Milwaukee Area State Parks to Explore This Summer

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Find State Parks Near Milwaukee to Enjoy with Your Family!

state parks and camprgrounds

Find Milwaukee Area State Parks to explore this Summer with your family! Want to go alone? Take a hiking day for yourself. Date night? Why not! What’s more romantic than a trail walk around the lake? There are so many great parks and nature areas to choose from, whether you are looking for a beach, great hiking, an easy walk, boating, or camping.

Governor Dodge State Park
Explore the State Parks this Summer!

Important Things to Know

  • You need a WI State Park Pass to use the State Park System. You can buy an annual pass online, and use the receipt until your sticker comes in. Day passes, and annual passes are not for sale onsite.
  • Some sites are still closed to the public for safety reasons. Be sure to check the latest COVID-19 updates on the DNR website to make sure the Milwaukee Area State Park you want to visit is open!
  • Many parks have capacity limits and are busy, especially during peak daytime hours on the weekends. If you want to avoid big crowds or make sure you can get in, consider going early in the morning or in the late afternoon, or visiting on the weekend.
  • The current hours of operation are from 6 am to 11 pm daily.
  • Restrooms, shelters, and other amenities are open, but keep these special considerations in mind before heading out.
  • Campsites are now open and taking reservations, with the exception of group and equestrian sites, and closed parks. Some amenities at parks not available, so be sure to plan your trip accordingly. Some of these great tips for camping with kids can help you prepare, especially if you’ve not gone before.
  • Ticks are a common concern every year. Wear long pants in the woods and long grass, use repellant, and check for ticks. For more info, check out this post from Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin about dealing with ticks.
Keep it clean
Clean up after yourself on the trails!

Take Care of the Space

Please do not litter or destroy natural areas. We may be used to play places and parks with cleaning staff and convenient trash cans. However, the state park system relies on the Leave No Trace principles to keep the Milwaukee Area State Parks clean and healthy. Please be respectful and lead by example. Teach your children to respect nature, other visitors, and how to be good citizens! We can’t trash the trails and expect them to pick up their toys. Please use care and remember that you would want others to keep it clean for you.

Milwaukee Area State Parks

There are many beautiful State Parks in the Milwaukee Area. See below for a list of favorites! To find somewhere new to explore, you can visit the DNR site for the full list of Wisconsin State Parks.

Aztalan State Park, Lake Mills

Aztalan State Park
Explore a site from 1000 BC!

Aztalan State Park has gorgeous trails running along the lake and through 38 acres of forest. This park is a historical site for ancient Native American civilizations. My kids loved exploring somewhere that had so much history and so many cool things to learn. There are two mounds still intact. Most of the park is open prairie, with lots of room to run and play. There is also a small museum and access to fishing, boating, and shelters.

Big Foot Beach State Park, Lake Geneva

Bigfoot Beach DNR
Big Foot Beach State Park, courtesy of WI DNR

Big Foot Beach is located by Geneva Lake. Watersports, beach access, and camping are all popular at this park. There are also trails and play areas, which are both great options for kids! If you are looking for a family-friendly spot to camp and hang out at the beach, this is your park!

Harrington Beach State Park, Belgium

Harrington Beach
Harrington State Park Beach, courtesy of WI DNR

Harrington Beach State Park is one of the many great spots along Lake Michigan. This park features beach access, swimming, canoeing, and kayaking. If you want to stay on land, there is access to hiking, biking, and horse riding trails. If you are an avid stargazer, you might enjoy visiting The Jim and Gwen Plunkett Observatory.

Havenwoods State Forest, Milwaukee

Havenwoods
Spend a day hiking and exploring.

Havenwoods State Forest has a really interesting history and has become a gorgeous piece of nature in the city. Take a hike or job on over six miles of trail, or bike on the limestone trail. Check out the wetlands, grasslands, and gardens. There are picnic areas in the Urban Arboretum. This is a great day out for anyone in the city who wants to get away! The Environmental Awareness Center features seasonal exhibits and runs various programs throughout the year.

 

 

Kettle Moraine State Forest

Lapham Peak Unit, Delafield

Lapham Peak
Tower at Lapham Peak

The Lapham Peak Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest is by far my favorite place to take my kids. There is a butterfly garden, prairies to run or explore, easy trails, difficult trails, paved trails, and gorgeous scenery. I hike there with my kids year-round. There are also trails for snowsports, biking, and running.

Northern Unit, Campbellsport

Northern Unit
New Fane Trail Area

The Kettle Moraine Northern Unit has fantastic hiking. My kids love the New Fane Trail area. It is easy for them to hike, and they can run around between mown and dirt paths. Cell service is always a bit of a problem for me in that area, so be sure to know your way home!

Pike Lake Unit, Hartford

Kettle Moraine Pike Lake Unit
Pike Lake Courtesy of WI DNR

Pike Lake Unit in the Kettle Moraine State Forest is a gorgeous natural area of hiking trails and camping on and around Pike Lake. This park has everything you could possibly want in a vaca spot or afternoon getaway. Bring your family for a weekend of camping, a beach day, canoeing and boating, hiking, or fishing.

Kohler-Andrae State Park, Sheboygan

Kohler-Andrae State Park
Hang out at Lake Michigan! Photo courtesy of the WI DNR

Kohler-Andrae State Park is another amazing park on the shoreline of Lake Michigan. This park has beautiful areas, camping, trails, biking, fishing, and a nature center. Kohler-Andrae is one of the Milwaukee Area State Parks you could easily camp at for a week, with plenty to do during the day.

Lakeshore State Park, Milwaukee

Lakeshore Park
Visit the State Park in Downtown Milwaukee. Photo by DNR

Lakeshore State Park is in downtown Milwaukee, right on Lake Michigan, with access from the Hank Aaron State Trail and the Oak Leaf Trail. Walk along the shoreline and take in the views of Lake Michigan, the Milwaukee Skyline, the short grass prairies.

If you are looking for other ideas and resources for the coming months, we have a Summer guide for you! If you’re not quite comfortable heading to a campground yet, please check out our backyard camping suggestions!

 

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Jess
Jess grew up near Madison and has lived in the Milwaukee area since 2013. She's a mom to four small children, who love to make crafts out of garbage, draw on walls, and make creepy, creepy masks. She also has two teenagers who live with their dad in Madison. She loves to watch them all grow to be amazing, unique humans. She spends her time outdoors with her feral little family, hiking at State Parks, camping, or visiting new parks. She also loves helping them make messes and create art... but hates the clean-up. She is a freelance writer, editor, and marketer for a living, and spends the free time she has left working on personal writing and art projects. She's involved in social justice and advocacy work and is particularly interested in LGBTQIA+ issues. She stays involved in politics and her community and is always looking for ways she can help to make a positive difference and spread awareness to inspire change. When she isn't busy with those things, she can be found binge watching Netflix, reading, listening to new music, and wasting her life on Facebook.

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