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15 Best National and State Parks Near Madison, Wisconsin

America’s Dairyland is the land of amazing cheese, but Wisconsin is also home to some of the most stunning natural sites in the Midwest. Sandwiched between two Great Lakes, outdoor enthusiasts come here to admire one of the tallest waterfalls east of the Rocky Mountains, kayak along coastal sandstone cliffs, and hike through verdant forests. Here are the best Wisconsin national and state parks for hiking, skiing, swimming, and more.

1. Devil’s Lake State Park

Image by Destination Madison

Where: Sauk County, Wisconsin

What to expect: One of Wisconsin’s most-visited state parks, 374-acre Devil’s Lake is a hotspot for watersports, thanks to its sparkling freshwater and sandy beaches. When you aren’t swimming, canoeing, scuba diving, fishing, or boating, there’s plenty to do on land as well. The 30 miles of hiking trails wind around quartzite bluffs and epic rock formations such as Elephant Rock.

Size: 15.5 square miles

Amenities: Campgrounds, concessions, nature center, kayak/paddleboard/paddle boat rental, ranger-led programs, fishing equipment rental, picnic areas, beach area, and hiking and biking trails.

Pets permitted: Leashed dogs are permitted in limited areas

Accessibility: The park has some accessible amenities.

2. Whitefish Dunes State Park

Image by Wisconsin Ship Wrecks

Where: Door County, Wisconsin

What to expect: Set on the eastern Door Peninsula this park is home to some of the tallest sand dunes in the state, including the iconic “Old Baldy,” which towers nearly 100 feet over the water. Nestled into the rugged shoreline of Lake Michigan, visitors can also fish, kayak, swim, and hike 15 miles of trails.

Size: 1.4 square miles

Amenities: Nature center, ranger-led programs, picnic areas, beach area, fishing equipment rental, and hiking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing, and biking trails.

Pets permitted:  Leashed dogs are permitted in limited areas

Accessibility: The park has some accessible amenities.

3. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Image by National Parks Service

Where: Bayfield County, Wisconsin

What to expect: Encompassing part of the mainland and 21 islands, this magical park is best explored by water. Visitors can explore soaring cliffs, spectacular caves, and lush forests from a boat or kayak. For scuba divers, the islands provide shipwrecks and unusual formations beneath the surface to explore. The islands’ 50 miles of trails are a treasure trove for hikers, offering access to various attractions such as historic lighthouses, picturesque viewpoints, deserted quarries, and even ice caves during the winter season.

Size: 720 square miles

Amenities: Water taxis, kayak launches, ranger-led programs and tours, campgrounds, boat tours, picnic areas, visitor center, beach area, historic sites, and hiking and biking trails.

Pets permitted: Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash.

Wheelchair Accessible: The park offers a variety of accessible amenities, including viewing platforms and campgrounds.

4. Newport State Park

Image by International Dark-Sky Association

Where: Door County, Wisconsin

What to expect: Wisconsin’s first International Dark Sky Park, Newport provides dazzling views of the stars. If you’re exceptionally lucky, you may even spot the northern lights on a cloudless evening. During the day, hike or kayak along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

Size: 3.6 square miles

Amenities: Campgrounds, picnic areas, and hiking, cross-country skiing, and biking trails.

Pets permitted: Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash.

Accessibility: The park has some accessible amenities.

5. Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway

Image by National Parks Service

Where: Bayfield, Burnett, Douglas, Pierce, Polk, St. Croix, Sawyer, and Washburn Counties, Wisconsin

What to expect: Located on the Namekagon and St. Croix Rivers in eastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin, this pristine tract of wilderness boasts over 250 miles of clear, flowing water for fishermen, kayakers, boaters, and campers.

Size: 145 square miles

Amenities: Visitor center, campgrounds, picnic areas, ranger-led programs, and hiking trails

Pets permitted: Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash.

Accessibility: The park has some accessible amenities.

6. Copper Falls State Park

Image by Travel Wisconsin

Where: Ashland County, Wisconsin

What to expect: Celebrated for its kaleidoscopic rock sediment composed of black lava, red granite, and sandstone, there’s no doubt that this state park is one of the most beautiful places in all of Wisconsin. Hit the trails to discover not one, but three large, scenic waterfalls (Copper Falls, Brownstone Falls, and Red Granite Falls) that flow along deep, ancient gorges formed by lava millions of years ago.

Size: 5 square miles

Amenities: Picnic areas, campgrounds, concessions, kayak/paddle board rentals, beach area, and hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing trails.

Pets permitted: Leashed dogs are permitted in limited areas

Accessibility: The park has some accessible amenities.

7. Wyalusing State Park

Image by Great River Road Wisconsin

Where: Grant County, Wisconsin

What to expect: One of Wisconsin’s original state parks, Wyalusing offers excellent wildlife watching, including beavers, hawks, otters, and bald eagles. If you’re a camper, you can pitch a tent at 50 stories above the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers. Keep an eye for a series of thousand-year-old Native American mounds as you hike the bluffs.

Size: 4 square miles

Amenities: Campgrounds, canoe/kayak rentals, concessions, picnic areas, astronomy center, ranger-led programs, and cross-country skiing, biking, and hiking trails.

Pets permitted: Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash.

Wheelchair Accessible: The park has some accessible amenities.

8. Peninsula State Park

Image by Travel Wisconsin

Where: Door County, Wisconsin

What to expect: Whether you prefer golfing, theater, biking, or swimming, Peninsula State Park has something for everyone. Wisconsin’s third largest state park is packed with activities the whole family can enjoy, as well as over 460 campsites.

Size: 6 square miles

Amenities: Campground, concessions, canoe/kayak/bicycle rentals, nature center, ranger-led programs, golf course, picnic areas, beach area, playground, and biking and hiking trails.

Pets permitted: Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash.

Accessibility: The park has some accessible amenities.

9. Pattison State Park

Image by Travel Wisconsin

Where: Douglas County, Wisconsin 

What to expect: Pattison State Park is home to Big Manitou Falls, the tallest waterfall in the state (and the fourth highest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains), which splashes down 165 feet. Visitors can also hike along the Black River and sunbathe on the sandy beach at Interfalls Lake.

Size: 6 square miles

Amenities: Campgrounds, picnic areas, beach area, and cross-country skiing and hiking trails

Pets permitted: Leashed dogs are permitted in limited areas

Accessibility: The park has some accessible amenities.

10. Perrot State Park

Image by Travel Wisconsin

Where: Trempealeau County, Wisconsin

What to expect: Soak in panoramic views of the Mississippi River at the top of Perrott State Park’s 500-foot bluffs, and enjoy the park’s great fishing. The Great River State Trail provides two dozen miles of cross-country skiing, hiking and cycling opportunities. And with more than 200 species of birds to see, it’s a prime site for birders. 

Size: 2 square miles 

Amenities: Picnic areas, campgrounds, concessions, canoe/kayak rentals, and hiking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing trails. 

Pets permitted: Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash.

Accessibility: The park has some accessible amenities.

11. Mirror Lake State Park

Image by Travel Wisconsin

Where: Sauk County, Wisconsin

What to expect: At the center of this lush park lies its stunning namesake—a lake so calm that its mirror-like surface reflects back the surrounding pine trees and rising sandstone cliffs. Spend a relaxing afternoon kayaking, paddle boarding, boating, swimming or enjoying a lunch beside the lake. If you have an appreciation for exceptional architecture, take some time to visit the Seth Peterson Cottage, which is the first house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright that can be rented out.

Size: 3.5 square miles

Amenities: Campgrounds, concessions, boat/kayak/paddleboard/canoe rentals, picnic areas, historic site, beach area, playground, amphitheater, and hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and biking trails.

Pets permitted: Leashed dogs are permitted in limited areas

Accessibility: The park has some accessible amenities.

12. Rock Island State Park

Image by Travel Wisconsin

Where: Door County, Wisconsin

What to expect: Rock Island can only be reached by passenger ferry from Washington Island in the summertime, making it lne of the least-visited parks in Wisconsin. Located in the easternmost point of the state, the island provides great kayaking, canoeing, and swimming along six miles of shoreline. Get adventurous and explore the unique features of the isolated island, including the oldest lighthouse on Lake Michigan and a massive, historic boathouse.

Size: 1.5 square miles

Amenities: Campground, ferry, beach areas, picnic areas, lighthouse tours and hiking trails

Pets permitted: Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash.

Accessibility: The park has some accessible amenities.

13. Rib Mountain State Park

Image by Wausau Pilot and Review

Where: Marathon County, Wisconsin

What to expect: It’s not technically a mountain, but it is at the center of a winter sports hub. On its north face, Granite Peak Ski Area even provides downhill skiing and snowboarding. And it’s an earthly marvel: at approximately one billion years old, this 741-foot quartzite hill may be one of the oldest geological formations on the planet.

Size: 1.3 square miles

Amenities: Picnic areas, amphitheater, ski and snowboard area, and hiking and snowshoeing trails.

Pets permitted: Dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash.

Accessibility: The park has some accessible amenities.

14. Kohler-Andrae State Park

Image by Sea Grant

Where: Sheboygan County, Wisconsin

What to expect: One of the last natural preserves along the Lake Michigan shoreline, Kohler-Andrae State Park stands out due to its sweeping sand dunes, majestic pine forests, and idyllic wetlands. Stroll along miles of golden beach, explore unique nature trails, and take a dip in Lake Michigan.

Size: 1.5 square miles

Amenities: Campgrounds, nature center, picnic areas, and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, mountain biking, equestrian and hiking trails.

Pets permitted: Leashed dogs are permitted in limited areas

Accessibility: The park has some accessible amenities.

15. Governor Dodge State Park

Image by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Where: Iowa County, Wisconsin

What to expect: Found in Wisconsin’s “driftless” area, a region bypassed by the last continental glacier, Governor Dodge State Park boasts deep valleys, rolling hills, and sandstone bluffs that make for fun hiking and biking. To spend some time on the water, head to Twin Valley or Cox Hollow Lake.

Size: 8 square miles

Amenities: Campgrounds, concessions, boat/canoe rentals, picnic areas, beach access, and cross-country skiing, biking, equestrian, snowmobiling, and hiking trails.

Pets permitted: Leashed dogs are permitted in limited areas

Accessibility: The park has some accessible amenities.

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