7 Breathtaking State Parks in Northern Wisconsin

When it comes to spending time in the outdoors, Wisconsin is spoiled. The Badger state has over 70 state parks, state forests, state recreation areas, and state trails that generate over 20 million visits each year. 

Northern Wisconsin is also home to four national park units, including the beautiful Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and the long-distance Ice Age Trail.

Whether you are a Wisconsin native or are traveling from out of state, do yourself a favor by taking your next vacation up north, exploring some of the breathtaking state parks in northern Wisconsin. 

Escaping the hustle and bustle of the big cities is easy in our beautiful state. Plus, you can base yourself at Heartwood Resort for easy access to many of the best parks in the state.

Check out these seven state parks that offer so many things to do in northern Wisconsin.

1. Amnicon Falls State Park

Amnicon State Park in Northern Wisconsin

Amnicon Falls is one of the most beautiful state parks in Wisconsin. With four named waterfalls on the Amnicon River, there is so much to see and explore at this 850-acre park.

You can experience the falls in any season along two miles of riverside trails or from a photogenic, covered footbridge that crosses this scenic river. This is the perfect park for an afternoon hike, with beautiful picnic areas along the river to stop and enjoy lunch. 

2. Copper Falls State Park

An aerial shot of the Bad River in Copper Falls State Park. Copper Falls is a State Park in Northern Wisconsin

Home to one of the best hikes in the state, and some of the most breathtaking views, Copper Falls State Park needs to be on your bucket list. 

Aside from viewing some spectacular waterfalls, the park is perfect for swimming and paddling at Loon Lake, biking through hardwood forests, and fishing for trout, bass, and pike. 

Be sure to hike the 1.7-mile Doughboy’s Nature Trail along the river for beautiful views of the falls. 

3. Big Bay State Park

Lake Superior at Big Bay State Park in Northern Wisconsin

Are you looking for some expansive views? Big Bay State Park is nestled upon four miles of bluffs overlooking Lake Superior. The park is situated on Madeline Island, which requires a short ferry ride from the mainland. 

With a long shoreline, finding your own spot on the beach to swim and play in the snd is easy to do. Hiking, fishing, and paddling opportunities abound.

Plus, the island is home to a golf course, art galleries, and an old Indian burial ground. Take the bus tour to explore all the island has to offer beyond the state park. 

Big Manitou Falls in a state park in Northern Wisconsin

4. Pattison State Park

Want to see the highest waterfall in the state of Wisconsin? At 165 feet, Big Manitou Falls at Pattison State Park is also the fourth highest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains. You can also enjoy the view of the 31 foot Little Manitou Falls at the other end of the park.

Hiking and wildlife viewing opportunity abounds, with over 50 species of mammals and 200 different kinds of birds found within the park. Interfalls Lake, which the river runs into, is great for swimming and kayaking, though the fishing opportunity is limited within the park.

Granite Peak at Rib Mountain State Park in Northern Wisconsin

5. Rib Mountain State Park

Are you looking for some exceptional views in a relatively flat state? Rib Mountain State Park is made up of one of the oldest geological formations on the planet. 

Thirteen miles of hiking trails are available in the park, and the views from the top of Rib Mountain are superb in every season. The park is a hot spot in winter with groomed snowshoe trails and a ski and snowboard area at Granite Peak.

Rock Island State Park in Wisconsin

6. Rock Island State Park

At the Northeastern tip of Wisconsin, you’ll find Rock Island State Park. This uninhabited island in Lake Michigan requires a short ferry ride, which operates between Memorial Day and Columbus Day. 

Without any vehicles, this primitive island offers the chance at true solitude while hiking the many trails, swimming, or exploring the endless miles of shoreline. You can also tour the Pottawatomie Lighthouse, where you can climb to the upper lantern room.

As you make your way to the tip of the peninsula, be sure to visit any of the other four state parks along the way.

The Namekagon River

7. Wild Rivers State Trail

While not a traditional state park, the Wild Rivers State Trail is every bit as fun and beautiful as other state parks. This state trail runs for 104 miles across northern Wisconsin, crossing countless streams and rivers, such as the Namekagon River, a scenic, protected river known as Winsconsin’s “moving national park.”

Access to this trail is just 20 minutes away from Heartwood Resort, making us the perfect home base for ATV, UTV, or snowmobile excursions. Or, you can enjoy the state trail on a mountain bike or with cross-country skis or snowshoes. 

What to Know Before State Parks in Northern Wisconsin

State parks, forests, and recreation areas in Wisconsin require all vehicles to display a vehicle admission sticker from the Wisconsin State Park System.

Both Wisconsin residents and nonresidents can purchase annual admission stickers or single-day stickers. You can purchase these online ahead of your visit. Alternatively, you can buy them at a state park, which may have an office, a self-service kiosk, or a self-registration system. 

Your Home Base While Exploring Northern Wisconsin

WC3 web

Exploring the beautiful state parks in the great state of Wisconsin is more fun when you can make a weekend, or even better, a full week out of it. But rather than hopping around from campground to campground, or cabin to cabin, it’s much less stressful to choose one centralized location to call home base while you explore and play in our diverse state recreation system.

Heartwood Resort is one of the most comfortable, exciting northern Wisconsin resorts, conveniently located just two hours from the Twin Cities. Our property is covered with 700 acres of beautiful Northwoods and a private lake. 

You can walk out of your room or lakeside cabin in the morning and fish or explore the trail systems crisscrossing our property. When you do feel like venturing out, we are located within driving distance of the popular Amnicon Falls State Park, Pattison State Park, Straight Lake State Park, and even a handful of parks in Minnesota, just over the state line. 

Book Your Northern Wisconsin Outdoor Vacation

A covered bridge in Amnicon State Park

With so many amazing state parks in northern Wisconsin, it can be hard to choose just a few to visit. But whether you want to try cramming them all into one trip or space them out over multiple visits, they are worth taking the time to explore.

If you are ready to plan your next northern Wisconsin vacation, book a stay at Heartwood Resort today. Our property is beautiful and relaxing in any season, just like the many state parks located nearby.