Recently I covered my experience hiking at Richard Bong State Recreation Area. While I only hiked at the park, there are many other outdoor recreation opportunities available. When I say many, I mean way, way more activities than most parks offer. Like a space to train your falcon. No longer can you use not having a training space as your excuse for not having a falcon! (Check out my previous post if you want to know more.) After hiking or completing whatever recreation activity you’re into, it’s nice to have a place to crash nearby, aka camping.
This park has two campgrounds, the Sunrise Campground and the Sunset Campground. Predictably and aptly named, the Sunrise Campground is on the east side of the park and the Sunset Campground is on the west. Between them, the park contains 217 campsites, 54 with electricity. The park also has 6 group campsites and a cabin designed specifically for people with disabilities. Both campgrounds have a shower building with flush toilets, along with some more rustic bathroom options. Both campgrounds offer a variety of sites, both in terms of tree cover and whether they have electricity or not.
Wondering where to stay at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore?
Just as important as determining which trails to hike, deciding where to stay will impact how you plan your trip at Pictured Rocks. Unlike a lot of other parks, Pictured Rocks is big and the park extends for 42 miles up the coast, and several miles inland (6 miles inland at it’s widest point.) This means that driving from one side to the other can take precious time out of your trip. Deciding how you want to spend your time can help you determine where you want your home base to be.
There are options for lodging (cabin and hotel rentals) for the outdoor curious, but for our trip, we decided to camp. Pictured Rocks has three campgrounds and a total of 65 campsites, all of which require reservations. Like trips in the past, I relied on the park’s website and photos to determine which site was right. If the park’s sites are full, don’t fret! You can find other camping options at nearby campgrounds run by private individuals.
We stayed at the northernmost campground, Hurricane River. This campground is broken into an upper and lower campground. Our site was site #10 of the lower campground.
While many terrible things came out of the pandemic, one positive thing that emerged was the chance for people to discover new, socially distant hobbies. One activity the people flocked to was camping. It’s perfect, right? What could be more socially distant than moving your pandemic circle of contacts into the secluded forest? By some accounts, one in five people who camped during the pandemic were trying it for the first time ever, and another one in five people reported camping again for the first time in many years. The rise in camping was clear. Campsite reservations were harder to come by, parking lots were full, and trails were packed with people. (I know there were downsides to the extra strain on natural areas, but I’m focusing on the positives for now.)
Memorial Day weekend was always a busy time for campgrounds, pandemic or not. This year, kind of sort of coming out of the pandemic, it was even busier. Suddenly the knowledge that you can book campsites 11 months in advance was critical.
This year we camped at Potawatomi State Park in southern Door County. This 1,200 acre park sits on the southern shore of Sturgeon Bay. The park as a whole is a gorgeous, water focused park. I’ll get to that in another post. For now I want to focus on just the campsites.
It’s official, the 2021 camping season has begun and the first camping trip is already in the books! I have camp sites booked on weekends from May through October but this one wasn’t even on the calendar. Spontaneous bonus trip! That’s to be expected though since the weather can be so unpredictable, evident by the frost advisories this entire week. Being a weekend in May with a nice forecast, we took advantage and booked a site.
The season started at Pike Lake, one of the numerous units of the Kettle Moraine State Forest. This park is an easy 45 minute drive from Milwaukee and an hour and twenty minute drive from Madison.
The first thing I noticed about the park was it’s proximity to Hartford, Wisconsin. This town is small, but not that small, and is immediately outside the park’s boundary. (See the map below.) It’s so close that a gas station and strip mall are visible from one of the hiking trails. This location is either a plus or minus, depending on your view and what you’re looking for in a camping location. The town is right there if you need anything but also right there so you’re camping a minute outside a town. Some of our campground neighbors took advantage of the proximity and left their breakfast and campfire coffee to Dunkin’ Donuts.
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.
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.)
I love a campfire with a view. Seclusion from other people is nice but if I have to trade it for a spectacular sight while I’m cooking dinner or having a post-hike beer, I will. (Looking at you, Wyalusing Ridge Campsites.) Luckily this site didn’t make me decide and gave me both a view and semi-seclusion.
After hiking the park and exploring the local town of Cornell, we camped at Brunet Island State Park. (If you missed my post on the hike, you can check it out here.) As you can see in the campground map below, our campsite (site #33) was on the Chippewa River side of the park.