The 10 Best Lake Camping Destinations in Wisconsin

Posted by
Brittany Varano
May 03, 2021
Updated November 19, 2021

best lake camping wisconsin
Photo: Jason Patrick Ross, Shutterstock

Bordered by two Great Lakes and dotted with more than 15,000 additional lakes throughout the state, lake camping in Wisconsin is readily accessible with plenty of options.

There’s a lot more in Wisconsin than craft beer and delicious cheese (though those two things shouldn’t be missed!) America’s Dairyland also lays claim to some exciting lake adventures in well-maintained state parks and forests. In the far north, you can set up camp on an island in Lake Superior and kayak through jaw-dropping sandstone cliffs. For beach time and sandy shores, look to the east along Lake Michigan, where family-friendly campgrounds are ready to host.

Great Lakes aside, the smaller bodies of water in the state also offer incredible lake camping opportunities. No matter whether your plans include fishing, swimming, or boating, check out Wisconsin’s best lake camping for endless water fun.

 Related: Michigan National Park Guide: Everything You Need to Know

1. Devils Lake State Park

devils lake wisconsin
Photo: Shutterstock

Why you should camp here: Fantastic hiking up and over rocky bluffs overlooking beautiful Devil’s Lake.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Spring, Summer, Fall
  • Campsite type: Tents, RVs
  • RV hookups: Yes

Devil’s Lake State Park is tucked away in south-central Wisconsin, about 30 minutes south of the Wisconsin Dells. It’s a favorite natural attraction for locals itching to grill out, hike, kayak, swim, and enjoy the unique natural surroundings. It’s also a top spot for photographers for the obvious reasons.

There are three different campgrounds in the park for a total of 400 campsites with a mix of electric and non-electric sites. The Northern Lights and Quartzite grounds feature sites with RV electrical hookups and a dump station.

Each campsite has a designated area for parking, a picnic table, a metal fire pit, and enough room to pitch a tent. While none of the sites have shoreline access or views of the lake, they’re all within easy walking distance.

Related read: 10 Amazing Small Towns in Wisconsin for a Charming Escape

2. Northern Highland American Legion State Forest

Northern Highland American Legion State Forest
Photo: Jason Patrick Ross, Shutterstock

Why you should camp here: Take your pick from 18 different campgrounds near more than 900 lakes.

  • Reservations accepted: Some
  • Best season: Summer, Fall
  • Campsite type: Tents, RVs
  • RV hookups: No

The Northern Highland American Legion State Forest encompasses more than 236,000 acres of protected forest in northern Wisconsin. Lake camping here is all about hiking, exploring, and trying to catch sight of the majestic bald eagles and great horned owls that call the region home.

The forest has numerous lakeside campgrounds to choose from varying from modern to more rustic camping getaways. Clear Lake and Crystal Lake are two popular grounds with modern facilities and visitor centers.

There are also remote primitive campsites, backcountry camping, and canoe-accessible sites for those looking to rough it. These sites are scattered across the forest around Allequash Lake, Bittersweet Lake, Prong Lake, Clear Lake, etc. You’ll need a special permit and GPS coordinates to find them.

Related Read: 10 Cozy & Comfortable Wisconsin Tiny Home Vacation Rentals

3. Newport State Park

Newport State Park Wisconsin
Photo: Mark Baldwin, Shutterstock

Why you should camp here: Hike-in backpacker campsites along the shores of Lake Michigan.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Spring, Summer, Fall
  • Campsite type: Tents (hike- or kayak-in only)
  • RV hookups: No

Newport State Park is tucked away on a quiet strip of protected Lake Michigan shoreline. The park is less than an hour north of Door County’s charming towns like Egg Harbor and Sturgeon Bay, and the attractions of Washington Island are also a short ferry away. This is one of the most scenic and popular areas for lake camping in Wisconsin.

Only tent camping is allowed and every campsite enjoys shoreline access. There are three first-come, first-serve sites available and 16 you can reserve up to 11 months in advance. Everything you hike in you’ll have to hike out, including garbage. There’s a pit toilet and each site has a fire ring and a lockbox.

Campers come to Newport park to indulge in fantastic swimming, fishing, and kayaking. There are also 30 miles of hiking trails, and in the winter, snowshoeing and cross country skiers take over. Newport is also a dark-sky preserve that offers exceptional stargazing.

Related Read: 11 Incredible Airbnbs in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

4. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore wisconsin
Photo: Shutterstock

Why you should camp here: Camp on Wisconsin’s northernmost point on a cluster of Lake Superior islands.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Summer, Fall, Winter
  • Campsite type: Tent (hike- or kayak-in only)
  • RV hookups: No

The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is an exciting destination that attracts thousands of hikers, kayakers, and campers every year. There are no drive-up campsites available. Instead, you’ll have to hike or kayak to reach the camps either on the mainland or on one of 18 islands (there are 21 total.)

You’ll need a camping permit, and reservations are possible, but they can only be made up to 30 days in advance. There are also public and reservable docks if your idea if lake camping in Wisconsin involved sleeping on the water (in a boat, that is.)

The best thing to do at the Apostles is to kayak along the islands’ shores past striking sandstone formations thousands of years old. Since the waters can be rough, make sure you have sea kayaks, not lake kayaks.  When the conditions are right in the winter, the waters of Lake Superior transform the sandstone cliffs into jaw-dropping ice caves. Make sure you have your kayak skirt and waterproof clothing.

Related read: 10 Beautiful Scenic Drives in Wisconsin

5. Mirror Lake State Park

Mirror Lake Wisconsin Camping
Photo: David Prahl, Getty Images

Why you should camp here: Sandstone cliffs and thick woods surround a peaceful 139-acre lake not far from the Wisconsin Dells.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Spring, Summer, Fall
  • Campsite type: Tents, RVs
  • RV hookups: Yes

Mirror Lake is best known for its sandstone cliffs and calm waters that perfectly reflect the surrounding natural formations. In the fall, the lake comes alive with vibrant oranges, reds, and yellows and is truly a sight to see.

The state park includes the surrounding woods, where spacious campsites, biking and hiking trails, a swimming-friendly beach, and boat launches welcome plenty of family fun.

The park has three campsites available; Sandstone Ridge, Cliffwood, or Bluewater Bay, which can be booked from May through October. A few spot have electric hookups and every site is furnished with a fire ring, picnic table, and sandy tent area.

Related Read: The 9 Absolute Best State Parks in Wisconsin

6. Kohler Andrae State Park

Kohler Andrae State Park
Photo: Tony Savino, Shutterstock

Why you should camp here: Spacious campground on Lake Michigan, an hour north of Milwaukee.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Summer
  • Campsite type: Tents, RVs
  • RV hookups: Yes

Sand dunes, beaches, and boardwalk-lined trails are what make the campgrounds at Kohler Andrae State Park one of the most popular places for lake camping in Wisconsin come summer. When people aren’t soaking up sunshine or out on Lake Michigan, they’re grilling out, exploring the hiking trails, or visiting the nearby attractions in Sheboygan.

The park features modern camp facilities with flush toilets and showers, laundry facilities, a dump station, and picnic shelters. RVs, campers, and tents are all welcomed and, like most Wisconsin state parks, can be booked 11 months in advance. Kohler Andrae is open to campers even in the winter, although some facilities close down during the off-season. Pets are also allowed in the park but must be leashed.

Additional Read: 11 Waterfalls in Wisconsin Not to be Missed

7. Wyalusing State Park

Wyalusing State Park
Photo: Shutterstock

Why you should camp here: Sleep at the confluence of the mighty Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Spring, Summer, Fall
  • Campsite type: Tents, RVs
  • RV hookups: Yes

Excellent bird watching, historical Native American burial mounds, and panoramic bluffs await you at Wyalusing State Park. The park technically doesn’t offer lake camping, but the fantastic waterside locale is worth mentioning.

There are two campgrounds to choose from at Wyalusing: The Homestead or Wisconsin Ridge. The Homestead campgrounds are known for their wooded, quiet, and large sites. But for fantastic bird’s-eye views of the rivers, the Wisconsin Ridge is where it’s at. If you’re able to secure a coveted spot along the northern ridge, you’ll be rewarded with beautiful sunset views over the rivers.

Both campgrounds welcome pets and can be reserved 11 months in advance, with a smattering of first-come, first-serve sites available.

Related Read: 12 Tranquil Lake House Airbnbs Around the U.S.

8. Peninsula State Park

Peninsula State Park Wisconsin Lake Camping
Photo: Getty Images

Why you should camp here: Wildly popular Door County campsite with tons to do nearby.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Summer, Fall
  • Campsite type: Tents, RV’s
  • RV hookups: Yes

In Wisconsin’s beloved Door County, Peninsula State Park has something for every camper. The park features sandy beaches on Lake Michigan, biking and hiking trails, a historic lighthouse, bluffs to see, and even an 18-hole golf course.

There are more than 450 sites between five different campgrounds. Some feature electric hookups, and many sites can be reserved in advance. Since this is one of the most popular Wisconsin lake camping destinations, you’ll want to make your plans as soon as possible.

If you’re traveling with a boat, the state park has public boat launches and fishing piers available for use. Most of the campsites are encircled by woods and are a short five-minute walk to the lake. The lovely Door County communities of Fish Creek and Ephraim are also just a short drive away, where you can sip wine, sample local fare, and visit boutique shops.

9. Buckhorn State Park

Castle Rock Lake Camping Wisconsin
Photo: Michael Rolands, Shutterstock

Why you should camp here: Escape to one of the quieter lake camping destinations in the state.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Spring, Summer Fall
  • Campsite type: Tents, RV’s
  • RV hookups: Yes

Just over an hour to the east of La Crosse, Buckhorn State Park is a protected peninsula on Castle Rock Lake. The lake is a reservoir formed at the meeting point of the Yellow and Wisconsin Rivers and is known as an excellent place to fish for salmon, Wisconsin trout, and bluegill.

The diverse landscape of Buckhorn is what makes it unique, and campers can hike to see wind-swept dunes, lush wetlands and forests, open prairie grasslands, and unique bird species. Most areas of Wisconsin don’t have this many ecosystems packed into one park.

Buckhorn has 69 campsites and modern bath and shower facilities. Take your pick between drive-in, hike-in, and even boat-in site options during your stay. There are also picnic shelters, volleyball nets, horseshoe pits, and spacious recreational areas.

10. Lake Wissota State Park

Lake Wissota Camping Wisconsin
Photo: Jacob Boomsma, Shutterstock

Why you should camp here: A 6,300-acre lake with boat rentals and ranger-led family programs.

  • Reservations accepted: Yes
  • Best season: Summer, Fall
  • Campsite type: Tents, RV’s
  • RV hookups: Yes

Lake Wissota is a large human-made lake northeast of Chippewa Falls and less than 30 minutes from Eau Claire. The park has secluded campsites and grounds equipped with hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails. As the weather gets warmer in the summer, campers come to Lake Wissota to swim and get active in the water. It gets crowded, but since the lake is huge, you’ll never feel like other boats are getting too close.

There are 116 wooded campsites to choose from and several showers, flush toilets, and dumping stations available in the park. Other camping amenities include a playground for the kiddos, picnic areas, reservable shelters, and large tent group campsites. Outside of the Wissota Lake State Park, visitors can visit the birthplace of Leinenkugel beer or venture to Eau Claire for a day spent wandering the city.

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