15 Awesome Wisconsin State Parks That Are Less Than Two Hours From Appleton!

Devil's Lake State Park
Devil's Lake State Park | Photo Credit: Martina Hunt

Get out of the city and into the fresh open air! Wisconsin is home to amazing trails, forests, and state parks and luckily, many happen to be a short drive from the immediate Fox Cities! So, pack a picnic lunch, your bike, and swimsuit and enjoy an afternoon in nature at one of these beautiful spots!

Before You Visit

  • A vehicle admission sticker is required for entry into all Wisconsin state parks, recreational areas, and forests. Annual passes are available for purchase online or by contacting the Wisconsin DNR at 1-888-305-0398.
  • Fishing licenses are required for all individuals over the age of 16. Find out more here!
  • State parks, trails, and recreational areas can fill up quickly. Be sure to plan your trip ahead or practice safe social distancing in busier areas. Reservations for camping and overnight stays are required and can be booked online.
  • Don’t forget the important necessities! Be sure to pack bug spray, sunscreen, a first aid kit, and adequate water supply for your visit. Restroom facilities are starting to open in many parks, however, we also recommend packing hand sanitizer, too. Pack smart, be safe, and enjoy your adventure at these great parks!

15 Wisconsin State Parks Organized by Distance from Appleton

  1. High Cliff State Park, Sherwood
  2. Lost Dauphin State Park, De Pere
  3. Heritage Hill State Park, Allouez
  4. Hartman Creek State Park, Waupaca
  5. Copper Culture State Park, Oconto
  6. Point Beach State Forest, Two Rivers
  7. Kettle Moraine State Forest – Pike Lake Unit, Hartford
  8. Potawatomi State Park, Sturgeon Bay
  9. Kohler-Andrae State Park, Sheboygan
  10. Peninsula State Park, Fish Creek
  11. Harrington Beach State Park, Belgium
  12. Roche-A-Cri State Park, Friendship
  13. Buckhorn State Park, Necedah
  14. Mirror Lake State Park, Baraboo
  15. Devil’s Lake State Park, Baraboo

High Cliff State Park Hiking
High Cliff State Park

1. High Cliff State Park, Sherwood

Trusted and true, High Cliff State Park is a favorite of many families in the Fox Valley area. The 1,187-acre property in Sherwood is the only state-owned recreation area located on the chilly Lake Winnebago. The park is carved out along part of the Niagara Escarpment and features a 12-foot statue of Chief Red Bird, leader of the Winnebago tribe. The statue marks the start of the Red Bird Trail and stands high on granite rock and overlooks the lake. Another notable trail to High Cliff is the Indian Mound Trail. The self-guided trail showcases effigy mounds built by Native Americans over 1,500 years ago. Families can spend time together by fishing, swimming, boating, walking the trails, and checking out the former limestone kilns. Between 1895 and 1956, kilns were used to extract lime from stone. A general store is also available on-site, which serves as a museum of this time. Families can also climb the observation tower for a gorgeous look at the lake. From camping to swimming and discovering nature and history, High Cliff has something to offer every nature lover and first-time camper!

High Cliff At-A-Glance:

  • Travel Specs: 22 minutes | 12.4 miles, Calumet County
  • Location: B7630 State Park Road, Sherwood, WI 54169
  • Pets Allowed: Yes, in designated pet picnic areas
  • Camping: Yes, 112 family campsites; some with electricity

Unique Park Highlights:

Read More: 18 Fox Valley Family Friendly Nature Trails for Biking, Walking & Hiking


2. Lost Dauphin State Park, De Pere

The Lost Dauphin State Park, located in De Pere, is a simple spot to visit for a dose of quiet and peace while enjoying an afternoon outside. The 19-acre spot sits along the Fox River and offers its’ visitors opportunities to hike the trails and picnic. Named after it’s claimant, Eleazer Williams in the mid-1800s, the land became a state park in 1947. While it is no longer an official state park, living up to the “lost” in its’ namesake, the land remains state-owned. Families can partake in outdoor games like soccer, football, and spikeball or go on a nature scavenger hunt. Little visitors will enjoy checking out all the native plants and animals in the area or playing on the swings. The flagstone foundation for William’s home is still visible in the park. Check it out and enjoy a little time in the sunshine! Note: a vehicle registration sticker is no longer required for this location.

Lost Dauphin At-A-Glance:

  • Travel Specs: 23 minutes | 21.6 miles, Brown County
  • Location: 2926 Lost Dauphin Drive, De Pere, WI 54115
  • Pets Allowed: Yes, leashed
  • Camping: No

Unique Park Highlights:

  • Flagstone foundation of Eleazer Williams’ 1800’s home

Read More: 13 Green Bay Area Family Friendly Nature Trails for Biking, Walking & Hiking (and Waterfalls!)


3. Heritage Hill State Park, Allouez

Step back in time with a visit to Heritage Hill State Park just outside of Green Bay. The 48-acre open-air museum showcases momentous elements and pieces of Wisconsin history and is unlike any other park in our area! The park features twenty-four structures that demonstrate life during the fur trade in 1762 up to farms of Belgium immigrants in the 1900s. Situated on the banks of the Fox River, Heritage Hill provides families with a fun and educational afternoon with many hands-on opportunities. With over 6,600 artifacts in its collection, families can stroll through the exhibits and spend time outside enjoying the beautiful weather!

Heritage Hill At-A-Glance:

  • Travel Specs: 29 minutes | 28.7 miles, Brown County
  • Location: 2640 S. Webster Avenue, Green Bay, WI 54301
  • Pets Allowed: Service Animals only in buildings, all other dogs only allowed in the park
  • Camping: No, but booking private events is available

Unique Park Highlights:

  • 24 Interactive and life-size structures
  • 6,600 on-site artifact collection

Hartman Creek State Park
Hartman Creek State Park

4. Hartman Creek State Park, Waupaca

Hartman Creek State Park is a quiet and beautiful state treasure spanning over 1,500 acres in Waupaca. Visitors can enjoy walking through ten miles of trails, swimming in the lake, or playing on the 300-foot sand beach area. There are seven miles of scenic horse trails that pass along Allen Creek and through the forest for riders to enjoy as well as plenty of trailer parking and hitching areas. There’s no shortage of active fun as the park offers kiddos a ton of space to run and has a playground. At Adventure Outfitters near the beach, you’ll find bike rentals to use on the trails or pedal boats, kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards for fun on the lake. Families can enjoy a meal together in four different picnic areas around the park. The park also is home to the historic Hellestad House Log Cabin, which was built in 1864 by Ole Hellestad. It would make a great background for some family photos!

Hartman Creek At-A-Glance:

  • Travel Specs: 47 minutes | 48 miles, Waupaca County
  • Location: N2480 Hartman Creek Road, Waupaca, WI 54981
  • Pets Allowed: Yes, leashed
  • Camping: Yes, 103 family campsites

Unique Park Highlights:

  • Hellestad House Log Cabin

5. Copper Culture State Park, Oconto

If you are looking for a simple and minimalist nature experience, Copper Culture State Park will fit the bill! The park, which spans 42-acres, is nestled alongside the Oconto River. Families can enjoy a peaceful outing for an afternoon picnic, short hike, or catch and release on the river. While this park is smaller, it comes with a rather rich history as it was the site of a prehistoric cemetery of Midwest occupants who lived around 2,000 B.C!

Copper Rock At-A-Glance:

  • Travel Specs: 56 minutes | 60.4 miles, Oconto County
  • Location: 260 Copper Culture Way, Oconto, WI 54153
  • Pets Allowed: Yes
  • Camping: No; daytime visits only

Unique Park Highlights:

  • Plaque describing the prehistoric importance of the park

Point Beach State Forest

6. Point Beach State Forest, Two Rivers

Dig your toes in the sand and relax in the sun! Point Beach State Forest offers visitors not only the opportunity to swim and sunbathe but to walk, bike, jog, or hike. The forest, which spans 2,903 acres, also consists of six miles of beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline, making it the perfect family getaway! The property also features the Rawley Point Lighthouse, one of the tallest on the Great Lakes. The lighthouse, which is still in use, has been operated and maintained by the United States Coast Guard since 1853. Unfortunately, it cannot be toured, however, photography is permitted. Along with playing, swimming, and snacking on the beach, anglers of any age can enjoy Lake Michigan fishing. Basic tack and fishing equipment can be rented free of charge at the park office, so reel em’ in!

Point Beach At-A-Glance:

  • Travel Specs: 1 hour, 8 minutes | 51.3 miles, Manitowoc County
  • Location: 9400 County Road O, Two Rivers, WI 54241
  • Pets Allowed: Yes, leashed at 8 feet or less; special pet beach area near the lighthouse
  • Camping: Yes, 127 campsites with water and electricity

Unique Park Highlights:

Read More: A Day at the Beach: Two Rivers, Wisconsin


7. Kettle Moraine State Forest – Pike Lake Unit, Hartford

There is no place more appropriate to catch a walleye pike than the Pike Lake Unit at Kettle Moraine State Forest! In fact, the 522-acre park is even named after the popular Wisconsin fish. Families can cast their lines from ashore outside marked swimming areas or from a boat. For those looking to hit a trail, Kettle Moraine offers a variety of smooth pathways to walk, jog and hike. The Astronomy Trail is a unique, half-mile segment perfect for little feet. This segment of the blue trail takes the hiker on a stroll through the solar system! What’s better than education and exercise combined? With such lush surroundings, the park offers visitors an exquisite scenery and opportunities to take a peek at nature, especially the wildflowers that grow over summer. Families who enjoy kayaking or canoeing can launch just north of the beach area. There are plenty of spots to set up a picnic and relax. With such a spacious area, everyone is bound to get a much-needed dose of fresh air!

Kettle Moraine At-A-Glance:

  • Travel Specs: 1 hour, 10 minutes | 75.4 miles, Washington County
  • Location: 3544 Kettle Moraine Road, Hartford, WI 53027
  • Pets Allowed: Yes, leashed and in designated areas only
  • Camping: Yes, 32 family campsites; some with electricity

Unique Park Highlights:

  • The Astronomy Solar System Trail Segment

8. Potawatomi State Park, Sturgeon Bay

Hit the trails at Potawatomi State Park and enjoy 1,200 acres of gentle-rolling terrain! Visitors can walk or hike a variety of paths that are bordered by slopes and rugged limestone cliffs. The park features nearly three miles of the Ice Age trail, which showcases the edge of the last continental glacier in Wisconsin. The Tower Trail is a smooth 3.6-mile walk that will take you past the old tower on the highest bluff in the park. Apart from the trails, settle in along the Sturgeon Bay shoreline for a snack or to play some outdoor games, read, or rest. The park offers canoe, kayak, and paddleboat rentals. If your family loves to bike, there are eight miles of off-road bike trails to explore in addition to the park roads!

Potawatomi At-A-Glance:

  • Travel Specs: 1 hour, 10 minutes | 77 miles, Door County
  • Location: 3740 Park Drive, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235
  • Pets Allowed: Yes, leashed
  • Camping: Yes, 123 family sites; some with electricity

Unique Park Highlights:


Kohler-Andre State Park
Kohler-Andre State Park | Photo Credit: Catherine Scullion

9. Kohler-Andrae State Park, Sheboygan

The Kohler-Andrae State Park is truly a place out of a fairytale! Located in Sheboygan, the park boasts majestic sand dunes, miles of golden beach, and fun for the whole family. The park is one of the last natural preserves along the Lake Michigan shoreline and you can camp at lakeside sites! Aside from swimming, Hiking is one of the most popular activities for this area. Guests who are looking for a little challenge can attempt the Dunes Cordwalk, a trail that runs parallel to the shoreline. The trail allows adventurers to see actively stabilized sand dunes, dry-mesic white pine forests, and wetlands. Those looking to spend a day exploring and embracing nature can visit the Sanderling Nature Center, part of Kohler-Andrae’s wildlife refuge. There, kiddos will learn about animals, plants, sand dunes, and the park’s history. The gift shop also offers field guides, patches, treats, and other surprises!

Kohler-Andrae At-A-Glance:

  • Travel Specs: 1 hour, 24 minutes | 76.5 miles, Sheboygan County
  • Location: 1020 Beach Park Lane, Sheboygan, WI 53081
  • Pets Allowed: Yes, leashed; not allowed on the beach
  • Camping: Yes, 137 family sites; some with electricity

Unique Park Highlights:

Read More: Sheboygan Family Day Trip


Peninsula State Park
Peninsula State Park

10. Peninsula State Park, Fish Creek

Plan a visit to Wisconsin’s third-largest state park! Opened in 1909, Peninsula State Park in Door County spans 3,776 acres and offers visitors an extended opportunity to relax and unwind. From swimming at the sandy Nicolet beach to kayaking and sunbathing, there is fun waiting for everyone. Picnic at one of the six spacious picnic areas, equipped with grills and shelters and fish from Weborg Pier. Families can also peddle along the Sunset Bike Trail, a ten-mile route that passes through the northern forest that is framed by Sven’s Bluff. Another favorite is Eagle Trail, which offers individuals an up-close and personal view of the Niagara Escarpment. With a total of 20 miles of hiking trails, there is plenty to explore. The White Cedar Nature Trail, a shorter half-mile loop, is an excellent choice for families with small children.

Peninsula At-A-Glance:

  • Travel Specs: 1 hour, 34 minutes | 87 miles, Door County
  • Location: 9426 Shore Road, Fish Creek, WI 54212
  • Pets Allowed: Yes, leashed
  • Camping: Yes, five campgrounds with 468 family sites

Unique Park Highlights:

Read More: Things to do in Door County with Kids


11. Harrington Beach State Park, Belgium

Established in 1992, Harrington Beach State Park is a serene 715-acre recreational area along the shore of Lake Michigan in Belgium. It boasts a mile-long beach, perfect for swimming and building sandcastles, in addition to a white cedar swamp that surrounds 26-acres of a lake that served as a stone quarry. Families can enjoy a variety of activities here, including hiking, bird watching, fishing, and most notably, astronomy! Harrington Beach is home to the Plunkett Observatory which features a 20-inch telescope that weighs over 2,000 pounds! The observatory operates by a roll-off roof design which allows the full sky to be exposed. Future astronomers will love glancing up at stars and sleeping under them, too! Experienced scuba can take the opportunity to see the remains of the wooden steamship Niagara. The ship caught fire and sunk a few hundred yards offshore in 1856 and can still be explored in 80 feet of water today. From stars to ships, this is one unique park!

Harrington Beach At-A-Glance:

  • Travel Specs: 1 hour, 34 minutes | 87 miles, Ozaukee County
  • Location: 531 Co. Road D, Belgium, WI 53004
  • Pets Allowed: Yes, leashed
  • Camping: Yes, 69 family campsites; some with electricity

Unique Park Highlights:


12. Roche-A-Cri State Park, Friendship

Let your imagination run wild and visit Roche-A-Cri State Park! The park, which was established in 1948, features 605 scenic acres of trees, critters, and the only interpreted rock art in the state! An observation area allows visitors to view 300-foot high Native American pictographs and petroglyphs. The acclaimed rock art features stylized birds, symbols, and tracks and a mound in the park also features carvings from the mid-1800s to the 1950s. Along with interesting rock formations, families can enjoy three different picnic areas as well as a walk on the Chickadee Rock trail, which is part of five miles of paved hiking trails. After a hike, visitors can test their luck with fishing for brook trout and panfish in the nearby Carter Creek.

Roche-A-Cri At-A-Glance:

  • Travel Specs: 1 hour, 36 minutes | 88.2 miles, Adams County
  • Location: 1767 State Hwy 13, Friendship, WI 53934
  • Pets Allowed: Yes, leashed at 6 feet or less
  • Camping: Yes, 41 rustic campsites

Unique Park Highlights:

  • Historic Native American Pictograph & Petroglyph Rock Art

13. Buckhorn State Park, Necedah

Explore Buckhorn State Park, a spacious woodland and a culturally-rich area spanning 6,990 acres in Necedah. This area was considered “unbroken wilderness” and land belonging Ho-Chunk Tribe until the late 1830s, after that time the area was logged and then settled by immigrant farmers. Families can enjoy excellent fishing opportunities at the Castle Rock Flowage. In addition to fishing, the waters can be accessed by boats from one of the multiple launches. Jet skis, pontoon boats, and sailboats are often seen in the distance, gliding over the twinkling water. For those who canoe, a self-guided tour is available for families to learn about Buckhorn’s wetlands and animals that call them home. Swimming is also a favorite activity at Buckhorn and families can enjoy time splashing around the 300-foot swim area. Afterward, find a shady spot to grab lunch in the parks two major picnic areas where you’ll also find tables and grills.

Buckhorn At-A-Glance:

  • Travel Specs: 1 hour, 57 minutes | 105.8 miles, Juneau County
  • Location: W8450 Buckhorn Park Avenue, Necedah, WI 54646
  • Pets Allowed: Yes, leashed; small dog swimming beach area available
  • Camping: Yes, 68 family campsites

Unique Park Highlights:


14. Mirror Lake State Park, Baraboo

Catch a glimpse of one of nature’s perfect reflections! Mirror Lake State Park, located in Baraboo, was established in 1962 and is 2,179 acres. The park, which contains Mirror Lake, a narrow reservoir with steep Cambrian-era sandstone, boasts history and serenity. The sandstone sides, which can reach up to fifty feet tall are a sight-worthy stop for families to explore. The 20-foot deep lake offers a beautifully clear and peaceful spot to splash, play, swim, and fish. Hit the Northwest trail, or one of the many of the others, and enjoy nature as you spend time as a family. Trails are clearly marked and are suitable for young walkers. Families can also enjoy fishing, boating, and outdoor games at the lake and enjoy exploring the vast wooded areas speckled with oak and pine trees.

Mirror Lake At-A-Glance:

  • Travel Specs: 1 hour, 59 minutes | 111.3 miles, Sauk County
  • Location: E10320 Fern Dell Road, Baraboo, WI 53913
  • Pets Allowed: Yes, leashed
  • Camping: Yes, three campgrounds with 151 family sites

Unique Park Highlights:


15. Devil’s Lake State Park, Baraboo

Calling all daredevils! If soaring heights with breathtaking views are on your bucket list, pack the car up and head to Devil’s Lake State Park in Baraboo, one of the state’s most popular parks! Founded in 1911, the 9,217-acre park is well-known for its 500-foot-high quartzite bluffs. These bluff formations, such as the Balanced Rock and Devil’s Doorway are photo-worthy spots. There are also effigy mounds located throughout the park in the shape of a lynx and a sparrow. These mounds are part of a collection of geometric mounds marking Native burial sites. The park boasts solitude with over 29 miles of hiking trails, which partially spans the historic Ice Age Trail, a 60-acre lake, two beaches, and water-view picnic areas. Visitors with an array of sporting experience can also have rock climbing or scuba diving adventures, though caution is advised. Have fun and be safe!

Devil’s Lake At-A-Glance:

  • Travel Specs: 2 hours, 7 minutes | 111.8 miles, Sauk County
  • Location: S5975 Park Road, Baraboo, WI 53913
  • Pets Allowed: Yes, leashed at 8 feet or less
  • Camping: Yes, three campgrounds with 423 sites

Unique Park Highlights:

  • Balanced Rock and Devil’s Doorway Bluffs
  • Lynx and Sparrow Effigy Mounds
  • Historic Ice Age Trail

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