Our life usually consists of rushing from one activity to the next, but the pandemic has given us time to slow down and explore local areas and parks. It’s been fun seeking out new outdoor spots. When I saw the post about WI area waterfalls, we couldn’t pass up the chance to check out Governor Dodge State Park.
Park + Logistics
Spanning about 5,000 acres, the park is full of a little bit of everything for everyone. Short, medium and long trails with varying difficulties and landscapes. There are two lakes with beaches, boat rentals, a dog beach, bathroom facilities and two campgrounds. There’s even horseback riding trails and campsites. Along many of the trails, there are hidden natural and man-made Wisconsin treasures like a waterfall, an old fashioned refrigerator house from the 1850s, old farm equipment, and evidence of miners and farmers who once lived and worked on the land.
Annual or day parking passes can be purchased online. FYI…we saw cars with parking tickets so they are checking. There are parking lots near each trail head. Leashed dogs are allowed on the trails, too.
Our Quirky Day at Governor Dodge
We were surprised by the sandstone cliffs that lined the roads on our drive out to the park. Apparently the long ago glaciers spared this small pocket of land leaving rolling hills and cliffs. My kids were taken aback by this as well. One asked if we were still in America? I promise we normally travel, but apparently he needs to do more of this!
We parked at the Stephens Falls trail head and were joined by 40 other cars. Warning: It’s busy on the weekends! Our dog was thrilled to be in a new place and pulled the whole way down the paved 0.3 mile path to the waterfall. We then carefully walked down the steep rocks to the bottom of the 20ft waterfall where a 15 person wedding was taking place. Our dog could barely handle the excitement of going down this steep rock trail and pulled so hard on his leash that it broke. He briefly became part of the wedding. Good thing we could all hide behind our masks.
We decided to check out some less crowded areas of the park and made our way back up the steep path. The distance between the rock steps is a lot for little ones. There’s moss so it’s slippery. I had to lift my daughter up onto each rock. Outdoor exercise is the best! We then walked up part of the Goldmine Trail to find one of the old 1850s refrigerators that sits on top of a cold spring and was used to keep milk and other foods cool in the summer. We also checked out old plows and signs discussing geology and Native Americans that lived on the land. Bringing up the glaciers gave my son an idea for our next adventure to Greenland. I’m not sure if we’ll make it there this year!
Our dog was done exploring at this point so we headed back to the car to check out other areas of the park. We found sandy beaches, campsites, and horse trails. All areas we would visit again – but maybe on a weekday. Only a few minutes into the drive home, we spotted an old cargo plane and stopped off for a visit, just to notice a Ferrari convention across the street.
The day was full of a few unexpected moments, but we’ll definitely head back to Governor Dodge to explore more of the trails and camp! I’m sure it’s beautiful in the fall.