Top 5 National Parks in Wisconsin

March 10, 2023

national parks in Wisconsin

From breathtaking geological wonders to incredible lakeshores and stunning riverways, Wisconsin is home to a variety of national parks.

Wisconsin has a long history of protecting natural beauty. That heritage is evident everywhere from the soaring cliffs at Mirror Lake State Park to the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

A captivating blend of Lake Superior shoreline, natural animal habitats and old-growth remnant forests make Apostle Islands National Lakeshore a must-visit destination. With so many ways to explore these jewels of the Great Lakes, this park has something for everyone!

A popular kayaking spot, the Apostle Islands also offer scuba diving opportunities, shipwrecks, and underwater caves. These waters are home to many kinds of fish, including lake trout and salmon.

Adding to the fun are more than fifty miles of maintained hiking trails. Visitors can also catch a glimpse of local culture, hear stories of early settlers and take in the sights along pristine beaches.

Necedah National Wildlife Refuge

Necedah National Wildlife Refuge is famous for the successful reintroduction of Canada geese (1939), wild turkey (1952), mallard ducks (1960's), trumpeter swans (1994) and whooping cranes (2001). Other threatened and endangered species make their home here including Blanding's turtle, massasauga rattlesnake and Karner blue butterfly.

The 43,656-acre refuge was established in 1939 as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife. The habitat mosaic, maintained by prescribed burning, seasonal mowing, and timber clearing, attracts a wide variety of wildlife, such as whooping cranes, wolves, Karner blue butterflies, white-tailed deer, ringed bog hunter dragonflies in sedge meadows, flying squirrels in upland hardwood timber, and trumpeter swans in marshes.

Mirror Lake State Park

Mirror Lake State Park, located in the Wisconsin Dells, is a 2,179-acre park with over 20 miles of hiking trails. Many of the trails take you directly to the shores of Mirror Lake, where you'll enjoy scenic views of the calm waters.

In addition to hiking, the park also features mountain biking and kayaking. A handful of short trails are just under a mile long, making them ideal for beginners and those looking to get a taste of nature.

The park is known for its wildlife, which thrives in its sandy marshes, fields, open woodlands and steep valleys. Common animals you'll encounter include deer, raccoons, squirrels, bats, chipmunks and beavers. Others can be harder to spot, including red foxes and eastern moles.

Amnicon Falls State Park

This 825-acre park near Superior, Wisconsin, is home to a series of waterfalls that run along the Amnicon River. It's divided into the Upper and Lower Falls areas, and swimming is allowed in both.

Geologists believe that this spectacular set of waterfalls was created as a result of a half-billion-year-old earthquake. This event caused a collision between the volcanic basalt rock and the sedimentary sandstone.

The resulting rock cliffs were then eroded and formed into a series of waterfalls. The Amnicon Falls are a classic example of this geological event.

Previously a logging, mining and trapping site, Amnicon Falls State Park now protects a protected forest teeming with wildlife. Pine, borrel, white birch and traces of aspen shade 1.8 miles of hiking trails.

Ice Age National Scenic Trail

The Ice Age National Scenic Trail, one of the nation's 11 scenic trails, is a premier hiking trail that highlights geography sculpted by ancient glaciers. The 1,200-mile trail winds through countless Wisconsin landscapes, ranging from rocky terrain to grassy prairies and along bodies of water like Lake Michigan and the Wisconsin River.

The trail is also an excellent place to learn about the state's history. It was born from the vision of Milwaukee attorney Ray Zillmer, who envisioned an 800-mile national park that would preserve the evidence of the Great Wisconsin Glacier and how our land was formed.

Today, the trail is built and maintained by the Ice Age Trail Alliance with 21 chapters across the state. Trained volunteers work as Mobile Skills Crews (MSC) to build, maintain and promote high-quality, environmentally friendly segments of the Ice Age Trail.


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