With its rolling hills—the result of the Ice Age skipping over this region 12,000 years ago, avoiding flat-terrain status—Wisconsin’s landscape is a popular camping destination. Bordered by two Great Lakes (Lake Superior and Lake Michigan) and rimmed by the Mississippi River, too, it’s not hard to find a waterfront campsite. It’s also very likely your camp will be shaded, in a forested pocket, as there are many around the state. From state parks to privately owned campgrounds, here are the 10 best camping spots in Wisconsin.
Rock Island State Park
Getting here is half the fun. Travel all the way north up the Door County peninsula—buffered by Green Bay and Lake Michigan—and hop a ferry to Washington Island, then another ferry to this car-free island. Wear comfy walking shoes and pack light because all 40 sites are rustic and carry-in, with a fire ring and picnic table. Also on the island: a series of stone buildings and Pottawatomie Lighthouse.
Peninsula State Park
This 3,776-acre park hugging Green Bay is the exact opposite of Rock Island State Park for two reasons: the number of campsites (468) and proximity to civilization. But at the same time, with 8 miles of shoreline, an historic lighthouse you can wander into (Eagle Bluff Light), and a professional theater company performing at Northern Sky Theater, why would you ever leave?
What’s Nearby: Walk into the village of Fish Creek, where Blue Horse Beach Café’s serves morning brew and all-day breakfast (from huevos rancheros to house-made cinnamon rolls).
Devil's Lake State Park
Rock climbers know this is Wisconsin’s best place to climb, thanks to stunning quartzite bluffs (soaring 500 feet in height, such as Balanced Height and Devil’s Doorway) encircling a 360-acre lake for swimming or renting stand-up paddleboards, kayaks or canoes. Thirty miles of hiking trails and 423 campsites provide room to spread out in the 9,217-acre park, Wisconsin’s largest state park.
What’s Nearby: Wisconsin’s known for beer and, more recently, spirits—including Driftless Glen’s restaurant and tasting room, four miles from the park.
Bunk in a 1977 Airstream or 1957 Holly at this new campsite (opened in 2020) adjacent to the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest, a former Girl Scouts camp. The Hilton glamping site sleeps up to eight in platform tents outfitted with mattresses. Or, pitch a tent at “The Prairie,” what owners Simona and Jeremy Ebner call a “rustic campsite” for a more remote experience. And don’t worry: glamping is even for the rustic sites, thanks to indoor baths with full plumbing (that’s code for “flush toilets” and there’s also an outdoor shower).
What’s Nearby: Pick up smoked-salmon or smoked-trout spread from Rushing Waters Fisheries (you can even fish for your own catch) for a quick, delicious pond-to-plate snack.
Wyalusing State Park
Because it’s at the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers, you’re treated with bluffs (cue cool views) and opportunities for birdwatching and fishing. In addition to 114 campsites, and in case you’re planning an event, the Hugh Harper Indoor Group Camp’s four dorms hold up to 108 “campers,” sheltered from the natural elements. Between May and October, the Lawrence L. Huser Astronomy Center hosts free programs.
What’s Nearby: Before pulling into your campsite, pop by Sunrise Orchards (August through December) in Gays Mills for apple-cider donuts and Honeycrisp apples.
Cooper Falls State Park
As the name of this state park implies, waterfalls are the main draw. Located just outside of the Bad River Reservation, the 3,068-acre natural paradise folds in a section of the Bad River and, since 2005, has been on the National Register of Historic Places. You’ll need several nights here to see and experience it all, such as trout fishing on Loon Lake and 17 miles of hiking trails. Sleep under the stars at any of the 24 campsites, with electric hook-ups.
What’s Nearby: Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, accessible via Bayfield, is only a 50-mile drive north.
Kohler-Andrae State Park
If you’ve never seen sand dunes, you need to visit this park, rimmed by Lake Michigan to the East. Stroll along the beach’s boardwalks, which undulate among whispering pines. Of the park’s 137 campsites, 52 feature electrical hook-ups. For a glamping-like experience, book the sole canvas-and-pole tee-pee (summers only) or one of 10 accessible cabins with full kitchens.
What’s Nearby: In the company town of Kohler, the plumbing manufacturer’s design showroom features dream kitchens and baths created by celeb designers.
Wildcat Mountain State Park
The term “mountain” might baffle frequent visitors to high-altitude destinations like Colorado. Wildcat Mountain is a towering sandstone bluff capped with limestone. Twenty-five campsites offer a picnic table and fire ring each, or cart in your belongings to 21 additional sites. All are close to showers and flush toilets. Twenty-one miles of trails are for horseback riding and hiking. Canoeists flock here, and brown trout spawn within the park’s section of the Kickapoo River.
What’s Nearby: Driftless Books and Music in Viroqua is the sweet indie bookstore you wish every town still had.
Jack Lake Campground
No need to pitch a tent in Veteran’s Memorial Park, along the spring-fed Jack Lake 15 miles north of Antigo: pick from three 16-by-20 foot cabins (the quirky named Timberdoodle, Ruffed Grouse, and Gobblers Roost) sleeping up to five people each and with a grill, fireplace, fire pit, bunk beds, dining table and chairs, and electrical lighting. The park also has 48 campsites with electrical hookups, if you want to sleep outdoors.
What’s Nearby: Spanning 870 acres, Bogus Swamp State Natural Area is on the other side of Highway 45, just west of Koepenick.
Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest
Tucked into the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest in Wisconsin’s Northwoods are four modern campgrounds (Crystal Lake, Firefly Lake, Big Musky, and Clear Lake) with 355 sites total, in addition to more rustic and primitive camping options. From lakeside, beachfront sites in Crystal Lake, you’re rewarded with beautiful sunrises and sunsets while Clear Lake sits on its namesake 846-acre lake.
What’s Nearby: Dinner at Little Bohemia Lodge, a supper club where John Dillinger engaged in a shoot-out with the F.B.I., in Manitowish Waters is an authentic Wisconsin tradition.