Josh F.

Pro

Madison, WI

Joined August 2020

Husband & I call ourselves "Cast Iron Camper with Cots," but no more gear than fits in an electric car. Primarily interested in Wis State Parks.

A nice alternative to Blue Mounds State Park

In 2021, this is one of two Dane County Campground that will allow tents. Token Creek will allow tents, all others (Babcock, Mendota and W. G. Lunney Lake Farm County Parks) will be RV only with self-contained restroom facilities and no tents allowed!

This 232-acre county park is located northeast of the Village of Blue Mounds. Blue Mounds State Park is just up the road and is home to a national landmark cave. If you can't camp at the Blue Mound State Park this would be a good alternative. 

This campground has 23 rustic campsites, two shelters, a picnic area, play equipment, a nature trail, and hiking trails that connect to the Blue Mound State Park. There is a 1.3-mile paved shared-use trail where mountain bicycling is allowed. The campground is only served by pit toilets. This campground does not have a dump station. There are electric sites throughout. Permits and reservations are purchased at ReserveDane.com 

I did not camp here but spent a while walking around the park and campground to get a good idea of what camping here might be like. The first group of campsites is between the main road and a farm field. They are directly across from the park shelters and picnic area. There is no privacy in front of or between campsites. 

On the other side of the loop, however, campsites are much more secluded with under-story between sites. These also back up to the woods, which makes for a much nicer overall camp experience. 

If you have your choice, I would recommend sites 12, 14, 15, 16, 18, 20.

Small, close to 2 busy roads - there are nicer options in Southern Wis.

Throughout the summer of 2020, I camped at a number of Wisconsin state parks in the southern part of the state but hadn't gotten to camp at this one yet. While driving through the area I visited the park in December- photos won't show its summertime beauty but my walk through the park identified some ideal spots for camping. 

The state park is open year-round, camping open May - October. The first thing I visited were the walk-in campsites. There is a loading zone parking lot with limited time parking. Access to the 14 walk-in sites is via a single trail with campsites on either side of the trail. There is a decrepit but functional pit toilet. All the walk-in sites have a picnic table and each is tucked off the trail into the woods.

The downside to the walk-in sites is their proximity to a major highway. While walking through the campground I could easily hear the road noise. If I were looking to get away from civilization, or at least pretend to be far away from it all, that road noise would be a constant reminder that I wasn't. The further down the walk-in site trail I got, the closer I got to the highway and in fact, car headlights showed right up the trail as I was approaching the last set of campsites.

When looking at a map and choosing a site, the walk-in campsites on the same side of the trail as the toilet are a little more private and secluded, and back up to expansive woods. The sites on the other side of the trail are nice but they are a little closer to the freeway and don't have as much forest coverage behind the campsites. The furthest walk-in site is at least a 4-minute (slightly downhill) walk from the parking lot. The centrally-located restroom is no more than 2 minutes from any of the walk-in campsites. Sites are between 40 and 1,000 feet from the walk-in loading zone.

If walking to your campsite isn't your thing there is also a family campground with 17 drive-in (not drive through) sites located along a typical one-way paved road system. Unfortunately, this side of the state park is bordered by a different and only slightly less traveled road than the walk-in sites. Some campsites are sandwiched between the loop road and the main road, are lit by nighttime traffic headlights lights. As the campground road continues toward the group campground it veers away from the main road and offers a bit more privacy. These are the sites I'd select if I were to camp here.

Of the group campsites, 55 and 56 are in a nicely wooded area with shade. 52 53 and 54 are in an open area with no shade. The family campground is serviced by two pit toilets centrally located to the campsites.

Due to the very small size of this state park, lack of much to do except one hiking trail through it, and proximity to two main roads, I would not recommend the state park. There are many others in southern Wisconsin that have far more to offer. 

Seriously, if you're looking for a Wisconsin state park in this neck of the woods, check out Yellowstone Lake or Blue Mound State Park instead. See my review of the latter for specific spots that would be awesome for tent camping.

PERMANENTLY CLOSED: Small RV Park with Electrical and Water Hookups

I visited this location in December. While I visited in December, the restaurant is permanently (not seasonally, permanently) closed. In addition to my physical visit to the site, I did some online research and found evidence that the RV park is also permanently closed. If it ever opens again, here's a brief description. There are a few RV spots behind the restaurant building. Follow the driveway on the left side of the building, the spots are to the right between the driveway and the restaurant building. There are shared water and electric hookups. This would be a convenient place to park an RV if visiting someone in town, but it's location is not particularly pretty, even in the winter. There's a large parking lot and apartment buildings all around.

NOTE: at the time of writing this I didn't know there is a function on the site to simply edit the listing without a review. Will do that moving forward.

Pretty Park, Really Close to the Highway

This is a small RV and tent campground. A charming little creek runs through it, giving the place its name. There are water and electric hookups for RVs. Some sites have picnic tables, but not all of them. RV sites have ample gravel pads for parking. There is a central sewer dump for RVs, and a small building with bathroom facilities - I didn't get a look inside -- I don't know if it is flush toilets or a pit.

The campground is very close to the freeway and there is a constant din of traffic noise that remind you how close you are to the highway.  See (and listen) to my video to experience just how close the highway is.

On the plus side, golfers can walk next door to a three-par course.

Nice Camping, Easy Walking Trails and Weedy Lake That's Great for Kayaking

This Wisconsin State Park has a several loops of campsites, a nice, though at times weedy lake and nice trails throughout. While I didn't do it myself, friends who have camped here told me that the Ishnala Supper Club is a nice walk away if you're looking to expand your dining horizons from your campsite cooking adventures.

Mirror Lake is large and long, and thus makes for interesting kayaking and canoeing because there is always something new to see around the next corner. As though to prove my initial thoughts about this, while enjoying the view at the boat launch we saw three kayaks put in or pull out in less than 5 minutes. I was there in July and October and both times the lake had significant weed coverage. Fortunately the beach was spared of this water growth.

I have not camped at this park, but have spent several days there hiking the trials, spending time on the water and exploring the park's campground areas. Most of the sites have a permanently-installed tall, metal "shepherd's hook." These could be used to hang lights or get a small bag of food out of animal reach.

21 this campsite has a picnic table, basic fire pit and shepherd's hook.

24 doesn't have much privacy, but it is really big with lots of room for large tents or a big kitchen fly.

36 has a fair amount of understory growth keeping it private from other campsites, but what makes this site interesting is there is a sandy area that would make for a very nice place to put your tent.

44 is a very large campsite with lots of trees in the campsite good for hanging hammocks.

93, in the Sandstone campground, this is one of the nicer spots, long driveway surrounded by trees nice and shady and has a bit more privacy from the road than others. One downside of tent sites in this area is that they are among lots of electric sites.

203 is furthest off of the parking lot and for this away from the other neighboring campsites.

201/202, and 203/204, would be great as double sites for families that want to camp together. Not necessarily group campsites, but they are close enough together that they would be great for two parties camping together.

201 through 204 are a little bit off of a large parking lot. They don't seem to be group sites but are definitely Far away from many of the other campground sites and would be nice if you wanted to get away from other campers. It's also nowhere near any electric sites.

Best for RVs, lots to do

This is a campground with semi-permanent and permanent trailers and RVs. Sites have electricity and water hookups. There is a nice little pond in the park and it's very well maintained and groomed. They have little go-karts and bikes to rent, they have propane gas to rent and sell ice. They also have Wi-Fi!

I spoke with the owner, there are tent sites, but unless you were with an RV group, a tent camper might feel a bit out of place. Still, it's out of the way from traffic and other noises, has a very park-like feel to it and the owner was very nice when I spoke with him.

Small, Tidy with Lots of Waterworks

This is a relatively small, private campground mostly for RVs though there are some very nice sites that would be lovely for tents. There are a dozen tent sites that back up to a very charming river, each one has a picnic table and fire pit. The view of the river from these sites is lovely. Adding to the waterworks, there is a cute pond with a charming fountain in the center of the RV sites, and a nice horseshoes pit. There are a number of RV sites with full hookups. 

I spoke with the owner and they did not have tent camping in 2020. They were worried about people in too close proximity in the restroom. In 2020 they only allowed RVs that had their own restroom facilities. The owner told me that maybe there will be tent camping in 2021.

If I had a horse, I'd definitely camp here

Driving on country roads to this campground, I drove past many many horse ranches. So it's no surprise that there is a dedicated campground for horseback riding in this state park. 

Built for Large Gatherings

There are a number of COVID-era regulations that as of this writing are in place, see photos of the signs posted. This campground is clearly built for large groups to hang out together. There is a large shelter with picnic tables and very convenient roll-up sides that can be used to protect people during inclement weather. There is also a large grill that would be great for serving many, and a very nice fire pit with fixed seating for a large group. 

Ammenities

There are also nice touches, such as a small stair-step for beginners or young people to mount their horse. And the campground has a little free library. There are electric and non-electric campsites, all seem to have a picnic table and fireplace. There are ample places to bridle horses and shared corrals every four or five campsites. There are also animal waste collection areas throughout the campground. There are several pit toilets throughout the campground, and one building with flush toilets and showers. It's a very nice and fairly new building.

Group Campsite

The group campsite has six sites and they are not pull through for trailers. There is a fire pit with fixed seating around it centrally-located in the group campsite. The group campsite does not have electric units. 

And no surprise, there is easy access to horse trails throughout the state forest. 

My Top Picks

There are several sites along one side of the park that are a little more secluded and in a pine forest. They have picnic tables and fire pits like the others, they include 409, 410, 411, 412, 413. There's also a series of pull-through sites that would make it easier for those who don't care to back trailers in or out of the site. These include electric sites 405, 404, 403, 402, and 401.

There's a nice couple of campsites at the end of one of the loops that affords a little bit of privacy, the only problem is they abut the main road and are a little noisy with car traffic. However, they are sweet sites. They include 427 and 428. Unfortunately, they camping here you would hear all of the car traffic while all the other campsites are much further away from the road.

Honestly not sure why you would want to stay here

I did not spend a night at this campground but did spend time bicycling around to get to know it. This is a small county campground with electric and water sewer hookups for RVs and a handful of tent campsites.

However, in summer 2020 all of the tent campsites are closed to reservations. The RV sites are only open to vehicles with self-contained water and sewer. In fact, the entire toilet and shower building is closed, at least temporarily during this time of COVID. The tent campsites, when they available, are very open and would be quite sunny during the day. They are also extraordinarily close to one another, there is no understory between for any privacy. Each tent campsite is equipped with a metal picnic table and an elevated grill, there are no places for ground bonfires.

The electric RV unit sites do have bonfire rings. The entire campsite sits along a fairly busy residential road, the tent campsites butt right up against it, it would be fairly noisy.

I honestly see no appeal to this campground except for a cheap place to stay near the city of Madison. While I did not see them, there are hiking trails around and nearby the lake.

I do however see one interesting function for it for a particular set of campers. Someone living in Madison who is interested in trying out a bike camping trip would do well to practice biking to this campsite. It's about a 30-minute ride from downtown Madison and you could practice both your biking and tent gear, with easy access back to the city if you forgot something :-) or call a friend :-)

RV/Mobile Home Campground with lots to do

I did not stay at this campground, but drove through it to see the place. I was looking for tent campsites and if there are any, they were under the tires of an RV. There are lots of things to do here, but tent camping is not one of them. I have nothing bad or good to say about the place, just letting tent campers know that this might not be the place for them.

A county park with lots to offer

I did not stay at this park, but did drive and walk through it to get a feel for it. There are a number of sites I'd love to tent camp in.

This park is bounded by a lake with a nice beach. There are nicely-groomed volleyball courts, picnic shelters and abundant picnic tables. There are pit toilets throughout the campground and one flush toilet station in the public picnicking area.

The campsites are up the hill from the public areas I just described. Sites 1 through 8 are in an oak savannah, semi-shaded but mostly in a grassland area. Sites are grassy with no gravel pads for parking.

The group camping area is slightly shaded, but would be warm and sunny midday. Group site 19 is probably one of the shadiest areas.

Now, sites 22 and 23, 24, 25 and 26 are very cool. The campsites are in the midst of a pine forest. It would be sweet to tent camp there and listen to the wind in those trees. Note, there is no camping IN among the pine forest, and these sites are going to be quite sunny and warm midday without much shade.

Small RV campground right on the river

I didn't stay here but walked through to get a feel for the place. I was wondering if there were any tent camp sites. It is all RV and semi-permanent mobile homes on a few loops. 

There is firewood for sale and a public water source.

There are also has a few cabins to rent.

The campground is very close to the river with boat slips and river access. The sights next to the river are all occupied with permanent camper units. I don't see any options for tent camping.

I looked for an office or other information to share more, didn't find anything obvious. I also didn't find anything about the place online.

Hickory Woods Group Campground

Hickory Woods is technically part of the Whitewater Lake campground in the Southern Kettle Morraine state park, but I think it merits its own review. I did not spend a night here, but I did drive and walk through to get to know the place.

This aptly named group campsite is situated in a predominantly hickory forest. Group sites have five or six picnic tables, some have stationary seating planted around the fireplace

Site K however does not have fixed bench seating around the fireplace. 

Group site L also has its own water supply, fixed bench seating and picnic tables.

The circle of campsites with J, K and L is in a loop with a centrally-located water supply and pit toile in the middle of the loop. These are in a shady area but will have a great deal of midday sun due to the size of the campsites. 

Group site M is right on the main road and is a bit more exposed/

Group site N is not very large, but has access to tons of parking and is quite close to the toilet.

Group site P is just set off the road with a curtain of trees that gives you a modicum of privacy. It's quite open which would be nice for breezes and also has access to ample parking. The group campsite does not have a shower station. Only pit toilets.

A note about reservations, I don't know how they work. I went to the DNR site and tried to reserve one just to see the pricing but kept getting a warning that "this is not a campsite, pick another site." So I don't know how these are reserved.

Beautifully wooded sites in the Kettle Morraine

This is a Wisconsin state park, with two campgrounds, East and West. The camp host is in the East campground, which has a nice info station and a Little Free Library!

I did not spend a night in this campground, but did drive and walk through to get to know the place. If you've read my other reviews, you know I'm always on the hunt for great tent camp sites, so list what I think are some of the nicest. 

EAST CAMPGROUND

Sites 605 and 607 are shady, spacious and about a hundred feet off the road. You feel like you're actually camping in the woods, with lots of underbrush you can't see your neighbors.

611R is interesting, a very large site on a wooded knoll. This combination makes it very shady and it's not going to get any runoff water during a rain. If you want to dry site, this one is for you.

616 is on the inside of the loop so it's a little closer to the road, but the site is well off the road and the tent place is tucked in behind bushes, hiding it nicely from the road.

I generally only write about really great sites, but I would steer you away from 619R. It is completely exposed to and right next to the road. It's also right next to the path to the scenic view, so you're going to get some foot traffic. 622R is also right up against the road so you're going to get foot traffic and car headlights in your campsite.

WEST CAMPGROUND

West loop campsites are in a different kind of woods. Many of the sites are in wooded area with a lot less undergrowth which allows more visibility between campsites.

763 is a little further off the road and the campsite curves to one side so you can put your tent out of sight from the road.

FOUR WALK-IN SITES

Sites 771, 772, 773, 774 are all walk-in sites. Fortunately, there is a single-stall pit toilet for these campsites so you don't have to go really really far to use the toilet. These sites are more or less situated in a pine tree plantation, listening to the wind would be lovely here. However, there is no complimentary cart or wagon, if you are camping heavy, you will need to expect to take a couple of trips or bring some type of wagon.

Site 774 is about 200 steps off from the car park. 773 is about 300 steps off from the car park, and it's a little more open and I don't like this site because I can see the edge of the woods. I like sites with a bit more closed-in feeling, maybe you like something different.

I didn't walk to 771 or 772, but I'm guessing they are similar to the others, situated in a pine forest.

If you're an RV camper, this place has a nice beach

I didn't stay here but I did walk through the place to get to know it. This is an RV campground, I did not see any places for tent camping. 

There is a nice playground and four sand volleyball courts. Staying in the campground allows for easy lake access. Be warned, do not park a car/boat trailer and take off in the lake, they're serious about towing non-campers. 

This campground caters to RVs, mobile homes, permanent dwellings and semi-permanent RVs parked to stay. RV hookups with electrical and water/ sewer.

The large sandy beach has lots of space, easy access to both the water and a bar and grill with outdoor seating and lots of umbrellas. The beach features a few beach games and a small amount of seating on the sand. Not many trees for shade, RVs are parked out in the open and would be hot in the summer.

RV campground with lake access

I did not stay here, but I spend some time walking through to get a feel for the place.

This is primarily an RV/mobile home campground, but there are some nicely tucked away tent camp sites that I'll recommend later in this review. Gravel roads connect the three loops and the landscaping is well kept and maintained. The campground sells ice, firewood and rents boats.

There is a very clean bathroom and bathhouse, freshwater for campers, and some electric tent campsites. The property is basically terraced along a slope down to the lake, with the RV and mobile home sites closer to the lake. The tent sites are above it all with decent views of the lake below (and the RVs). 

The Galapagos tent campsite is elevated and a short distance from the loop road, and has a nice view of the lake. The Box Turtle site is also a bit elevated above the main driveway as is Snapper 7, though I am not sure where you are supposed to put your tent in that site.

Now, Snapper 4, 5,6 and 7 would be nice for group camping because they are all very close to one another and a bit more private, set away from the rest of the campsites. There are lots of electrical sites for campers and RVs, most of which look like they are quite permanently in place.

Close to Madison, near Military Ridge Trail, Some sites are Far, Far Away

I spent two nights in the campground at Blue Mound State Park. Overall, the park has well-maintained hiking and MTB biking trails, extraordinarily clean and well-kept vault toilets, and ample access to drinking water. Both tent and RV/camper sites are on a typical one-way road pattern with a couple of loops there are plenty of sites with and without electricity. At the time I was there, the camp host sold high-quality hard wood for $5/bundle from a trailer on the honor system, so if you run out in the middle of the night, wood was easy to replenish. One of the park's highlights are lookout towers with views above the treetops, Unfortunately in 2020 both were closed, presumably because it would be difficult to keep a safe distance from others when on the stairs or while at the top. Pity, it'll be a reason to return. Still, there are several observation areas that are maintained well enough to keep the undergrowth from blocking the view of the Wisconsin River Valley nearly 15 miles to the north. This is where the "Blue Mound" name must come from, the hills at that distance did have a bluish cast to them.

If you've read any of my other reviews you know what's next, my list of the best campsites. While I've visited several parks now that have "walk in" sites, with cars parked a minute or two from the campsite, about a dozen sites in Blue Mound State Park take "walk in" to a new level. Cars can drive to a barrier across the road, and the sites are a 10-15 minute walk downhill, The park provides ONE medium-sized cart (250 lb weight limit, 20-minute use limit) that I guess would be in high demand during load in and load out. (NOTE TO SELF, camp Thursday through Monday if going here, or arrive EARLY to get a cart). Most of these sites are quite sunny; 105 is nice and shady and private, 106 slightly shaded 109 and 110 are shaded, very close to one another and would be good for a group camp setup 111 is quite shady. There's water and toilets in the walk-in camp ground. You'd want to sip wood for campfires and cooking, the nearest source is a 15-minute walk uphill and back, and then if using the cart, you have to return it for another round trip.

Back in the family campground where mortals and RVs park, I think the following are the nicest in terms of shade, level, size and privacy.

42, 45, 47, 51, 64, 66, 69, 71, 73

Two lakes, two campgrounds and some nice walk-in sites!

I stayed at this campground when I was a kid and only recently revisited it. The state park has two very large lakes with nice pan fishing and modest but well-groomed (daily?) swimming beaches. The lakes are a definite drive from the campgrounds, however, which makes it hard for "the kids" to simply amble down for a swim. This is important, in Sept. 2020 (COVID-19 times) 1/3 of the parking lot was closed off. Not sure why, but I speculate this is to regulate the number of beach dwellers and swimmers. Regardless, it's a very large and lovely park. Here's my review of the campsites.

I am a car camper with no interest in (E) electric sites, so I did not pay attention nor note good ones. I prefer the silence and relative darkness that non-E sites provide.

Campsite - Cox Hollow

45/47 would be a nice couple of sites for a family/friends (wouldn't want this if you only needed one of them!)

The sites on the "inside" of the loop are rather close to one another.

21 has a nice view of the lake, and you can walk back to the fence to look over the bluff 24 is quite private and very large 26, 27 and 29 are all large, near the bluff

34 is interesting, it's divided into three "terraces" Kind of fun, like a campsite divided into rooms

44 right next to the water, BIG site, right near the bathroom and playground. This would be great if you have kids.

The second campground is Twin Valley - though it is NO WHERE NEAR the Twin Valley lake. Lots of driving to get to the lake from here.

221 is large with nice surrounding trees

285 is really big

This campground has walk in sites - these are sites with car parking on the road and you have to walk a minute or two to get to the site. Downside? Carrying all your gear and firewood. Upside? You can genuinely pretend that you've got the place to yourself, can't see a tent or an RV from any of these sites.

262 is 40 steps in, right on the edge of the valley with it's own personal bluff.

263 is a longer walk of 75 steps, a little less shaded than others, but PRIVATE

264 is about 45 steps off the parking lot, right against the bluff edge.

269 is 50 steps in, but it's just off the path, not as nice as others

270 is a long 120 steps walking past 269, this is the site for you if you're looking for seclusion

271 is 110 steps in, flat, really secluded

Two great rivers, two great campgrounds

I camped and hiked at Wyalusing State Park as a kid (like 35 years ago) and returned just this summer. It was a last-minute trip and literally got to pick from three remaining sites so wasn't sure what the experience would be like. Four days/three nights later and I can easily say this park is a good as my childhood memories.

Hiking - there are miles of great hiking trails and two trails for mountain biking. While the trails to Big and Little Sand caves are lovely, they are also heavily trafficked. We found that the Mississippi Ridge Trail to be a lovely walk in the woods - without any people (and that was on Labor Day weekend!)

Campsites

I am a car camper with no interest in (E) electric sites, so I did not pay attention nor note good ones. I prefer the silence and relative darkness that non-E sites provide.

We stayed at the Homestead Campground, which consists of four loops named after cardinal directions. Three of the loops are really just a long road with a cul-de-sac at the end, while the fourth is just a big loop with a large green space inside the circle and the loop's water source. This campground's sites are *mostly* among trees, and have a fair amount of privacy (forest understory growth) between sites. Some are further from the road, and very few are right on the road with no screening.

Not surprisingly, the campsites on the three cul-de-sacs seemed the most private and experience the lowest drive-by traffic, but no sites looked awful. In fact, our last minute pick of the remaining three sites was just fine. The entire campground is protected from wind and is very wooded.

If I were to return to this campground, I'd pick 235 and 236 on the west loop, 223, 224 and 225 on the north loop, 209, 210 and 211 on the east loop and 248, 239 and 250 on the south loop. However, you really can't go wrong in this campground.

BATHROOMS: let me wax poetic about the new bathroom/shower block. While I didn't take photos (should have) this is one of the nicest public bathrooms I've ever been in. Not just in a state park, ever. It was built in 2019 and has been treated well by visitors and well maintained by the park and campground hosts. Each gendered bathroom has ample stalls and sinks. There are four single-person showers. All were clean, large and well-lit.

Wisconsin Ridge is the second campground in this state park. This is the quintessential Wyalusing experience with sites overlooking both the Wisconsin and Mississippi River valleys. In my opinion, there is a price to pay for the views. Sites are very close to one another, and most are very close to the road. In some cases, the best (read dry and level)  the best spot to pitch a tent are also close close to the road. Just one side of one road in the loop has the great views, the rest see the view across the road, or in the case of the "inside loop" road, sites are just in the woods. This campground is also noted for its rip-roaring winds, one camper told us that during the rainy and wind night before, their shelter took off and tumbled down the valley - and when they say down, they're talking down, down, down.

That said, if you're looking for a majestic view of both rivers and the quaint river town of Prairie du Chien, the sites you'll want to check out are 119, 127, 129, 122, 144, 146, 148 and 152.

Close to Madison, not much else going for it

This state park is conveniently close to Madison, Wisconsin. It has some decent sites, and while I didn't actually stay in this park overnight, my visit and drive through the entire park revealed that there isn't much going for it. The beach isn't particularly nice and the lake looked pretty weedy; maybe not a surprise for late August, the lake might be much nicer early in the season.

In my opinion, after driving through all of the campsite loops, the following sites would be nice camping, they are shady and have a low probability of flooding during the rain. I also selected sites that had the most privacy.

81

82

83

96

62, has a cement pad for the table but it is close to other sites

66

76, high ground with semi-private site and quite large