We are surrounded by natural beauty in south central Wisconsin and the Wisconsin State Parks offer the perfect opportunity to enjoy that beauty. They are fun to explore with kids of all ages. From picnics and easy hikes, to swimming on sandy beaches – or just looking at the natural beauty of a waterfall or an expansive vista. The state parks offer a great chance to get out and explore and we are fortunate to have THIRTEEN within an hours drive of Madison, Wisconsin!
1: Aztalan State Park
Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966, Aztalan (pronounced AZ-tuh-lan) is “Wisconsin’s first town,” the site of an ancient Middle-Mississippian village established there more than 1,000 years ago.
This park made up of woodlands & open prairie offers activities such as hiking (easy 2 mile trail), picnicking, fishing, canoeing & boating.
2: Blue Mound State Park
Blue Mounds, WI
Click here to read more: Go, See, Explore Blue Mound State Park
Located atop the largest hill in the southern half of the state, near the village of Blue Mounds; this park has a swimming pool, hiking trails, biking & cross-country skiing trails & a campground in a hilltop park.
3: Capital Springs State Park
One of the newest additions to the state park system, Capital Spring State Park provides many outdoor recreational opportunities and is the only state park in an urban part of Madison, WI. It connects to Capital City State Trail and has an expansive park and scenic natural area with hiking trails, fishing ponds, a picnic shelter & local wildlife.
4: Cross Plains State Park
Cross Plains, WI
This area contains an outstanding collection of glacial land forms, a gorge carved by meltwater and expansive views of both driftless and glaciated terrain that makes this part of the Ice Age National Scientific Reserve.
5: Devil’s Lake State Park
Perhaps the most popular state park – Devil’s Lake State Park offers magnificent views from 500-foot quartzite bluffs overlooking a 360-acre lake. They also have sandy beaches, hiking, picnicking, campsites & concessions. Children’s play areas including climbing gyms and slides are located throughout the park.
6: Governor Dodge State Park
Governor Dodge State Park is one of the Wisconsin’s largest parks, with over 5,000 acres of steep hills, sandstone bluffs and deep valleys plus two lakes and a waterfall. It also has 2 swimming lakes, hiking, off-road biking trails & more.
7: Governor Nelson State Park
Picturesque park featuring a beach on Lake Mendota, trails through woods & prairies & a playground.
8: Lake Kegonsa State Park
Picturesque park with prairie, forest & marsh habitats plus a 3200 acre lake. Lake Kegonsa offers swimming, fishing, water-skiing, sailing, and motor boating.
9: Mirror Lake State Park
10: Natural Bridge State Park
North Freedom, WI
Natural Bridge State Park is a 530-acre park. It features Wisconsin’s largest natural arch (a 25-foot-high natural sandstone arch carved by erosion). Directly beneath the arch is the Raddatz Rockshelter, a rock shelter once used by Paleo-Indians and now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There is also an interpretive trail.
11: New Glarus Woods State Park
New Glarus, WI
A 431-acre park featuring rolling hills covered by a mix of forest and prairie. The Sugar River State Trail connects to the park, making the park accessible by bike. This trail also connects to the Badger State Trail.
12: Tower Hill State Park
Spring Green, WI
Beautifully sited above the Wisconsin River – offering panoramic views, 77-acre Tower Hill State Park provides campsites, nature and hiking trails, canoeing, and picnicking facilities. It contains the reconstructed Helena Shot Tower. The original shot tower was completed in 1832 and manufactured lead shot until 1860. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
13: Yellowstone Lake State Park
Expansive park featuring a 455-acre lake reservoir on a tributary of the Pecatonica River. It has campsites, horse trails, fishing, swimming and boating. The state park is included in the 4,047-acre Yellowstone Lake State Wildlife Area.