• Menu
  • Menu

4 GREAT Wisconsin National Parks (Helpful Tips + Photos)

Looking for the best Wisconsin National Parks? The Badger State has beautiful lakeshores, scenic trails, magnificent riverways and more.

This post may contain affiliate links. Read disclaimer here.

We're going to give you 4+ reasons why you'll want to make Wisconsin your next vacation destination | Wisconsin National Parks
We’re going to give you four reasons why you’ll want to make Wisconsin your next vacation destination | Wisconsin National Parks

Wisconsin National Parks

Wisconsin National Parks! We’ve got four incredible national park sites for you to see on your next visit to the Badger state.

Wisconsin National Parks include beautiful lakeshores, scenic trails, magnificent riverways and more.

To be clear, these are national park sites (as in managed by the National Park Service) but they are not capital letter National Parks. There are only 63 of those (so far).

We’re going to give you four reasons why you’ll want to make Wisconsin your next vacation destination.


Wisconsin National Parks

1. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore | Wisconsin National Parks
The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore has over 50 miles of trails both on the islands and the mainland | Courtesy of the National Park Service

The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is home to stunning rock formations and six historic lighthouses. There are a chain of 21 islands which offer kayaking, hiking and island camping opportunities.

There are no roads or vehicle access to any of the 21 Apostle Islands within the National Lakeshore.  Visitors can also take boat tours, sailing charters or the ferry from Bayfield to Madeline Island for hiking, beaches, galleries and historic sites.

RELATED: 3 (EPIC) Vermont National Parks For Your Visit To The Green Mountain State

Kayak Tours & Outfitters | Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Apostle Islands Cruise Service | Wisconsin National Parks
The Apostle Islands Cruise Service offers daily island cruises in the summer | Courtesy of the National Park Service
  1. Canoe Sport Outfitters Paddling Tours-advance reservations required. 515-961-6117, jeff@canoesportoutfitters.com
  2. Lost Creek Adventures LLC-Paddling tours, kayak rentals and overnight camping trips. 715-953-2223, info@lostcreekadventures.org
  3. Rustic Makwa Den-Paddling tours, kayak rentals, overnight camping trips, and guided snowshoe tours, 715-209-3216, rusticmakwaden@gmail.com
  4. Trek & Trail-Paddling tours, kayak rentals and overnight camping trips., 800-354-8735, 715-779-3595, info@trek-trail.com
  5. UMD Recreational Sports Outdoor Program-Organized group paddling tours and overnight camping trips – advanced reservations required, 218-726-7128, rsop@d.umn.edu
  6. Voyageur Outward Bound School– Paddling tours – advance reservations required, 218-365-5761, suellen.sack@vobs.org
  7. Whitecap Kayak-Paddling tours and overnight camping trips, 715-513-6196, whitecapkayak@gmail.com
  8. Wilderness Inquiry– Accessible paddling trips and camp experiences, 612-676-9400, info@wildernessinquiry.org

Water Taxis & Motorized Boat Tours | Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

racing boat, speedboat, motor yacht-188928.jpg
  1. Adventure Vacations Inc.-Chartered powerboat tours, powerboat supervised inflatable recreational kayaking, Big Bay State Park recreational kayak rentals, 715-747-2100, trips@adv-vac.com
  2. Escape Excursions-Chartered boat tours, island drop offs/pick-ups, powerboat supervised recreational kayaking, fishing charter, 612-805-7454, shellysks@yahoo.com
  3. PMG Charters-Motorized boat tours and water taxi, 262-337-3078, pmg@pmgcharters.com
  4. Superior Charters Inc.-715-779-5124, sail@superiorcharters.com
  5. Willigan’s Adventures-Chartered fishing and motorboat tours, 763-381-7076, will@willigans.com

Sailing Charters | Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

sailing, boats, sea-5242101.jpg
  1. Cornucopia Sailing LLC-Sailing day trips to the sea caves and around the islands, 920-915-7548
  2. Dreamcatcher Sailing Adventures-Multi-day and day trip sailing charters, chartered island drop-off/pickups, 800-262-4176, 715-779-5561, info@dreamcatcher-sailing.com
  3. Superior Charters Inc.-Sailboat charters and bareboat sailboat rentals (prior experience required for boat rentals), 715-779-5124, sail@superiorcharters.com
  4. True North Sailing Charters-Captained sailing trips among the islands from Bayfield, 715-513-6284, truenorthsailingcharters@gmail.com

Fishing Charters | Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Courtesy of the National Park Service
  1. Willigan’s Adventures-Chartered fishing and motorboat tours, 763-381-7076, will@willigans.com
  2. Escape Excursions-Chartered boat tours, island drop offs/pick-ups, powerboat supervised recreational kayaking, fishing charter, 612-805-7454, shellysks@yahoo.com

Hiking In The Apostle Islands

Apostle Islands Hiking Trails | Wisconsin National Parks
Courtesy of the National Park Service

There are more than fifty miles of hiking trails on the islands of the National Lakeshore. These trails provide access to lighthouses, abandoned quarries, old farm sites, historic logging camps, beaches, campsites, and scenic overlooks.

RELATED: 19+ Best Hiking Apps RANKED By Experts (From Best To Worst)

Scuba Diving In The Apostle Islands

Apostle Island Scuba Diving |Wisconsin National Parks
Scuba Diving is also available too | Courtesy of the National Park Service

If you enjoy scuba diving then you’re in luck. There are clean, clear water, underwater rock formations, and fascinating shipwrecks which provide outstanding diving opportunities at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

Camping In The Apostle Islands

Apostle Island Camping | Wisconsin National Parks
Most individual and group camp sites on the Apostles include a fire ring, picnic table, metal bear resistant food locker, and nearby privy | Courtesy of the National Park Service

Camping is available on 18 of the Lakeshore’s 21 islands, and at one campsite on the mainland.

Individual Campsites: $15/site/night. Group size of 1-7 people. Individual sites are spread across the islands and are often set apart from other sites so visitors can experience solitude and basic camping amenities (picnic table, fire ring, bear resistant food locker, & nearby privy).

Primitive Camping Zone: $15/site/night. Group size of 1-5 people. Primitive Zone camping is not a specific site, but provides the option of choosing a backcountry area to camp. Specific guidelines determine what areas are available on each island.

In additions, there are no amenities, such as privies and food lockers, so campers should be prepared to properly manage your food and waste. (Source: National Park Service)

Please remember to practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace.

RELATED: Voyageurs National Park Camping


2. Ice Age National Scenic Trail | Wisconsin National Parks

Ice Age National Scenic Trail | Wisconsin National Parks
Ice Age National Scenic Trail | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Imagine a trail formed during the Ice Age. It was a time 15,000 years ago when much of North America lay under a huge glacier. There were mammoths, saber tooth cats and cave lions. Oh my!

Evidence of this glacier is found today in Wisconsin such as the state’s many lakes, river valleys, gently rolling hills, and ridges. The nearly 1,200 mile Ice Age National Scenic Trail was established in 1980. It traces the glacier’s edge.

RELATED: 6 Missouri National Parks Worth A Stop On Your Next Midwest Road Trip

Outdoor Activities | Ice Age National Scenic Trail

Hikers on the Ice Age National Scenic Trail | Wisconsin National Parks
Hikers on the Ice Age National Scenic Trail | Courtesy of the National Park Service

While the trail is primarily enjoyed for hiking and backpacking, other activities include: (1) Birdwatching and Nature Walks, (2) Cross Country Skiing and Snowshoeing, (3) Stargazing and Wildlife Viewing, (4) Camping , (5) Hunting and Fishing (during the proper seasons), (6) Biking, (7) Horseback Riding and (8) Snowmobiling.

If you’re camping, be advised that in some areas camping is allowed anywhere along the trail; in others only at designated sites.

These facilities may be spaced quite far apart. Along such segments it may be difficult to find any place to camp legally. You should plan your multi-day hike carefully. (Source: NPS)

3. North Country National Scenic Trail | Wisconsin National Parks

North Country Scenic Trail | Wisconsin National Parks
Beautiful view from the North Country Scenic Trail on the Hiawatha National Forest in the Upper Peninsula of the state of Michigan. USDA photo by J. Knowlton.

The North Country National Scenic Trail provides visitors opportunities from bird watching to backpacking.

The trail traverses eight northern states and connects a host of natural, historic and cultural sites. You can see everything from small towns to larger cities, valleys to hilltops and much more.

RELATED: 30+ Best National Parks Books (Great Gifts For Park Lovers) 2021

The History Of The North Country National Scenic Trail

North Country Scenic Trail | Wisconsin National Parks
North Country National Scenic Trail | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

In 1980, the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) was authorized by Congress. It stretches 4,600 miles from upstate New Hampshire to its western terminus at Lake Sakakawea State Park.

The trail actually traversed seven states until 2019 when Vermont was added. The Vermont section is only about 70 miles long.

The North County National Scenic Trail In Wisconsin

The North Country National Scenic Trail in Wisconsin | Courtesy of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

In Wisconsin, the North Country Trail clips the northwest corner of the state for 220 miles, passing through Douglas, Bayfield, Ashland and Iron counties.

The North Country Trail route crosses Wisconsin’s western border just south of Minnesota’s Jay Cooke State Park and the trail crosses into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula via the State Highway 122 bridge across the Montreal River southeast of Saxon Harbor.

Although Wisconsin has the second shortest trail distance among the eight states the trail passes through, Wisconsin is responsible for providing the name to the North Country Trail.

The original 60-mile Northern Country Trail in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest lent its name to the 4,600-mile National Scenic Trail when the idea of the multi-state trail was first envisioned. (Source: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources)


4. Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway

Boy fishing at Osceola Landing on the St. Croix River | Courtesy of the National Park Service

Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway, formed by the St. Croix and Namekagon, offers clean water for paddle boating and fishing.

There are 252 miles of recreational opportunities. You can canoe along the Northwoods and see wolves, deer, otter and porcupine. You will be surrounded by wooded bluffs and historic towns.

Other activities include birdwatching, boating, camping, fishing, hiking, hunting and paddling.

Clean water and a wide variety of underwater habitats make for outstanding fishing opportunities on the St. Croix and Namekagon Rivers | Courtesy of the National Park Service

Hiking Trails Along The Saint Croix

mountaineering, man, trail-455338.jpg
There are seven hiking trails to choose from at the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway

There are seven hiking trails which are open year round. Trail surfaces are uneven and may be steep so be sure to watch your step. And also make sure to check for ticks.

Ridge View Trail is a three mile trek with two loops. The Chisage Loop traverses basalt rock outcroppings; the Osceola Loop is more level as you hike through pine and woods. Vistas of St. Croix River backwaters are visible from the bluff side of the trail.

This trail is a great place to see scarlet tangers, bald eagles, turkey, grouse, and other forest-loving wildlife. Forest plants include marsh marigolds and large maple trees.

Trego Lake & Trego Nature Trails

animal, fox, cute-967657.jpg
Hikers will be treated to some beautiful wildlife on these trails

The Trego Lake Trail is 3.6 miles and 3 loops. It offers hikers many scenic overlooks of Trego Lake. The area has a large population of white-tailed deer and ruffed grouse. Watch the ground for signs left by these animals.

The Trego Nature Trail is 2.8 miles. Hikers will see a beautiful forest and breathtaking views of the Namekagon River. Wildlife seen can include deer, fox, otters, wolves, and bobcat.

Indian Head Flowage & Sandrock Cliffs Trails

The Chisago Loop on the Ridge View Trail, part of the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway, a hiking trail near Osceola, Wisconsin. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Indian Head Flowage Trail is a three quarter mile trek. This trail crosses bridged streams as it winds its ways through woods and wetlands to the river. Hikers will be treated to wildflowers which include marsh marigolds, trilliums, blue flag iris, wild geraniums, and more.

Sandrock Cliffs Trail is five miles and four loops. The lower loop of this trail follows the river closely, then turns onto a ridge providing a variety of terrain and scenery. The highlight of this trail system is the sandstone cliffs located in a side channel of the river.

RELATED: All 63 RANKED BY EXPERTS (Best To Worst)

Say Cheese | Wisconsin Is More Than Just Parks

Could these two “Cheese Heads” be headed to the number one cheese-producing state in the world? Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Did you know that Wisconsin is the number-one cheese-producing state in the world’s number-one cheese-producing country? If you’re looking for more than just parks than you’ve come to the right place.

You could take a scenic drive to the Carr Valley in La Valle where you will discover the Carr Valley Cheese Factory. Carr Valley is to cheese what Tom Brady is to football–a true champion!

If you go be sure to sample some of the varieties that this family-run company has been honored for over the years. I recommend the parmesan-like Canaria or the chocolatey Cocoa Cardona. It’s simply delicious!

The Swiss Cheese Capital Of America

Check out Baumgartner’s Cheese Store & Tavern located in the Swiss Cheese Capital of America

Or you could travel to a small town named Monroe, Wisconsin, which is the is the self-proclaimed “Swiss Cheese Capital of America.” You’ll find all sorts of varieties at Monroe’s known establishment: Baumgartner’s Cheese Store & Tavern.

Or Check Out New Glarus | “America’s Little Switzerland”

New Glarus Hotel courtesy of Andy Seifert

Wisconsin’s most noted Swiss-themed tourist destination is New Glarus, which is home to the New Glarus Hotel Restaurant.

There are live polka bands on the weekend. The restaurant specializes in raclette, a semi-hard cheese from the Alps, usually melted onto boiled potatoes. 

And what goes better with cheese than beer which you can find at the popular New Glarus Brewing Company.

I can on and on when it comes to this topic, but my wife tells me that I’m simply being cheesy (pun intended). Anyway, our goal at More Than Just Parks is to give you more than just parks. Enough said.


Map Of Wisconsin National Park Sites


List Of Wisconsin National Park Sites

  1. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
  2. Ice Age National Scenic Trail
  3. North Country National Scenic Trail
  4. Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway
Tony Pattiz

Tony Pattiz is a retired history teacher currently researching and writing articles for More Than Just Parks.

View stories

Leave a Reply

error: Content is protected !!