesome outdoor products! At Esofea, I tested out my new 3-1 RōM Pack from RōM Outdoors.
Here’s what I like about the 3-1 pack:
Quality. This poncho is heavy duty. It’s not like the plastic ones that rip when your hiking through brushy areas. The thickness of the poncho is perfect for keeping dry but also very warm. It’s perfect for the northwoods!
Packable. Easy to unpack and great for woodland areas. Comes with instructions on how to pack up but you really don’t need them. The pack folds up in a logical way. I found it easiest to store all my small items in the front zip up pack.
We stayed in site 334; absolutely gorgeous space. Very nearby and convenient pit toilet, well maintained fire ring, nice sandy spots for tents and a beautiful view of the marsh. It was a bit if a bike from the parking area, so keep your packing to a minimum or bring a heavy duty cart to pack it all in and out. We had to bug out a day early because of some weather, but will definitely try to book this site again
I’ve been going here every year since for at least 10 years. The campsites are perfect, and there’s so many fun things to do. They have a little footbridge to fish off of, a playground, and a nice beach. You can rent out kayaks and little boats. There’s lots of hiking trails. One trail leads to a scenic overlook and another leads to slippery rock. Slippery Rock is a waterfall from the river that you can actually slide down. They also have a rock you can jump off as well into water. Also there’s a big pond where you can boat and swim and there’s a sandbar too. I love this place so much I got a tattoo of the coordinates.
The good news about camping in the “off” season is fewer crowds; the bad news is that many of the perks (concessions, boat rentals,etc) are not available. After summer during the week, the only campground available is Quartzite (I believe there are two others plus a group campground). The bathrooms in Quartzite were new and very clean. Trails are plentiful and some are quite challenging but offer fantastic views. Trails are well marked. We were there on a cold, cloudy day but I think it is the best time to visit.Of all the Wisconsin State parks we have camped in recently, Devil’s Lake is the best!
sites are nice, a lot of shade on most sites. some sites are harder to back into with long trailers. but over all sites have easy access. nice swimming area and hiking trails. slippery rock is a must see. fishing is also good for the outdoors men or women.
Peninsula State Park is a huge state park with five campgrounds with over 400 sites (not including group sites) and it can be overwhelming trying to decide where to stay. Our decision was narrowed down somewhat because two of the campgrounds were closed for the season. We camped in South Nicolet along Nicolet Bay for two nights. Our first night was on the water but because heavy rains were forecasted, we relocated to another site closer to the bathrooms for the second night, putting up with the “hum” for a closer dash in the rain. There is so much to do in the park itself and Door County in general. However, we were here during the week in October so while the campground was quiet, bicycle and boat rentals were not available. Many great hiking trails. My only beef is that Wisconsin State parks charge more than many other states and, in general, facilities are not always as well maintained (bathrooms were a little dated and not the cleanest but sufficient for a campground). Still - this is a great place from which to explore Door County!
Loved the water view from our campsite, unfortunately on the other side was the main entrance and a highway so vehicular traffic sound was prominent. Sites are large, with some tree coverage. Many families with kids and dogs. Well maintained and great walking and biking trails in the park and surrounding area.
Easily accessible, very clean and well maintained campground and park. Many sites to chose from for tents. Travel trailers have several sites and Friday most of them rolled in. The trails are well marked and appeal to hikers, mountain biking and winter sports.
This camp ground was super great! The camp sites are close together though. The bathrooms were sooo clean and actually had a solar light which was great at night. Our site backed up to the river so it was perfect for kayaking and just playing in the water. The campsite is close to lots of hiking trails too!
My family have been camping here many years.The KIds always ask to stay here.The campground is family oriented.If you camp here you get free entrance to the gigantic water park.The park caters to little children to big kids. They sell food,or bring a picnic.Plenty of tables.If you not part of the campground,pay a small price to get in.They have the zip line.The western show is worth taking the day to see.They have an ice cream store,and golf,and arcades.Inside the campground,they have a pool,crabbing and fishing pier.Maybe rent a boat or kayak. They have a nice store,with a deli,supplies,beer,and soveniors.They have a laundry mat,and a cheap restaraunt.They also have cabins.But if you want to see the ocean,they supply a bus all day, The sites are shaded and easy to pull in
We got there late in the evening, but the check in/self pay process was very simple and straight forward. Fees were incredibly reasonable for such a nice campground, and it was very quiet, even though there were lots of people enjoying this campground. Lovely atmosphere!
We arrived late, so we had to self pay. But all that paperwork and payment took place inside a little heated shelter house of sorts. Bonus! Most of the time, the pay envelopes are outside and you have to duck into your car, fill it out, and dart back into the dark to the drop box. There was even a campground map showing which spaces were taken and available (at the time the attendant went home for the day). This was nice, but the space we thought was open had been taken by someone moments before. So not fool proof, but a decent guide for those arriving after dark. We still found another space and made it our home for the night. Not to mention, they had one of the best maps I've ever seen!
$5 per adult
$5 per car or vehicle
$5 if you didn't have a park sticker
$5 if you made the reservation online or by phone.
$5 for electric
Soooo…if you had 2 adults, one car and needed electric, then it would be $20. And so forth…
This place is so quiet! The campground was very full that night, but we heard almost nothing from people at all. Just a little chatter from a couple guys nearby, but at a very respectful level. We actually got to enjoy the night sounds of pitter patter rain and the occasional owl in the distance. No road noise.
The sites are spread out enough to make this peaceful and private, but close enough to make the campground functional and cozy. Electric sites (designated with an "E" beside the number) were scattered with non electric sites. Electrics were more plentiful, though. Tent sites were also available, if you like. They were grouped together in a different area. Our closest neighbors site was within view of the fire ring, but no one was there this night. The sites were deep, so you could pull in and nestle in the trees, even if you had a neighbor, and it was more private. There was a nice picnic table near the fire ring, which was quite nice for a fire, but no grate for cooking on. The pad we pulled into was fairly level and covered in pea gravel. We were using our teardrop trailer this night instead of a tent.
There were bathrooms scattered around with very clean pit-type toilets, and there were multiple toilets in "mens" and "women's" rooms. There was also a shower house with pay showers, but prices were very reasonable. I think it was 25 cents for 5 minutes, and the more quarters you put in, the more time you got. There was also a row of sinks and mirrors under a sheltered roof as well as a pay washer and dryer, something I've never seen before at a campground.
Beyond the other lovely amenities, they had picnic tables everywhere, drinking water spigots, fire pits at every site and a playground for the kids.
Overall, definitely one of the more perfect places to camp. And if you had extra time, there was a lake at the other end of the park. And equestrian trails and an equestrian camp, but it was closed because of mud.
Located in gorgeous Amish country, the drive back to the interstate to head north again was incredibly enjoyable and a great way to end a great camping adventure.
Some of our favorite camps are State Forest campgrounds. The fees are reasonable, they are generally quiet, and are very well kept. This was no exception, and in fact, was one of the best we've seen.
It's about a mile drive off the main road/interstate, and the road is a bit bumpy (older pavement), but very accessible and very well marked with park signs. Once you get there, it appears there is a booth to pay, but it wasn't manned This time of year, although "honesty is the best policy" applies and there is a place to drop money. Also, if manned, you can purchase what they call a "rack" of firewood for $3. Seems very reasonable, but not sure what the bundle looks like. Immediately, there is a picnic area and playground with BBQ pits and a sandy beach. Lovely! Also seems to be some sort of scenic trail around the lake.
There were quite a few sites…maybe 40. But each is private. Each one is nestled in the trees (with very few exceptions). Each has a fire pit, picnic table, very easy access for a car or trailer to pull in, and they all seemed fairly flat. Pit type bathrooms were scattered around, and were very clean. About 2 toilets per little structure, and they all had hand sanitizer at the door. Water pumps were also scattered…a nice addition to the area.
A very nice place to jump off the highway and put up camp for the night.
as a fun little addition to the state forest campground, they had a few signs at the beach where you could set up a camera and take a selfie. Then, they had instructions to tag the photo in a particular way and post it on Instagram at the @TravelWisconsin page. Kinda fun!
As another side note…Elk were re-introduced to this area a few years back and you may get to see some while you are here! But please keep your distance, they are delicate as they establish and grow the herd
You can rent backpacking shelters, at the ranger station in Eagle. The shelter is basically a barn without a front door. It comes with a fire ring, table, and an outhouse! It’s along the ice age trail and offers stunning views for easy hikes.
This is a great campground with a ton of sites. None of them have electric but they all have an amazing fire ring with a grill on top along with a nice area to park a car as well as a flat area for a tent!
We were there Labor Day weekend huge campground of course it was very crowded. I didn't like our site no tress I felt like I was in my front yard. There's plenty to do 3 pools , Mimi golf, outdoor movies, the weekend we were there they had a band. The race track is very close by and the noise from the cars can be pretty loud but not a deal breaker. We would probably go back.
Nice campground. Pretty primitive - no running water in the bathrooms so no showers and pit toilets only, but there are two city water connections for drinking water. Electric hookups at the campsites. The sites are pretty close to each other, not much privacy, but the sites along Lake Superior are beautiful. Easy walk to Bayfield. No reservations. Not much room to turn around large vehicles, and a steep hill to the road. There is a free shuttle to shows at Big Top Chautauqua that picks up in the campground. Also, the city provides free firewood!
It's a one-hour drive from Milwaukee. Nice, easy hiking trails. Facilities are kept clean. LOTS of RVs, so check out the photo of site before you reserve if you want to ensure your site has at least some privacy. They have one large teepee for rent that sleeps several people with cots provided, situated on a large wooden platform at the top of a hill with views of the lake beyond for $40 a night. Make sure you attempt to reserve it well in advance.