Wisconsin’s High Cliff State Park — Hiking the Niagara Escarpment with views of Lake Winnebago

Imagine this. It’s a Tuesday night in summer. You’re thinking about the upcoming weekend and how you would love to get out and hike. You decide to start planning your weekend trip. What makes you decide which park you want to visit? What features of the park do you hope to hike in, up, or around? In my experience, those features are often water, hills, and history.

If you’re lucky, the park you select might have all three. High Cliff State Park happens to be one of those parks.

Last summer we took a trip to hike and camp at the park. Located on the northern shore of Wisconsin’s largest lake, Lake Winnebago, the park is a short 20 minute drive from Appleton. This makes it a popular destination in the summer for locals and non-locals alike. During the trip we had the chance to both hike and camp at the park.

The park is named for the high limestone cliffs created by the Niagara Escarpment. I’ve written about other parks dominated by this landscaping feature in my Peninsula State Park and Ledges County Park posts. The entire escarpment runs for 650 miles through Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ontario. The feature begins (or ends) in Wisconsin’s Waukesha County. It then travels northeast through Lake Michigan and Lake Huron before turning southeast. It eventually becomes the most famous feature of the escarpment and one of the most famous waterfalls in the world, Niagara Falls. In all, Wisconsin has 230 miles of the escarpment. With the dramatic cliffs and scenic views it’s no wonder that a variety of parks line the escarpment. High Cliff State Park is one of those.

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Wisconsin Dells, Chapel Gorge Trail and Rocky Arbor State Park, fall throwback

It’s the hottest week of 2020 so far. As I write this, it’s a muggy 89 degrees outside. Let’s cool off with a look back to a fall hike in October 2019.

Every year a group of friends rents a cabin and gathers for a weekend of games, laughter, and togetherness. It’s a wonderful tradition that continues to grow and take on little traditions of it’s own. One that I fully support is the annual hike. Anyone in the group interested in incorporating a little movement into their weekend of board games, over indulgence, and lazing around is welcome to participate in the short, local hike.

This past year featured two locations around the Wisconsin Dells area, the Chapel Gorge hike and a hike at Rocky Arbor State Park. Let’s start with Chapel Gorge.

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Wisconsin’s New Glarus Woods State Park — Spotted Cow Pairs Well With These Easy Trails

I’m kind of embarrassed about how long it took me to write this blog entry. In one month, it will be one year since this trip. Oops! To be fair, this trip was right after the bachelor/bachelorette parties and two weekends before the wedding. We had a lot going on!

Before we got to the hiking and camping portion of our New Glarus excursion, we had to check out a few of the local businesses. New Glarus, Wisconsin is the cutest little town! It calls itself “America’s Little Switzerland” and leans heavily into this brand with the design of the buildings, restaurants, shops, and festivals resembling what you might find in a small Swiss town. We happened to be in the downtown area during music fest. which was a lot of fun.

We started with a wine tasting, checked out the music, bought some meats for the campfire, and went to the brewery.

Check out where we went. All of these businesses are worth your patronage.
Hawk’s Mill WineryRuef’s Meat MarketNew Glarus Brewery

Okay, back to the nature part of this story, New Glarus Woods State Park. We camped and hiked at this park, staying there for two days.

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Big Bay State Park Camping, Wisconsin’s Madeline Island, Site #59, Oh Deer!

To finish up the tale of the mini-moon, we end with the review of the campsite at Big Bay State Park. In case you missed it, we arrived at Madeline Island late in the afternoon and checked into our site for the next two nights. In addition to camping at the park, we also hiked. Check out those recaps and reviews here with PART 1 and PART 2.

Helpful Park Links:
Park Website
Camping Reservations

The park has 60 campsites with some electrical sites, some walk-in sites, and some group camp sites. There are both flush and vault toilets with showers available. The park sells firewood in a shed near the park office. (Bonus, the woodshed had a box of free newspaper for fire starting It was the local island newspaper. Sure, the news was a few months old, but it was interesting to read the happenings of the locals.)

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Wisconsin’s Big Bay State Park — Part II, Lake Superior, Scenic Overlooks and Views Galore

Now on to part II of the Big Bay State Park hiking adventure. If you missed part I, which included Bayfield, getting to the island, the Boardwalk Trail, and the closeup debut of a turtle, check it out here.

Helpful links:
Park website
Trail descriptions
Park map

Let’s jump right into part II. After hiking to the end of the boardwalk and back, we crossed the grassy day-use area to the start of the Bay View Trail. Looking at the map, this is the trail I was most excited for as it hugged the shoreline for its entirety. I love a scenic view of water and this trail seemed to be entirely made of scenic water views.

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Wisconsin’s Big Bay State Park — Madeline Island, Lake Superior, Part I

Waking up well rested to the sight of a sunrise over the bay, we enjoyed some breakfast before checking out and continuing on in our adventure. From Ashland, we drove 30 minutes north to Bayfield, where we planned to hop on the ferry to bring us to Madeline Island.

Knowing the ferry made frequent trips and wanting to watch the US Women’s Soccer Team beat Sweden, we weren’t in any hurry to get to the island. Instead, we walked around Bayfield, did some shopping, and had lunch while we watched the game at the Pier Plaza Restaurant. We also ended up explaining the game of soccer to a few people at the bar. A few beers in, they were receptive and pretty into it by the end. This was a great choice and I highly recommend it if you want to eat some delicious fresh local fish.

Bayfield, WI
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