5 Scenic Spots to Visit on a Wisconsin RV Trip

Sep 13, 2021 | Travel & Destinations

5 Scenic Spots to Visit on a Wisconsin RV Trip

With more than 1,000 miles of shoreline and abundant state parks, Wisconsin’s outdoor recreation offerings make for an epic RV road trip.

By Robert Annis

Photo: Robert Annis

I spent 2 weeks this summer driving, hiking, and biking over endless rolling hills covered by forests of birch, pine, and oak in Wisconsin. No ocean? The Badger State has more than 1,000 miles of gorgeous shoreline along two Great Lakes and the Mississippi River, perfect for paddling, fishing, and swimming. 

Wisconsin state parks charge entry fees, some reaching $11 a day or higher. Depending on how much time you plan to spend in the parks, it might be worth buying the $38 annual out-of-state pass.

Here are the top spots not to miss during an RV trip to Wisconsin. 

Door County

The Door County peninsula reminds me of Maine’s Acadia National Park with its unpretentious tourist towns, beautiful pine forests, and water activities. Instead of lobster, Door County fisherman catch delicious whitefish, which is then boiled in traditional Scandinavian fashion at restaurants and inns along the coast. Five state parks—Potawatomi, Whitefish Dunes, Peninsula, Newport, and Rock Island—and several county parks offer a wealth of outdoor recreation opportunities.

Want more state park camping tips? Check out The RVer’s Guide to State Park Campgrounds for more information on booking campsites in Wisconsin.

Available to download here.

Highlights

The Eagle Trail in Peninsula State Park is strenuous and fun with lots of scrambles. For much of the hike, you walk between Green Bay and the Niagara Escarpment bluffs, a unique type of dolomite and limestone rock that’s found along the northern U.S. and southern Canada glacial route. 

Trailhead marking a difficult trail that leads to views of a lake
Photo: Robert Annis

Nearby, Peninsula Kayak Co. takes visitors on a 2-hour paddling tour along the coast of Cave Point County Park, where you can float into small open caves. The waves can be a bit choppy, but they’re still manageable to paddle.

Whitefish Dunes State Park has a beach and some hiking trails. The view from atop Mount Baldy is a bit disappointing, but the peaceful hike features a lake breeze and nature sounds. 

How to Get There by RV

Part of a peninsula north of Green Bay, Door County is a destination, not a pit stop. WI-57 and WI-42 run the length of the county. 

Where to Stay

Hy-Land RV Park is a clean, quiet, and laid-back campground offering full hookup sites, many that accommodate larger rigs. 

Potawatomi State Park has 40 electric-only sites, plus 80 primitive ones. There are also two paved ADA sites.

Other RV Campground Options


Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

The best way to see the Apostle Islands is by boat, but there are plenty of other outdoor activities in the surrounding area.  

Highlights

I signed up for a guided sea-cave tour with outfitter Trek and Trail, but beware—there’s a reason why locals call Lake Superior “the Boss.” After paddling into the first cave, the tour guides decided to turn back early because of the choppy waves. 

Experienced kayakers can bring their own boat and explore on their own. Too much of an adventure? Apostle Islands Cruises offers a guided boat tour. 

Three kayakers paddle into a small cave formed from eroding rock on a lake coastline
Photo: Robert Annis

If you launch from Meyer’s Beach, arrive early to hike the 6-mile Lakeshore Trail—the first sea cave overlook is about 2 miles in. It’s a rugged hike with stream crossings and some steep sections, so wear proper hiking footwear.

Mountain bikers should ride the singletrack at Mount Ashwabay. Tsuga Daddy rolls 6 miles across rolling hills. Only 16 miles of trail are ready to ride, so you might have to do one or two trails twice. Afterward, stop by Howl, a bike shop and bar. A mechanical wolf stands in front of the shop and visitors can pedal a contraption underneath to make its head move.

Music fans, check the concert schedule for Big Top Chautauqua. My trip happened to coincide with a visit from singer-songwriter Steve Earle. 

How to Get There by RV

WI-13 follows the perimeter of the peninsula pointing toward the Apostle Islands, with two-lane county roads crisscrossing the interior. RVers shouldn’t have any problems navigating the area.

Where to Stay

The Apostle Islands Area RV Park is well laid-out and clean with a friendly staff. Campers will appreciate the open-air laundry facility. 

Operated by the U.S. Forest Service, Wanoka Lake Campground has 20 first-come, first-served primitive campsites next to ATV trails and a stocked trout lake.

Other RV Campground Options


Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest 

At 1.5 million acres, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest spans most of northern Wisconsin. With more than 600 lakes and miles of hiking and biking trails, there’s plenty of outdoor excitement to be had here.

Highlights

Mountain biking is popular in the area. The trails at ROAM Adventure Basecamp are surprisingly challenging. I also rode an intermediate singletrack, built by CAMBA (Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association), that made excellent use of the limited elevation.  

Mountain bike resting against a trail head post
Photo: Robert Annis

This area of Wisconsin is known for winter sports like snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. The Hayward area is home to the American Birkebeiner, the largest cross-country ski race in the U.S., and more than 60 miles of free trails are open to the public. 

Located 14 miles northeast of Hayward, the Spider Chain of Lakes consists of five interconnected lakes—Clear, Big Spider, Little Spider, Fawn, and North—that draw anglers from across the state. Walleye, muskie, bass, and panfish are common catches.

How to Get There by RV

US-8 bisects the national forest, with multiple highways and county roads heading north and south. 

Where to Stay

Boulder Lake Campground, located in the eastern half of the national forest, sits on the aforementioned lake. There’s a small beach and a decent-size boat launch just down from the campground. Several sites have electrical hookups, a rarity for Forest Service-managed campsites east of the Mississippi River. 

Campground sign for Boulder Lake Campground in Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest
Photo: Robert Annis

On the western side of the national forest, ROAM Adventure Basecamp offers primitive sites with a few much-appreciated amenities like coin-operated showers and even a sauna. This campground has a lot of comradery and offers rental cabins if you’re traveling with a group.

Other RV Campground Options


Perrot State Park

Perrot State Park is a convenient 1- or 2-day stop while traveling through Wisconsin. It’s ideal for RVers looking for quiet solitude along the banks of the Mississippi River.

Highlights

The Brady’s Bluff trail offers terrific views of the Mississippi, but be aware that it’s not a loop—I misread my map and wound up practically on the other side of the park.

Perrot State Park rents kayaks—the cost is $15 for 3 hours—for paddling on the Mississippi River. The route can be difficult, as you’re fighting the river current for about half the trip. Keep an eye out for wildlife like bald eagles and herons. 

Wide angle view of a lake with lush green marshes surrounding it
Photo: Robert Annis

Visitors can access the 24-mile Great River State Trail directly from the state park campground. The rail trail is suitable for biking and walking, and in the winter for snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. Heading east on the trail takes you through a wildlife refuge, while the westbound part passes through wetland areas and connects to the LaCrosse River State Trail.

How to Get There by RV

Most RVers will arrive via WI-35 or the nicely paved county roads. I didn’t come across any road obstacles or hazards that would make traveling in a large RV difficult.

Where to Stay

The state park campground is decent with well-spaced sites. 

Lake Road Campground is located less than 10 minutes southeast of the state park and offers 23 RV sites, as well as two cottages. If you’re traveling with a four-legged companion, take advantage of the campground’s dog park. 

Other RV Campground Options


Devil’s Lake State Park

The largest and most popular state park in Wisconsin is Devil’s Lake. Nearly 30 miles of hiking and biking trails surround the crystal-blue lake and reach into the forests to the east.

Highlights

The hike up the 1.7-mile (one-way) East Bluff trail is steep and rocky, but offers spectacular views of the lake below. Two natural rock features, Balanced Rock and the Devil’s Doorway, are the two main attractions. Balanced Rock is about 0.3 miles down a side trail, and if you visit on a busy day, expect more foot traffic. The East Bluff Woods trail is easier, and I recommend hiking it on your return trip. 

Rock formation framing an aerial view of a lake
Photo: Robert Annis

The 1.4-mile (one-way) West Bluff trail has its share of challenges and terrific views of the water, but isn’t as steep. It’s an ideal option if you’re looking to avoid the crowds on the East Bluff trail. Other trails in the park aren’t as hilly, and some, like the 2.4-mile Steinke Basin Loop, allow bicycles.

During my visit, the lakefront beach was crowded. The beachfront store rents kayaks by the hour.

If you’re staying for multiple days, take a side trip to Natural Bridge State Park, about 30 minutes southwest. The 25-foot sandstone arch is accessible via a short hike.

How to Get There by RV

US-12 parallels the park from the west, while WI-113 mirrors it from the east. 

Where to Stay

Devil’s Lake has three campgrounds—Quartzite, Northern Lights, and Ice Age—with a total of more than 400 campsites, but they quickly book up. The campgrounds are well maintained, but can be noisy at night.

Nearby Skillet Creek Campground is a quieter alternative to the state park, with free hot showers, a game room, and movie nights.

Other RV Campground Options


midwestRoad TripsRV Travel

Robert Annis

After spending nearly a decade as a reporter for The Indianapolis Star, Robert Annis became an award-winning outdoor-travel journalist. Over the years, Robert's byline has appeared in numerous publications and websites, including Outside, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, Men's Journal, Lonely Planet, and more. If you’re looking for Robert, chances are you'll find him either pedaling the backroads and trails of the Midwest on his bicycle or hunched over his laptop in an airport bar, frantically trying to make his next deadline.

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