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.
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.
Growing up in the city of Chicago, I didnt realize there were "mountains" in the midwest! My first time going here, I was in awe of the lack of flat prairie land, as I was used to for the area. My friend and I reserved a tipi several months in advance. We spent two nights and it was spectacular. We rented a canoe, which I highly recommend, enjoyed the trail that went around the entirety of Devils lake, and also hit up Devils Doorway for a sunset hike. I had to keep reminding myself that I was in the midwest!
Also, as most camping in the area, the raccoons can get aggressive, so keep your camp clean and food stored away. Keep a flashlight nearby and look out for glowing eyes in the trees and bushes!
Its very family friendly, and if you are looking to go when its more quiet, then try to go off-season, or rent a canoe and go far out onto the water ;)
I've been camping at Devil's Lake Campground for 23 years now. I've camped primarily in Quartzite, but also in the Northern Lights section. I've been there to camp in spring, summer, and fall. Besides my camping trips I take numerous day trips to DL because even after all this time I can't get enough of it. So what should you know?
The Bad: It is CROWDED!!! Especially in the summer, especially on the weekend, if you're looking for a wilderness getaway this is probably not it.
The new warden situation is interesting. Things have gotten a lot more strict in some areas (ex. You can only have 2 vehicles on a site at any given time), and are a lot more lax in others mostly because instead of a team of rangers there's now only a few wardens. We had an incident the last time we camped and rhe wardens did take care of the situation quite well, but it would have been nice had it been avoided/prevented beforehand.
The fire pits are often in very bizarre places, and usually not moveable.
Despite the crowds this place is drop dead gorgeous. Large fish, great blue herons, turkey vultures, loons, and bald eagles are just a few of the things I enjoy spotting at DL. There's so many trails to hike. The beaches are great, though the south shore has always been rocky it is much improved. Personally I prefer for it to stay as natural as possible anyways. There's great chalets on the north and south shores that sell souveniers, food, including cedar crest ice cream, and more! Paddle boards, kayaks, canoes, and paddleboats are available for rental too. There's also dog friendly swim areas on both shores which I am so thankful for. Dogs are also allowed and just about all the trails! Modern recently redone bathrooms with flush toilets and showers are available in the Quartzite section. In Northern Lights sites are much more wooded, and there are still flush toilets and showers, but they are a bit older. Both areas are beautiful and have their perks. Honestly they feel like 2 totally different places which is very neat. Ice Age is similar to Northern Lights I believe, and there's also group sites on the South Side of the lake. I'd have to say DL is the closest to mountains you can find in Wisconsin. The sites are well maintained. I love this place. It really is my home away from home. I wish it hadn't gotten so crowded, but it does go to show how amazing it is!
I've camped at Franklin Lake many times now. It is a gorgeous campground that is literally in the middle of nowhere, and I love it. Loons are always on the lake. The water is crystal clear. The beach is great, but if you have a site on the lake you can walk in and swim right there! Amount other wildlife bear are in the area, which is a testament to how off the beaten path this campground is. Despite this there actually is a building with flush toliets! There are plenty of places to hike in the area, and we've even done a little fishing in the area. We saw decent sized fish in Franklin lake, but didn't end up being able to catch any. (We just fish for fun so nothing serious here, I'm sure the fishing is great for those that are in to it!) I am eager to make plans to get back to Franklin Lake. It is just such a beautiful spot. The stars at night are some of the best I've seen with so little light pollution up there. The camoground has always been quiet and there's a good distance between sites. I'm eager to camp here again!
Musky Lake Campground is a nice campground. We camped mid-late June and had a nice little trip. Here's the good and the bad.
A surplus of dragonflies means that mosquitos were NOT a problem. As someone who gets eaten alive this is important.
Deer are rampant in the area. The loons on the lake are the epitome of the north woods! I camp to enjoy wildlife, so this is a plus.
Nice hiking trails nearby. Numerous bike paths as well.
Large bathroom facility with flush toilets and showers.
Sites are close together. I prefer a bit more privacy than they allow.
Lake access from the site is…existent at best. I was able to launch my inflatable kayak very carefully between the sticks and weeds, though I'm not sure anything bigger or heavier would be worth launching from the site.
No beach swimming areas for dogs. There's a dog friendly picnic area, but it is certainly no place to let your dog swim.This was disappointing. Many of the trails are also off limits for dogs which is beyond me, though this is unrelated to the actual campground I'm sure.
All in all Musky Lake is worth checking out. There is a nice human friendly beach at nearby (you can walk there) Crystal Lake. The location is good, not too far from civilization for those who like a grocery store nearby.The sites were level and had plenty of room for our 2 tents. This area has to be on your list if you are a bike rider! I felt out of place because everyone up there had their bikes, and I could see why.
Got in late and left early so I can’t say much but the view of the lake was incredible and you can see every star in the sky. I was camping alone but they had a last minute opening which was so great!