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.
This is a privately owned campground and is in need of some updates. The bathrooms are kind of nasty and the whole area had a rundown feeling.
If you are passing through and just need a cheap place for the night, you could do worse… I doubt that I will stay here again.
Campground itself is nice and the bathrooms/showers are good enough. The big issue is the gnats. Was camping there in early July and literally could not be outside the tent at all due to the wicked number of these things. We even had our thermacells out and that did nothing to deter.
Although we didn't actually stay at this campground, we drove through and I thought I'd give it a review based on my impressions. Had we known it was here, we might have actually booked a night.
It's not a giant campground, but there was enough space this time of year to accommodate any passerby. each campsite appeared to have a fire ring with a great for grilling, a picnic table, and space for a camper or a tent. There was no electric, but it looked like you could park a small RV or pop-up camper without a problem. There are no showers, but they do have vault toilets. And very close by, there's some beautiful hiking trails! One of them you cross has a very old bridge that is just gorgeous! It's a wooden bridge with a very unique suspension that crosses over the water that creates Amnicon Falls. This time of year, after all the rain, it was flowing like mad and beautiful!
Since I didn't stay, I can't speak for the noise level in the campground. But since we were traveling in October, there wasn't a campground we stayed in that seem to be full of people. Most everything was quiet this time of year.
side note, you do need a park pass in order to stay at the campground. So in addition to the camping fee, you need a park sticker that's available at a self-serve machine when you come in. Out of state residents paid $11 for the park sticker, and $20 for a campsite. In-state residents paid $15 for the campground and I'm not certain how much for a sticker. it did not, however, seem that camping fees went up much past $25, even in the peak of the summer. They are open all year round, but it's still $15 to $20 in the winter time.
This is my favorite place to camp, two lakes to canoe or paddle boat on. Beautiful waterfall, awesome hiking. The campsite are wooded and more private than many places I have been. October November less people no bugs and beautiful fall foliage, plus a fire feels good that time of year. Highly recommend!
Lovely campground right on the shores of Lake Michigan. I accidentally booked a primitive site online, but as it turned out that didn't matter as a storm had ravaged the area the day before and there was no electricity anyway. All of the employees were exceptionally nice, even with the less-than-optimum circumstances. I can't speak to the amenities since the store was closed and we were only using the pit toilets (which were cleaned daily) but between walking along the lake, and playing cards at our campsite (which we had all to ourselves!) we had a very enjoyable time.
We are spending a month at Holtwood Campground Oconto, in our motor home, while preparing our boat for winter storage. Loving it here! Spacious sites and nice view! Office staff are so very helpful and patient with me. Just love those girls! And the groundskeepers are constantly working on the landscape. We will for sure be back in 2020!
Hickory Hills is a quiet but activity filled campground 30 minutes from Madison. There are many permanent campers but they are all friendly and welcoming. The lake has a nice beach. The pool is not too large but works on a hot day. Most people have golf carts as there is no place to park by the pool or the club house. The bathrooms are clean and well maintained. Every weekend there are activities planned from wine tasting to Halloween trick or treating. The sites are large and you can choose from shady or sunny sites. Great place to spend a few days or the whole summer.
On top of the bluffs looking over the Mississippi River, this campground offers everything you need. Plentiful showers and bathrooms, amazing views, canoe rentals, and most importantly…….RECYCLING. I have been there 3 times and will definitely go back again.
Great place to take the fam, big sites not to close to other campers. Lots of trees to hang a hammock and relax, great beach, good hiking. Going back for a weekend to check out the walk ins.
I've been going to Long Lake for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately we haven't camped here in a couple years, but it was really nice to be back.
We visited in September this year, so the campground was much more empty that it is in the summer. It was also cool, so we didn't make it to the beach this year.
One big change was that a lot of the larger trees were knocked down in a storm earlier this year, so many of the campsites have less shade than in the past. The one we were on this time we've camped on before, but the spot we usually pitch our tent was where they put the downed trees, so the site was smaller and sunnier.
I still really love this campground. It has a good amount of non-electric sites, which we prefer. The access to many hiking options in the Kettle Moraine state forest is great, and when it is hot out the lake is nice for swimming.
As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time, this time I got to test the Red Ledge Free Rein rain jacket.
I've gone through many cheap ponchos, but haven't had a real raincoat since I was a kid. The one I had as a kid was rubbery, stiff, and not breathable. The Red Ledge jacket is nothing like this. It is light, comfortable, and breathes well. It even has zippered arm pits, in case you need to air them out 😊
I've only used it a couple times in the rain, but I can say it worked. If you are spending serious time in the rain I'd suggest rain pants, since this goes only a little past your waist, and your pants are likely to get wet. Red Ledge does have a "Free Rein" pant as well, but I haven't tried them.
I'm not sure whether I would pay for a coat like this, but I don't think it is overpriced. It is a well-made coat with high quality materials. Overall, I have nothing bad to say about this rain coat. It is well made, works well, and looks good too.
Very nice area, camped in a tent at the end of September. Firewood had very easy access. The campground was a pretty large layout, but still easy to navigate. Nice hiking spots with amazing views. Bugs weren't too terrible, I maybe had two mosquito bites the whole 4 days, and that was before I put bug spray on.
Rentals for canoes and kayaks are available. Unfortunately, when I went the current was too strong. We could still rent one but they warned us that if we weren't able to make it through the current, that we wouldn't be able to get our money refunded.
There were signs posted that the drinking water cannot be boiled, nor can it be given to babies or elderly due to high nitrates. But we brought our own water anyways.
Wagon trail campground had wonderful staff to help when checking in and getting you pointed in the right direction! All campsites were beautiful with nice privacy and amenities! Also hiking trails lead to a beautiful beach on Lake Michigan which was spectacular!
We have been camping here for a few years now multiple times a year. We love this place. Quiet. Lots to do for kids. Pool, mini golf, game room, tennis courts, soccer, volleyball a rec center with games, TV ect. We love the complete hook ups, no worries about electric, water or sewer. It is alittle more pricy but we will pay more for the amenities. Close to town for whatever you might want to do or explore. We have already booked for next year.
I don't recommend the inside sites in the north loop - sites are super duper close together with only sparse trees in between. It was a noisy night with dogs from a couple different sites barking back and forth at each other into the wee hours, and my campsite neighbors getting in late and bickering as they set up their tent, their headlights facing my tent.
The map was misleading as to the location of the toilets. I don't like to be immediately adjacent to the bathrooms, and I picked site 97 with this in mind. Unfortunately, there were two buildings with vault toilets (only one indicated on map), one of which I'd estimate was under 50 feet from my tent pad. Luckily, smell wasn't an issue, but it did mean a lot of foot traffic nearby.
The park itself was nice - lovely view of the water from the trails, maps at most trail intersections and the trails were not too busy.
Hikers rejoice. You’ll find the 16-17 rustic sites quite awesome at Newport State Park. Camp right next to the water even.
We hiked just after a 3” rainfall, so unfortunately the trails were washed out. But we made do.
It’s a beautiful park, and looks to be well kept. Close to Uncle Tom’s Candy Store and a short drive to Ellison Bay for supplies or a fish boil.
Took my 2 year old fir first time tent camping, we were at site 231, which was huge and very nice. We had some friends at other sites that weren’t as nice. There is a YouTube video posted of all the sites. There is so much to do we couldn’t do everything we wanted in the one night we stayed.
This is probably the nicest, most well run campground we have ever stayed at. The staff is friendly and welcoming, they are pet friendly, and their sites are spacious and private - unlike so many other campgrounds we visit.
While staying here, you’re a short walk to a great bakery and restaurant. Additionally, you can bring your gear and hike the trails just 5 minutes away at the state park.
Rates are very reasonable and the bathrooms are the best we’ve seen at any campground.
This place can’t get much better…
After Labor Day ( sept 2019 ) Not many visitors - but some. This place is just plain beautiful. Super friendly. No cell. WiFi available at the office, but not at the RV sites ( not really a bad thing!) extremely roomy - our truck and trailer are 54 feet long - no problem fitting at site 35 - but we’ll bring an extension cord next time as our primary power cable didn’t quite reach the utility box. Very nice picnic table and fire ring. Bathrooms on the RV side are pristinely clean - short walk to the beach. Peaceful! 12 minutes to get to town. ( secret - there’s an RV dump at the airport on county H north ) $5 donation -
We will be back!
Madeline Island Ferry charges by the foot. 54’ truck and trailer combo plus two adults was about $220 round trip but we stayed 5 nights and felt it worth every cent.
Well compared to the human petting zoo and three ring circus at Peninsula State Park, and by not settling and pressing on, I found what I consider to be the perfect park. Newport State Park in Elison Bay, WI is secluded, pristine and quiet with just a handful of primitive campsites all on the lakeshore with 30 miles of ungroomed, heavily wooded trails which abound with wildlife (kinda, not really).
There is a stretch of open beach with lots of shoreline and a ranger station unmanned with self-registration. There were only two campsites available for one night only so I went with lucky 13 because it was remote, not near any other campsites and on the rocky cedar grove crowded with rocky shoreline.
It was a four mile loop to backpack to the campsite on Rowley's Bay Trail. I had been walking everyday for weeks leading up to this trip to strengthen my legs and toughen up my feet. The preparation worked as I performed very well even for a fat old guy. My feet are meat.
When you backpack in and out you are thinking about what you need and what will fit in the pack. Efficiency is key unless in this instance you forget to pack a few sheets of toliet paper (luckily I didn't need it). I was able to fit a sleeping bag, Luke's green Northface Nebula Strata tent, Mary's green "tights", Joey's Hulk pillow and blanket, a Pink Floyd shirt from Walmart for the irony, waterproof matches, a hatchet for protection, two cuties, four bottles of water and a bag of trail mix.
More to come…..
Ok, I'm back. I had to find Wifi and a place to charge my phone because my charger in the car is really slow for some reason. I thought going back to Al Johson's Swedish Restaurant and Butik was as good as any other place and I learned a few things from the staff and more experienced patrons while I was there charging my phone. I also ate a proper breakfast for the first time in a long time - it was damned good.
Al Johnson opened his restaurant 70 years ago and ran it up until his passing a few years ago. He rode his bike to work and waited tables, cooked, wiped down tables, hosted and even fed the goats.
There are a total of five goats and they get on the roof using a ramp in the back of the restaurant; there are also two webcams on the roof in caae you want to watch goats graze on a Swedish grass roof top 24/7 or check the weather.
The restaurant is packed everyday from open to close, year round. Butik is a Swedish word for the French word "boutique" or small shop. Some of the staff are actually fron Sweden. Swedish meatballs sound relatively easy to make given the simplicity of the ingredients (100% beef, onions, milk, salt and pepper) and they are even more delicious if you haven't eaten anything but fruit and trail mix for days.
Next up, the Washington Island Ferry and staying the night on the island before catching the Rock Island Ferry (the Karfi) tomorrow morning.
Newport State Park is a 2,373-acre Wisconsin state park at the tip of Door Peninsula near Ellison Bay, Wisconsin. Protecting 11 miles of shoreline on Lake Michigan, Newport is Wisconsin's only wilderness-designated state park. In 2017, the International Dark-Sky Association named Newport a Dark-sky preserve.
Newport State Park, WI continued… I packed my hatchet for protection and from my tent I shouted into the darkness, "I got a gun you son of a bitch!"
With my backpack packed and feeling a little anxious, as if I was up for the two hour hike to campsite 13, it was at the Rowley's Bay Trailhead that I noticed that my phone battery was dead which meant no pictures and no measure of time. Oh well. I didn't see any wildlife along the hike but I did notice a sign for that invasive flowered plant, Garlic Mustard, that I saw at Big Knob Campground in MI (UP).
I reached the shoreline and the cedar groves crowding the rocky shore rivaled those of the ones I've seen at Rock Island. It was only a few more paces until I got to campsite 13. It was tucked away in the woods with a fire pit, two wood benches, two flat areas for tents and a metal animal box to protect food. It was perfect, or so I thought - the plot thickens.
I set up the tent and went to the shoreline to relax in the sun. The view looked east over Rowley's Bay and there were no waves; just ripples lapping up on the rocks. With no concept of time, I sat there until the sun passed over me to the right (west) and I figured it was getting close to dusk and enjoyed the golden hour.
I thought about all sorts of stuff and recognized how noisy my mind was even in such a quiet and tranquil setting. On these solo trips you can cover a lot of ground seeing stuff and you can talk to yourself out loud and disagree most of the time with what you are saying. But I never really win that many arguments with myself, so I did what I always do - walk around, eat and sleep.
I ate half the bag of trail mix and drank two bottles of water saving the rest and the two cuties for tomorrow. I turned in early without using those cool waterproof matches and opted not to make a fire.
I fell a sleep quickly to the sounds of the ripples and in the middle of the night I was startled and woke in a panic. I heard something or someone stalking around the tent. Was it an animal, a ranger, a serial killer, my ex-wife, or worse both my ex-wives or the creepy guy that I met in the parking lot at the trailhead? My mind was racing and I grabbed the hatchet that I always keep in the tent under my pillow for moments exactly like this one.
I must have stayed motionless for 30 minutes running through all the horific scenarios in my head and debated with myself what would be my first move. I definitely did not imagine the foot steps and I was now prepared to seriously fight.
I chose to stay in the tent and maintain a defensive position but I thought I should send a warning. I gripped the hatchet and from my tent I shouted into the darkness "I got a gun you son of a bitch!". There was nothing but silence, however, I could still hear the footsteps pacing further from the tent now but definitely still on the campsite.
I continued to think of my options but leaving the tent to confront the threat was an unnecessary risk. I laid motionless in complete silence with the hatchet in my hand until I fell a sleep.
When I woke up to the sound of the now familiar ripples it was early morning, the hatchet was still in my hand and I was alive. The hatchet is a gun? It's the same thing to me if it scares off a threatening son of a bitch or a imposing walking tree.
I really was scared…