2018 Wisconsin Hiking Bucket List — My Top 5 Parks to Visit this Year, Is the Snow Gone Yet?

It’s mid-February and all I want to do is hike. I’ve had the outdoor camping/hiking itch since December and the ground is still covered in snow. (I really need to get into snowshoeing.) Instead of getting down on the weather, I’m going to use these months to plan and set some personal goals. I would get nowhere, literally and figuratively, without goals after all. What follows is my hiking goal/wish list for 2018.

5 Wisconsin State Parks I want to Visit this Summer:
(in no particular order)

Peninsula State Park

View of Lake Michigan from Peninsula State Park

Peninsula State Park is located in Door County, just outside of Fish Creek. I’ve driven by it so many times traveling to and from wineries in the area but have never made a point to stop in. It’s a 3.5 hour drive from Madison which makes it slightly inaccessible for just a single overnight trip. (Maybe a half day on Friday through Sunday trip?) Some of the campsites look amazing, nestled right on the bay. And the hiking, oh the trails, they sound incredible. Taking words from the online trail descriptions, I’m seeing mention of remarkable 150-foot cliffs, eagle panorama, dolostone bluffs, old stone fences, and a variety of wildlife. Count me in.

Rock Island State Park

The historic Thordarson Boathouse on the shore of Rock Island State Park.

The last time I was at Rock Island State Park was in middle school for a girl scout camping trip. I remember the ferry rides and sleeping on the cement floor in a shelter during a tornado warning. I also remember thinking the island was pretty darn cool, tornadoes and all. (I have to mention this was the one time my troop actually relied on the buddy system to make sure everyone made it to the shelter, and it worked! All that practice was worth it.) Anyway, just getting to the island makes this camping trip have to be a longer one, and a pricier one. From Door County, you first take a ferry to Washington Island. From Washington Island, you leave your car behind and take a passenger only ferry to Rock Island. Drinking water and firewood can be found on the island, but all other supplies must be carried in.

The trails here go all the way around the island with a few traveling through the middle. The island has about 10 miles of trail. It also has a lighthouse and one of the nicest sand beaches on the otherwise rocky shore.

Wildcat Mountain State Park

Vista from the top of the park.

Wildcat Mountain State Park is another park I’ve failed to make it to despite seeing plenty of signs on the highway. This one is a 2 hour drive from Madison and therefore accessible for a single night trip. The 4 miles of hiking trails at the park sound both challenging and rewarding. The longest trail in the park spans a 390-foot elevation difference and includes Taylor Hollow Overlook, an amazing view of the surrounding area. This sounds like a great classic hiking and camping experience.

Wyalusing State Park

Sunlight and a distant shower create a rainbow over the river valley.

Wyalusing State Park is the only park on this list I currently have 2018 campsite reservations at. This park is where I intend to spend my 29th birthday! Wyalusing has some of the most amazing campsites in the entire Wisconsin State Park system. Yes, I can confidently say that without having been to all the parks yet. Some of the sites are along the ridge overlooking the intersection of two mighty rivers, the Mississippi and the Wisconsin. Seriously. It’s breathtaking. And reservations fill-up so quickly every year. I booked this in January and could only find a campsite for a Sunday-Monday on the ridge.

Image result for wyalusing state park camping

In addition to some campsites with killer views, Wyalusing also has a ton of unique and scenic hiking. I actually made it to this park last year but was bummed to find the majority (all but one) of the trails closed due to tornado/wind damage. Let’s hope this year has better luck! Two of the trails travel along the ridge, one of the trails brings you to a sand cave, and others are more traditional. There is a lot of hiking at this park and I want to do it all.

Kettle Moraine State Forest – Southern Unit

Prairie wildflowers at Kettle Moraine State Forest - Southern Unit.

Last but not least, rounding my top five, is a park I’ve been meaning to explore for years now, Kettle Moraine State Forest – Southern Unit. An shorter drive at a little over an hour from Madison, this forest makes for a very easy day trip or single night trip. Being a state forest, it’s huge, 30 miles long. This means a lot of the trails are far away from each other and will require some driving in between and more overall planning.

Here’s to a great 2018 hiking season!

3 thoughts on “2018 Wisconsin Hiking Bucket List — My Top 5 Parks to Visit this Year, Is the Snow Gone Yet?

  1. Peninsula State Park is gorgeous with wonderful hiking and be prepared for some major hills at Wildcat. Kickapoo river is really popular for canoeing also. I hope you accomplish this amazing list, Wisconsin is beautiful!

  2. Pingback: Hiking Goals – Maui Edition, Where to Hike During an Upcoming Trip – Hiking Hungry

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