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Enjoy the Abundant Beauty of Wisconsin’s Natural Parks this Summer

high cliff state park seen from lookout

Top Ten Wisconsin State Parks to Visit

By Julien Her, quality care coordinator at Network Health
Originally published on 6/8/2021 at 1:00 p.m.

Here in Wisconsin, Memorial Day can figuratively (and sometimes literally) feel like the top of the first hill in a roller coaster. Once you start the rush into summer, there’s no hitting the brakes until mid- to late-September.

While the combination of relief that winter and spring are over and the long list of activities and events may be somewhat unique to Wisconsin. June is recognized nationally as National Great Outdoors Month. It’s a great opportunity to explore the beautiful outdoors of Wisconsin while staying active.

Wisconsin offers many state and county parks, forests and trails that receive about 20 million visits a year. All the parks offer different opportunities for exploration and different activities like hiking, climbing, swimming, wild food gathering, trail-running, all-terrain vehicle exploring and horseback riding.

Best State Parks in Wisconsin

Regardless of your specific outdoor interests, there’s a state park for you. To learn more about all of Wisconsin’s state parks, visit the  Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website.

If you’re looking for some highlights, however, here are some of our favorite Wisconsin state parks to explore.

1. High Cliff State Park – Sherwood, Wisconsin

Located on Wisconsin’s largest lake, Lake Winnebago, High Cliff State Park features limestone cliffs, a sizeable beach, campgrounds, miles of trails, fishing, horseback riding and a viewing tower that lets you see all the way across the lake on most days. The featured image at the top of this post shows off Lake Winnebago from a vista at High Cliff during the spring months in Wisconsin.

2. Kohler-Andrae State Park – Sheboygan, WI

While Lake Winnebago is Wisconsin’s largest inland lake, it’s hard to beat the two Great Lakes to which Wisconsinites have easy access. Situated just south of Sheboygan on Lake Michigan, Kohler-Andrae State Park has long, sandy beaches, sand dunes with hiking trails and, of course, campsites. It’s also one of the last natural preserves along Lake Michigan, giving you the chance to see native plants and animals in their natural habitat.

kohler andrae beach in myst

3. Harrington Beach State Park – Belgium, WI

Harrington Beach is a sprawling 715 acres set on Lake Michigan and offers swimming, hiking, bird watching, exploring a scenic limestone quarry lake with restored wetland ponds and even observing astronomy–taking advantage of the dark, clear nights of summer.

4. Devil’s Lake State Park – Baraboo, WI

Devil’s Lake is a popular park and for great reasons. Located along the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, the unique geography of this park lets you hike and enjoy a 500-foot quartzite bluff overlooking a 360-acre lake with sandy beaches. And hike you can, over 30 miles of trails wind around the lake and take you high up into the surrounding hills and bluffs.

Click here to view a stunning aerial 360-degree photo of Devil's Lake

5. Roche-A-Cri State Park – Friendship, WI

This park name translates to “screaming rock” and contains Native American Oneota carvings that are over a millennium old. As far as outdoor activities go, you won’t be disappointed here. Roche-A-Cri offers camping, fishing and a stairway to the top of the mound for a beautiful scenic landscape view.

6. Hartman Creek State Park – Waupaca, WI

Located on the Chain O’Lakes, Hartman Creek has sites for camping, access for boating, plenty of swimming, horseback riding and the historic Hellestad House log cabin

7. Pattison State Park – Superior, WI

If Kohler-Andrae and Harrington Beach show off the best of Lake Michigan’s shoreline, Pattison gives you a similar experience with the monumental Lake Superior shore. Home to Wisconsin’s highest waterfalls and the fourth highest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains, this striking, 1,400-acre park has plenty of hiking trails, a sandy beach shoreline and an illuminating nature center where you can learn more about the region’s natural history.

8. Wildcat Mountain State Park – Ontario, WI

Containing 21 miles of hiking trails, an observation point, access for boating/canoeing, camping and horseback riding in the Kickapoo River Valley, Wildcat Mountain immerses you in the unique beauty of Wisconsin’s Driftless region.

You may hear people talk about Wildcat Mountain as one of the best dark sky locations in Wisconsin, having enough altitude and being far enough away from major metropolitan areas to give you views of the night sky that let you clearly see solar systems and activity with your naked eyes.

9. Newport State Park – Ellison Bay, WI

At 2,300 acres, Newport State Park has plenty to offer including shorelines, hiking trails, off-road/mountain bike trails and is also a wonderful location to stargaze, with a designated dark sky area.

10. Point Beach State Forest Park – Two Rivers, WI

Taking us back to the shores of Lake Michigan, Point Beach is a 3,000-acre recreational park on Lake Michigan with over six miles of sandy beaches, an abundance of trails and the historic Rawley Point Lighthouse.

Expand Your Horizons This Summer and See More of Wisconsin

Although Wisconsin may not have mountains in the technical sense, the geography and natural beauty we do have in this state is staggering. From the sandy beaches of Lake Michigan across to the craggy Kickapoo River Valley, our geography draws visitors from all around the Great Lakes and Midwest regions of the United States.

Make this summer the year you see and do more. If you’re living in the Fox Cities, plan a day trip to Wildcat Mountain or a weekend trip to Lake Superior. If you’re by Milwaukee, take the short journey up to Sheboygan to see the magnificent sand dunes and ocean-like view of Lake Michigan at Kohler-Andrae State Park.

As with many places, parks have adjusted to meet COVID-19 guidelines. Playgrounds and observation towers have reopened as of May 21, 2021, while office buildings, visitor/nature centers and enclosures remain closed (as of the time of publishing). Plan ahead and check the DNR website to find the most updated information regarding COVID-19 guidelines.

Wisconsin isn’t just a state with unique charm, it’s a state with geography features and opportunities you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Wisconsin is our home and we work hard every day to help ensure our communities are healthy and strong – our state parks are great ways to stay in shape.

For more information on working with a Wisconsin-based health plan, contact us today.

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