Endless Adventure in Wisconsin’s Northwoods at Governor Thompson State Park

governor thompson state park

Just a short hour and a half drive north of the Fox Valley and located 15 miles outside of Crivitz, this 2,800-acre Wisconsin State Park offers a wealth of trails to hike, waterways to explore, a sandy beach, and an abundance of wildlife to observe, making it a perfect destination for families to get away from the city life for some camping or an adventurous day trip. 

Perfect Camping Destination for Families with Kids of all Ages

Whether you have young children or teens, your family is sure to stay busy at this Wisconsin state park!

Governor Thompson State Park features over 16 miles of hiking trails consisting of 10 named and well-marked and maintained trails of varying lengths crisscrossing this beautiful park in the Northwoods. Bikes aren’t allowed on most of the trails so be sure to check the trail map before your trip if you plan to bike. These trails will bring hikers past some fantastic rock formations and waterways, including Huber Lake, Woods Lake, and the Caldron Falls Reservoir. 

If water adventure is more your style, Governor Thompson’s offers about 6.5 miles of undeveloped shoreline on Caldron Falls Flowage, with frontage on Woods Lake and Huber Lake. Motorized watercraft are not allowed on these lakes, so you can enjoy the quiet, calm waters from the comfort of your kayak or canoe. Three boat access campsites are also available on the south shore of Caldron Falls Flowage. These sites are reservable and only accessible by boat. These sites include a canoe rack and place to tie up your boat, fire ring, tent area, bear-proof food box, and an outdoor toilet. These sites are available year-round for backpackers as well.

If you want to spend a few days at this park (and you’ll probably need to if you want to enjoy everything it has to offer), take advantage of the modern 100-site family campground (divided into two loops). The campsites are well-maintained and range from fully wooded to more open-air spaces. Several are large enough to accommodate campers or RVs and some offer a pull-through driveway. There are vault toilets and water fountains throughout the campground, but what we love about this campground is the centrally-located shower building. The shower building has regular public bathrooms with flush toilets, plus individual rooms around the building, each containing a flush toilet, sink, and shower. This mama loves a private bathroom and shower while camping with our large family. If you’re not interested in camping but plan to take a picnic, definitely check out the picnic area by Woods Lake. You’ll find a 150-foot sand beach and swimming area here with a spacious, grassy picnic area. Picnic tables are available, as well as a reservable enclosed park shelter.

Wildlife abounds in this densely forested park. Deer are a common sight, even within the campground loops. You may also spot sandhill cranes, turkey, grouse, bald eagles, a variety of songbirds, frogs and turtles, raccoons, chipmunks, and sometimes even black bears! (If you’re camping, you may want to keep your food in your vehicle overnight to avoid attracting bears and raccoons raiding your food). Don’t be afraid, black bears generally prefer to avoid people and are unlikely to show up in the campground.

Tips Specific to location/Things to Keep in Mind

  • Stay on trails, check map or signage before biking
  • Remember to leave only footprints and take only photos and memories
  • Dogs are allowed but must be leashed and under control at all times

Some of our Family’s Favorite Spaces

Spend a Day at the Beach

Aside from the wildlife, we really love spending the better part of our day at the beach and picnic area on Woods Lake. The lake is fairly shallow so it warms up pretty quickly in the summer for a more comfortable swimming experience over so many of our chilly Wisconsin lakes. The sandy beach is well-maintained and never crowded on weekdays. Bring a picnic lunch and spend the day playing in the water and exploring the lily pad-laden shorelines for frogs and interesting bugs. You’ll also notice most of the water in this region is a rootbeer color due to incompletely dissolved organic materials, called tannins, which come from the decomposition of wetland plants in the watershed of the lake. This coloration is harmless and common around our state. 

Waterfall Central

One of our favorite features of this area of the state isn’t in the park itself, but surrounding it. If you’re a fan of waterfalls, plan a day away from Governor Thompson’s and explore the area waterfalls. There are several to choose from, but we especially recommend Veterans Memorial Park. There is a $5 self-serve entrance fee per vehicle, so come prepared with exact change. Follow the wooded path down to find some beautiful waterfalls (the trail down past the last wooden platform can be a bit treacherous so bring sturdy shoes and watch your step). You’ll find some great places to jump in and take a swim at the bottom of the falls (the water is pretty chilly, but our kids love it). Strong Falls and Dave Falls are also beautiful and worth a visit. 

If you love waterfalls, click here for 5 Waterfalls Within 2 Hours of the Fox Valley!

Berry Season

If you plan your visit for July or August, you may just luck out and stay during berry season. The campgrounds are overrun with wild blackberries and raspberries. You’ll find plants growing along the trails, roadways, and around the campsites. Our kids have spent hours collecting bowls of berries that we enjoyed turning into ‘pie’ with our pudgy pie irons. 

Things to Know

  • Governor Thompson State Park, N10008 Paust Ln, Crivitz, WI 54114
  • 6 am to 11 pm, year-round
  • Wisconsin State Park Vehicle Admission Sticker required
  • Parking is available by the bathroom facilities and by Woods Lake
  • Firewood is available for sale at the park office. Read more about Wisconsin DNR’s firewood rules here.

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