With nearly 100 state parks, forests, trails and recreation areas to explore and enjoy in Wisconsin, the state offers seemingly endless opportunities to connect with the great outdoors. And there’s no time like summertime to take advantage of these scenic spaces.
Here’s a look at some things visitors need to know when planning a visit. Check the state parks website for more information — dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks.
Admission: An admissions sticker is required for all motor vehicles entering state parks and recreation areas as well as some parking areas for state trails and forests. There are annual, daily and even one-hour admission options. Buy in advance at a Department of Natural Resources service center — dnr.wi.gov/contact/officelocations.html — or at the park when entering.
For cars, trucks and motorcycles with Wisconsin license plates, the cost is $25 for an annual sticker, $7 for a daily sticker and $5 for one-hour use (where available). There are discounts for ages 65 and older ($10 annual, $3 daily) and more than one vehicle in the same household ($12.50 annual). Annual stickers are good at any park or recreation area for the entire calendar year.
Camping: Reservations may be made for many state park campsites up to 11 months before a planned visit and as late as two days in advance. Options include individual and group sites, tent sites, electric hookups and accessible cabins for people with disabilities. Site fees for Wisconsin residents range from $12 to $20 per night, plus a reservation fee of $9.70.
Use the state park camping reservations website — wisconsinstateparks.reserveamerica.com — or call 888-947-2757 during designated hours (through Oct. 31, phone hours are 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays; 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays; and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays).
Firewood: Because of concerns about the destructive Emerald Ash Borer and other invasive species, firewood is not allowed to be transported to any campground from out of state or more than 25 miles from the campground, nor from any EAB quarantined area.
Note that starting June 1, the restriction is expected to drop to 10 miles from the campground. Visitors should buy needed firewood near or at the property. The DNR’s Firewood Hotline has more information, 877-303-9663.
Programs: A wide variety of nature programs and events are planned throughout the year at state parks and areas. Most are free, but the vehicle admission sticker is required for park entry. Popular offerings include guided hikes, birding tours, geocaching, children’s activities and more.
The state parks website maintains event listings for all parks. Also check with park staff during any visit to see what is happening at the site during your stay.
Activities: In addition to camping, parks offer activities from fishing and hiking to boating and hunting and more. For hiking, trail maps are available at each park, along with up-to-date information about trail conditions. Boating is popular, and many parks offer rentals of canoes, kayaks and other watercraft. Boat registration is required for those using their own boats.
A license is required for hunting and fishing. Online purchase is available, or check at a DNR service center. Licenses also are sold at many retails locations including sporting goods and hardware stores. Where ATV use is allowed, trail passes are required.
Many state parks and forests have shelters available to reserve for group outings such as family reunions, weddings, company picnics and other events. There also are facilities such as amphitheaters and auditoriums available to reserve.
Requests for reservations can be submitted up to 11 months in advance and are made directly with the individual park, by mail or phone. Check online or call the desired park for details.