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Black River State ForestActivities and recreation

The Black River State Forest provides recreational opportunities that are compatible with the forest's natural resources. Our recreational facilities and policies are designed to give visitors the best experiences possible while protecting safety as well as the health of the environment.


ATV ATVs, UTVs and motorcycles

The Black River State Forest has 34 miles of ATV, UTV and motorcycle trails that link directly with the Jackson County trail system. Depending on weather conditions, trails are open from May 15 to October 15 and from December 15 to March 15. When riding in the forest, you must stay on designated trails. More information

Biking Biking

There are 29 miles of biking trails, five of which are located at the Pigeon Creek campground. This segment links to the remaining 24 miles of hiking, biking and ski trails. Riders should note that bike trail surfaces vary and include sand, gravel and grass.

Bikers will delight in the scenic views of the Ridge, Norway Pine and Wildcat trails. For safety reasons, it is not recommended to use these trails during the gun deer hunting season.

For details on locations see: Hiking, Biking, and Skiing Trails brochure [PDF]

Individuals 16 years of age or older who wish to ride on state forest bike trails must obtain an annual or daily trail pass. These can be purchased at the Castle Mound Service Center or through self-registration at the trail head. A vehicle admissions sticker is not required when parking in either the Wildcat or Smrekar parking lots.

Camping Camping

The Black River State Forest offers several types of camping including family tent and RV, backpack camping and group camping. During the gun deer season, hunter off-site camping is also permitted. More information

Nature trail Hiking and nature trails

There are many opportunities for hiking in the forest. Nature trails with interpretive signs can be found at Pigeon Creek and Castle Mound campgrounds. There are also nature trails at the Perry Creek day use area and at the East Fork campground. These trails do not have interpretive information and the East Fork trail is less developed. Pets are not allowed on the Castle Mound, Pigeon Creek and East Fork nature trails.

The Wildcat and Smrekar trailheads provide parking access to the 24 miles of multi-use trail. Hiking is allowed on ski trails during the summer and in winter whenever the trails are not groomed for cross-country skiing. For a map of the trails and additional information, see the Hiking, Biking, and Skiing Trails brochure [PDF].

Visitors must have a vehicle admissions sticker on their vehicle when parked in the picnic area lots next to Castle Mound, Pigeon Creek and East Fork campgrounds. However, admission stickers are not required at either the Wildcat or Smrekar parking lots.

Trail safety

For your safety, please note that conditions differ along the trails. Not all trails are surfaced and may become slippery when wet or if covered with leaves or loose gravel. There are also several difficulty levels ranging from easy to difficult depending on the trail. The trails at Castle Mound in particular include stairways and steep climbs.

In addition, all trails are open during small game and deer hunting seasons. To ensure your safety during these times, avoid brown or white clothing. Instead, wear blaze orange or bright colors including a blaze orange hat. Visit the DNR hunting pages for season dates.

Hunting Hunting

Excellent hunting opportunities exist on the Black River State Forest. Common species that can be found on the forest include the following.

  • Beaver
  • Black bear
  • Bobcat
  • Fisher
  • Raccoon
  • Ruffed grouse
  • Squirrels
  • Waterfowl
  • Whitetail deer
  • Wild turkey
  • Woodcock

The forest is open to public hunting during designated seasons with the appropriate license. Areas where hunting is not allowed include:

  • State forest campgrounds (Castle Mound, Pigeon Creek and East Fork)
  • Day use areas (Oxbow Pond and Perry Creek)
  • Any areas signed as closed to hunting
  • Private land within the forest boundary*

*Exception: Unless permission is given to the hunter by the landowner or the land is open to hunting through the private tax law lands designation.

Picnic Picnicking

There are picnic facilities at all three campgrounds (Castle Mound, East Fork and Pigeon Creek). All have hand pumps for water, picnic tables, grills and pit toilets. Castle Mound and Pigeon Creek have playground equipment and are ADA accessible. Perry Creek and Oxbow Pond provide limited picnic facilities such as picnic tables and grills.

A log cabin shelter is available at the Castle Mound campground which includes a stone fireplace, electricity, tables and an outdoor cooking grill. It is reservable by contacting the property.

Picnicking in the forest requires a day use or annual vehicle admissions sticker when parking at any of the campgrounds but is not required at the Oxbow Pond or Perry Creek lots.


Fishing Fishing

There are many locations where you can access the forest’s lakes, flowages and the Black River for fishing. Primarily this access is provided by boat landings and fishing piers. You can find a list of canoe and boat landings under Paddling below.

Fish species include:

Black River
  • Walleye
  • Northern pike
  • Smallmouth bass
  • Musky
  • Catfish
East Fork
  • Smallmouth bass
  • Musky
  • Walleye
Robinson Creek
  • Brook and brown trout
  • Largemouth bass
Halls and Hay creeks
  • Brown trout

A vehicle admission sticker is no longer required when parking in the Robinson Creek parking lot. Visitors must obtain the proper fishing licenses. Also, do not forget to review the DNR fishing regulations when planning your trip.

Canoe Paddling

The Black River and East Fork of the Black River offer excellent canoeing and kayaking opportunities. East Fork is scenic with some mild rapids and moderately rocky areas. Paddling on the East Fork is not recommended when water levels are low.

The Black River from Lake Arbutus to North Bend on state highway 54 is an excellent canoeing river from late spring through fall. The river provides a scenic trip through sparsely populated areas and great opportunities for fishing.

Because there is a dam on the Black River within the city of Black River Falls, canoeing is considered safe only when all gates are closed. It is not recommended when three or more dam gates are open and requires average or better skills when only two gates are open.

Motorized boat and canoe access
  • Perry Creek
  • Teal Flowage - provides American with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible fishing pier and boat launch
Canoe access only
  • East Fork campground
  • Bottom Road
  • Halls Creek
  • Mason’s Landing

Two canoe campsites are available south of Black River Falls.

Swimming Swimming

Pigeon Creek campground has a picnic area with a sandy beach, drinking water and toilets. Swimmers should exercise caution as lifeguards are not on duty. Parking at Pigeon Creek does require a vehicle admission sticker.

This is the only designated swimming area on the property. However, swimming is allowed elsewhere unless "closed to swimming" signs are posted. Additional nearby swimming locations outside of the state forest include East Arbutus Park [exit DNR] and Lake Wazee [exit DNR].


Skiing Cross county skiing

The Black River State Forest has 24 miles of cross-country ski trails. Trails are groomed for skaters and traditional skiers and provide a variety of skill levels from beginning to expert. A day use or annual trail pass is required for all skiers 16 years of age and older.

For a map of the trails and additional information, see the Hiking, Biking, and Skiing Trails brochure [PDF]. See the DNR Outdoor Report or the Travel Wisconsin’s snow conditions page for updated trail conditions.

Snowmobile Snowmobiling and ATVing

The Black River State Forest contains 48 miles of snowmobile trails which link with the Jackson County Forestry and Parks trail system. Snowmobilers can travel on state forest trails between Millston and Lake Arbutus and between Black River Falls and City Point.

Please see the DNR Outdoor Report or the Travel Wisconsin’s snow conditions page for updated trail conditions.

Wisconsin law requires those who use snowmobile trails to display either Wisconsin registration or a snowmobile trail pass. Passes are available to purchase online, over the counter at any DNR authorized license agent or by phone at 1-877-945-4236.

For details on registration, trail pass requirements, age restrictions and safety tips please see DNR snowmobiling.


Parking lots for the state forest trail system are plowed after each snowfall and trail maps are available at parking lot facilities. Parking lots and trail access points are located on:

  • N. Settlement Road, north of County Road O
  • State highway 54 east of Black River Falls
  • E. 7th Street off highway 12 East near Black River Falls

To report an accident, dial 911. Other contact information includes:

  • Jackson County Sheriff: 715-284-5357
  • Black River State Forest Superintendent: 715-284-1406 or 715-284-4103
  • Your nearest DNR conservation warden

The opening and closing of snowmobile trails is at the discretion of each county. Snowmobile trails which cross DNR lands are opened and closed consistent with the surrounding county (or counties). Whenever possible, the opening and closing of snowmobile trails is done on a county-wide basis, however localized conditions may require localized trail opening and closing. It is the responsibility of the county to provide notification about the status of snowmobile trails. The Travel Wisconsin Snow Conditions Report [exit DNR], and local club and county snowmobile web pages [exit DNR] and telephone hotlines will provide the most current information.

Snowshoeing Snowshoeing

With the exception of groomed cross country ski trails, visitors may snowshoe anytime there is snow on the ground (see the Summer tab above for details). Or, for a map of the trails and additional information, see the Hiking, Biking, and Skiing Trails brochure [PDF].

Last Revised: Thursday June 13 2019