Hartman Creek State Park: Stay & Play in the Beautiful Chain ‘O Lakes, Waupaca Area

If you have not yet made the trek over to Waupaca to visit Hartman Creek State Park, now is the time to add it to your family day trip itinerary! A short 40-minute drive from the Fox Cities, Hartman Creek State Park, established in 1966, offers all of the quiet, natural beauty of the charmingly forested Chain O’ Lakes area that attracts so many to the Waupaca, WI area each year.

Hartman Creek is open from 6 am – 11 pm year-round and offers many family-friendly recreation activities, including a swimming beach and concessions, several hiking and biking trails, access to beautifully clean lakes for kayaking and fishing, a campground, and opportunities for picnicking in one of its shelters. You’ll need a state park pass to enjoy this gem of a park, and at just $28 for Wisconsin license plate holders, the annual sticker is more than worth the investment for year-round fun in any of the state’s many parks.

Hiking and Biking

With nearly 10 miles of available trails for visitors to roam, you are sure to find a trail that’s just the right length and difficulty for your family. The 1.0 mile Deer Path Trail that encircles Allen Lake is an excellent option for younger hikers, and it offers great views of the lake and native wildlife. 

You’ll want to bring a hiking backpack for any babies or toddler who might tire quickly as stroller-friendly trails are harder to come by at Hartman Creek. Preschoolers and older children should be good to go with a bottle of water, some trail mix, and a hiking stick to boost their independence and confidence. 

Another favorite low-key family hike is through the pine forests along the horse trails just north of Hartman Lake. The footing here is softly padded with a thick layer of pine needles, and the hiking grade is generally easy, but be sure to watch for horse apples along the way! 

For the more adventurous hiking family, try a pass on the 3 miles of Ice Age National Scenic Trail that cuts north to south through the park.

Hartman Creek State Park also offers bike trails with a variety of difficulty levels for your two-wheeled adventures. Find these trails in the southwest corner of the park near the group campsites. Some of the trails in the park require a State Trail Pass for biking and horseback riding. The passes are $25 annually or $5 daily. Check out the summer trail map for all of the details on which trails meet these requirements.

Boating 

With the beautifully clear waters, the lakes at Hartman Creek State Park are a water lovers delight! The park is home to several lakes. Take your kayak or canoe for a paddle through the head of the Chain O’ Lakes here: Marl Lake, Pope Lake, Manomin Lake, and Knight Lake. 

Keep in mind that these lakes operate under a ‘slow, no wake’ speed limit for those using motorized boats. 

Two other great options for paddlers (no motors here) are Hartman Lake and Allen Lake; both offer boat launches and easy waters to relax and peruse natural beauty.

No boat? No problem! Find a rental:

Fishing

Hartman Creek is a perfect spot to try out your fishing skills! In fact, before becoming a state park, dams were built here to create a fish hatchery. 

New to angling? Not to worry! The park office offers basic fishing gear to try your luck at catching one of the many perch, bass, bluegill, and other panfish that are available in these gully and spring-fed lakes. 

Children under 16 years can fish for free in Wisconsin, and your first adult fishing license is only $5! They even offer couples fishing licenses for a deal at $31. Check out the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’s website for all of the fishing guidelines and rates.

Hartman Creek State Park

Hartman Lake Beach & Swimming

Need a break from the heat? Hartman Lake is home to a 300 ft beach and large marked-off swimming area for you and your family to enjoy a refreshing dip.

Nearby amenities include:

  • shower areas
  • bathrooms
  • picnic tables
  • a playground
  • concession stand — open on weekends and most weekdays unless there is rainy weather

There is not a lifeguard on duty at this beach, so you’ll want to keep a close eye on your little swimmers.

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Camping Accommodations

Interested in staying for more than one day? Hartman Creek’s family campground, open seasonally from April to November, offers 103 reservable individual family sites along with five group camping sites. The family campsites offer both forested pine sites and sites with a mixture of hardwood/old apple orchard trees, so it is easy to find a spot with some great shade. 

Family-friendly amenities include two flush toilet and shower buildings (in case your little one is more than a little squeamish about the vault toilets), firewood, and ice available for purchase on-site near the ranger’s station (please do not bring in your own wood to avoid disease spread), a handful of sites with electric hook up available, and is within easy walking access to Allen Lake, a picnic shelter, and the playground. Check out the campground map to pick your perfect site.

Only Have Time for a Quick Visit?

Have young children and want to maximize your visit in a short amount of time? Allen Lake is just the ticket. You can fish off of the pier, take a 1.0-mile hike around the lake on the Deer Path Trail, paddle into the lake via its boat landing, and enjoy the surrounding playground and picnic shelter, all in a one-stop spot at the park. There are even bathroom facilities nearby for any emergency visits! Have your furry friend along? Just across from the Allen Lake fishing pier is a pet picnic area. While at Allen Lake, you’ll also have to chance to check out a piece of Wisconsin history at the Hellestad House. Originally built by Olle Hellestad in 1864, this home was restored on this site by the Friends of Hartman Creek in 1999.

Visiting in the Winter Months

Winter is an excellent time to visit the beauty of Hartman Creek State Park! The park offers 6 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails and 3.5 miles of snowshoeing trails for you and your family to enjoy in the snowy months. The park also permits off-trail hiking and snowshoeing, as long as you steer clear of the trails groomed for cross-country skiing. Ice fishing is also a frequent sight on the park’s many lakes in the winter months, but keep in mind that the park itself does not monitor ice conditions for safety.

Many of the park’s amenities are closed in the winter months, but the park office and vault toilets do remain open. Check out the park’s winter map for more details to help you plan your trip.

Nearby Stops, Eats & Shops Worth the Side Trip

A trip to Hartman Creek State Park would not be complete without checking out some of the other fun shops and stops that the Waupaca and Chain O’ Lakes area has to offer! If you wander towards downtown Waupaca, you’ll find the Main Street Marketplace. Open Tuesday – Saturday from 11 am – 2 pm, this cute local shop offers various tourist delights and gifts, including home décor, kids games & toys, and local honey & fudge. Be sure to also check out Adventure Outfitters, just down the street, where you can either purchase or rent your favorite outdoor and water gear to enjoy the surrounding crystal clear lakes and beautiful woods. 

Looking for a family-friendly dining experience? We suggest Little Fat Gretchen’s Diner located on Main Street in downtown Waupaca. This diner offers delicious breakfast and lunch fare along with homemade pies and other irresistible bakery treats! 

Ice cream anyone? You’ll want to check out Scoopers on Country Road Q in Waupaca. This summer favorite offers 32 flavors of ice cream and a variety of coffee drinks too.

If you find yourself Hartman Creek-bound in the fall, Christensen’s Orchard is worth a pit stop! The family-run orchard offers 15 varieties of apples, and a heap of other delicious fall treats like apple cider, caramel apples, pumpkins, jams, etc.

With loads of outdoor charm and beauty and only 40 minutes from the Fox Valley, Hartman Creek State Park and the surrounding Chain O’ Lakes area are well worth the effort to enjoy a refreshing day in nature with your family and children of any age. 

Are you a Waupaca native or a frequent flier at Hartman Creek State Park? Please, share with us your favorite activities and stops for any season of visiting!

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