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Wisconsin State Park SystemBackpacking

State parks and forests

The state forests and parks listed below offer trails and sites for backpack (hike-in) camping.

Some campsites can be reserved online or by phoning (888) WI PARKS ((888) 947-2757, TTY (800) 274-7275); some are first-come, first-served; and still others require a permit from the forest office. Call the park or forest in which you're interested for details.

Property name Backpack (hike-in) sites Hiking trail miles at property
Big Bay State Park 7 10
Black River State Forest * 33
Brule River State Forest * 26
Buckhorn State Park 23 4
Copper Falls State Park 2 7
Flambeau River State Forest 14 (canoe) 22
Governor Dodge State Park 6 38
Governor Knowles State Forest 6 38
Kettle Moraine State Forest - Northern Unit** 6 133
Kettle Moraine State Forest - Southern Unit** 3 57
Lapham Peak Unit Kettle Moraine State Forest 1 21
Newport State Park 16 30
Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest 13 (wilderness), 73 (canoe) * 39
Pattison State Park 3 62
Rock Island State Park 40 10

*Off-site camping by permit only.

** These sites are along the Ice Age Trail. Each site has a Adirondack style shelter and fire ring. Users may also set up tents outside the shelter. Each site can accommodate 10 people. All camping equipment and drinking water must be backpacked in and all refuse packed out. Camping is limited to one night per site.

Multi-day backpacking on the Ice Age Trail

The following is a list of some backpacking areas along the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. The IAT atlas pages referenced are from the Ice Age Trail Atlas [exit DNR]. The atlas and companion guide [exit DNR], which are available for sale from the Ice Age Trail Alliance, provide camping and lodging details for all segments of the trail.

Some campsites can be reserved online or by phoning (888) WI PARKS ((888) 947-2757, TTY (800) 274-7275); some are first-come, first-served.

IAT Segments (General Area) Property (IAT Atlas pages) County Miles Primary Camping Type Other Camping within 0.25 mile Difficulty Highlights Other Notes
Northern Blue Hills, Southern Blue Hills (Northwest Wisconsin) County forest, private land (10f - 12f) Rusk 17 Primitive on county forest Murphy Flowage Campground Moderate challenge on remote, less-maintained trail Glacial landforms lay on ancient quartzite mountain range
Chippewa Moraine, Harwood Lakes, Firth Lake (Northwest Wisconsin) Chippewa Moraine Reserve, county forest, SIATA, private land (14f - 17f) Chippewa 22 Primitive on county forest Walk-in campsites available at Chippewa Moraine Reserve after checking in at the visitor center Moderate Many beautiful lakes dot the route Includes 1.8-mile road walk on County Highway E, 245th Ave
Lake Eleven, Jerry Lake, Mondeaux Esker (North Central Wisconsin) Chequamegon National Forest (20f - 23f) Taylor 41 Primitive on national forest Reservable campground sites and walk-in campsites Moderate challenge on remote, less-maintained trail Wild
Wood Lake, Timberland Wilderness, Camp 27, Newwood (North Central Wisconsin) New Wood State Wildlife Area, SIATA, county forest, private land (25f - 27f) Taylor, Lincoln 29 Primitive on county forest Wood Lake County Park campground Moderate challenge on remote, less-maintained trail Wild, several active wolf packs, no paved road crossings Includes 1.9-mile road walk on gravel Tower Road
Whitewater Lake, Blackhawk, Blue Spring Lake, Stony Ridge, Eagle, Scuppernong (Southeast Wisconsin) Southern Kettle Moraine State Forest (78f - 81f) Walworth, Waukesha 33 Shelters, reservation required Reservable campground sites and walk-in campsites at Whitewater Lake and Pinewoods Easier Nearest backpacking for those living in the Milwaukee or Chicago areas Overnight hostel and DNR visitor center near the trail
Milwaukee River, Parnell, Greenbush (East Central Wisconsin) Northern Kettle Moraine State Forest (86f - 90f) Washington, Fond du Lac, Sheboygan 34 Shelters, reservation required Reservable campground sites and walk-in campsites at Mauthe Lake Easier Landscape formed by interlobate glaciation world famous among geologists Birthplace of the Ice Age Trail

Multi-day backpacking on the North Country Trail

The North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) offers premier backpacking opportunities. Including two short temporary road walks of 1.9 and 2.6 miles, there are over 118 miles of continuous trail traversing portions of three counties in Wisconsin from Copper Falls State Park to the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway (about 15 miles southwest of Solon Springs). Below are descriptions of the segments of the trail that offer multi-day backpacking opportunities. For the latest info on trail segments and conditions, or for help finding a shuttle, contact the North Country Trail Association (NCTA) chapters.

Copper Falls State Park and Mellen segment

The North Country Trail runs several miles through Copper Falls State Park. Visitors can pick up the trail at a number of locations within the park. Part of the NCT coincides with the Doughboys’ Nature Trail, where it offers spectacular views of the park’s namesake waterfalls. North past the Doughboys’ Trail, the NCT offers scenic views of the Bad River and a short spur trail leads to a secluded backpack campsite along the river. This campsite can be reserved online or by phone; (888) WI PARKS ((888) 947-2757, TTY (800) 274-7275). The trail continues west from Copper Falls State Park, passing through Mellen (one of only two towns the trail goes through in Wisconsin) for another 2.2 miles before reaching the first 1.9-mile road walk that connects to the beginning of the trail segment through the Chequamegon National Forest. For more inforation about this segment of the trail, email the NCTA Heritage Chapter.

Chequamegon National Forest segment

The North Country Trail goes through the Washburn and Great Divide districts of the Chequamegon National Forest for about 61 miles in Ashland and Bayfield Counties. Highlights of this stretch include views from the Penokee Mountains, numerous lakes and rivers and two of Wisconsin’s federally designated wilderness areas: the Porcupine Lake Wilderness and the Rainbow Lakes Wilderness.  There are numerous undesignated backpacking campsites along the trail and two shelters, as well as access to a number of National Forest campgrounds. Maps of the NCT in Wisconsin are available from the North Country Trail Association [exit DNR]. For more inforation about this segment of the trail, for additional trail maps, or for help arranging a shuttle, email the NCTA Chequamegon Chapter.

Brule-St. Croix Area segment

The North Country Trail continues west of the Chequamegon National Forest for an additional 48 miles through a variety of lands including Bayfield and Douglas County Forests, the Brule River State Forest, the Village of Solon Springs and other lands. Highlights of this section include bluffs along the Brule River, the headwaters of the Bois Brule River, the scenic and historic Brule-St. Croix Portage, the pine barrens of Mott’s Ravine State Natural Area, the Brule Bog, Lucius Woods County Park and the Douglas County Wildlife Area’s extensive prairie/pine barrens. Camping is available at nine designated backpack campsites—the only places where hikers are legally allowed to campalong this stretch of trail. Each campsite includes a water source, fire ring, wilderness style latrine, bench and tent pads. A developed campground is also available in Lucius Woods County Park. Maps of the NCT in Wisconsin are available from the North Country Trail Association [exit DNR]. For more inforation about this segment of the trail, for additional trail maps, or for help arranging a shuttle, email the NCTA Brule-St. Croix Chapter.

Last revised: Friday October 17 2014