Welcome back! As the dog days of summer drag along you or your children are looking for some new ideas on things to do. Lets take a look this week at state parks within in 1 hour of Madison.  We are so lucky to have so many county and state parks near by. Did you know that there are 9 state parks located within 1 hour of Madison and a total of 46 in the state?  Each park has a variety of different things to offer.  

Did you know what the oldest state park is in WI? Unfortunately, it is not located within an hour of us but Interstate State Park is the oldest and located in St Croix Falls, WI. It was established in Wisconsin in 1900. It is also a joint collaboration with Minnesota has 1300 acres and 1200 miles of trails. 

Now if you don't feel you could handle 1 hour in the car with your kids we have one right here in our back yard in Waunakee. 

Governor Nelson State Park

This park has a lot to offer. Like I stated before this park is located in Waunakee off Highway M. and while visiting the park you can hike the trails go swimming *Note- there are no lifeguards on duty.  They have a dock for you to let your boat out, or put your kayak, canoe  in the water. They also allow fishing.   

Photo courtesy of DNR

Lake Kegonsa State Park 

This state park located in Stoughton, Wi has a few different things to offer. They have camping with 96 sites in total. They allow hiking, fishing, archery hunting *Note- in season only, and swimming. They also have 5 picnic areas, 2 playgrounds and a loading dock for your boats, kayaks and canoes. If you are an outdoors person in the winter they allow ice fishing and snowshoeing. 

Cross Plains State Park

This park is located just outside of Madison in Cross Plains, WI. While this park is on the smaller side they still have trails to hike, areas to fish and allow hunting and trapping *Note- in season only. This park does groom trails for backcountry skiing and snowshoeing. 

Blue Mounds State Park

As we head out west on US Highway 151, just to the north is Blue Mounds State park which situates at the top of the largest hill in southern WI. They offer a variety of different activities. They have 89 camping sites with 1 handicap cabin. They have hiking & biking trails, areas for picnics, and allow hunting and trapping *Note- in season only.  They have a great aquatic center and splash pad for swimming * Cost is $2 per kid and $3 for adults. Check out the DNR website for hours.  In the winter the park is open for sledding, snowshoeing and 10 miles of meticulously groomed and tracked trails to cross-country ski.

Natural Bridge State Park

This park is located in North Freedom, WI out side of Baraboo in Sauk County and it's main attraction is the large carved out rock that was left by the glaciers millions of years ago. Today people flock to the park to see this natural arch. There are other things to do in the park other than stair and take great Instagram photos with the rock. They have trails for hiking, picnic areas, and in season allow hunting and trapping.  In the winter they allow cross-country skiing and sledding. 

Devil's Lake State Park

Most likely the state’s most popular state park... It is vast and sits on 9000 acres and is visited by roughly 3 million people every year.  They have the most activities to offer.  If you love camping they have 423 camping sites, beautiful hiking and biking trails. They also have rock climbing, swimming, scuba diving, and picnic  areas. There are spots to  fish, boat (*electric motor only), kayak or canoe. You are allowed to hunt and trap (*Note - only in season).  If you're not a snowbird get out of the house and try some cross-country skiing, snowshoe, or even ice fish. If you don't care for crowds I would suggest an early morning visit.  As you can see there are endless things to do at Devils Lake making it so popular. 

Aztalan State Park

The park is located in the town of Aztalan and is known for preserving the remains of the Mississippian town, a line of ceremonial mounds that extend northward above the town, ancient agricultural fields, and other cultural features. The Aztalan people settled on the grounds and mysteriously disappeared. Don't worry though this is not the Bermuda Triangle and you will not disappear upon entering the park.  Within the grounds you are able to hike, fish, and hunt & trap *Note- in season only. You can also boat, kayak, or canoe. Should you get hungry during your activities they have a picnic area for you to enjoy. They also allow snowshoeing in the winter. 

Tower Hill State Park

Located next to the Wisconsin River in Spring Green, Tower Hill which was once the site of  lead shot mining now restored.  On the grounds you are able to hike, fish, kayak, canoe, camp (tent only), hunt/trap and has a picnic area. This area has been said to be quite quiet and peaceful. 

Governor Dodge State Park

This park located in Dodgeville, WI was named after the first Governor of Wi, Henry Dodge. The park sits on 5270 acres and has so much to offer. One could visit the park year round. While visiting the park you could camp on one of their 269 campsites, swim in one of the 2 lakes or launch your electric motor boat, bike or hike on their trails, BYOH for horseback riding (No park horse rentals),  hunt or fish. They do have 8 designated picnic areas and shelters for your needs. Gov. Dodge park offers some great activities for the winter months. The park has 15 miles of snowmobiling trails, 12 miles of trails for cross-country skiing, sledding, ice fishing, snowshoeing and hiking. 

The parks charge a fee for parking which you can pay for daily or buy an annual pass. I've made it easy all you have to do is >>>>  Click here for chart. You can also find all the rules for hunting and trapping and the fishing license you need to have in order to fish. 

Are you ready to get out and go on an adventure? The glaciers sure have left us with some beautiful places to see. I suggest dusting off those hiking shoes downloading the Hiking Project App and see all the nature has to offer. We are so lucky to have theses parks in such a close proximity. I feel this is exactly why Madison and the surrounding areas are growing leaps and bounds every year. There is so much to do with a little to no drive.  Let us know in the comments below which park is your favorite and why! 


Posted by Jill Sloan on


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