Backpacking in Wisconsin: Uncover Hidden Trails and Gems

Backpacking in wisconsin

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Backpacking in Wisconsin is mind-blowing! Are you an adventurous backpacker searching for your next exciting destination? Look no further than Wisconsin! The state offers an abundance of hidden trails and gems.

Waiting to be discovered by enthusiastic hikers. With its diverse landscapes and stunning scenery, Wisconsin is the perfect place to embark on a backpacking journey and explore the great outdoors.

From the glacial landscape of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail to the wilderness adventure of Nicolet National Forest, Wisconsin offers an array of backpacking experiences for every level of hiker. 

Whether you’re searching for a serene journey or an adrenaline-pumping trek, Wisconsin’s hidden trails and gems won’t disappoint.

Key Takeaways:

The Ice Age National Scenic Trail: A Backpacker’s Paradise

Ice Age National Scenic Trail

As a backpacker in Wisconsin, I have come across some of the most beautiful trails in the state. 

However, the Ice Age National Scenic Trail stands out as a true backpacker’s paradise. Spanning over 1,000 miles, this trail showcases the glacial landscape that characterizes the state. 

With more than 30 designated segments, you can discover the ancient wonders and breathtaking vistas along this iconic trail.

The Ice Age National Scenic Trail is a must-visit for any backpacker in Wisconsin. The trail offers a wide range of terrains, including rolling hills, scenic rivers, and expansive prairies. 

The trail’s unique features include kettles, moraines, and drumlins, which provide fascinating insights into the geological history of the state. 

You can hike through forests, open meadows, and rugged terrain, making it an ideal choice for adventurous backpackers.

Backpacking Trails in Wisconsin

The Ice Age National Scenic Trail is one of several backpacking trails in Wisconsin. 

Other popular trails include the North Country Trail, which stretches over 4,600 miles through seven states, and Kettle Moraine State Forest, which offers a range of backpacking opportunities for every skill level. 

Wisconsin hiking trails provide the perfect opportunity to explore the state’s natural beauty while challenging yourself physically.

Ice Age National Scenic Trail Facts

Trail FactsDetails
LengthOver 1,000 miles
Number of Designated Segments30+
Types of TerrainRolling hills, scenic rivers, expansive prairies, kettles, moraines, and drumlins

What to Expect on the Ice Age National Scenic Trail

Backpacking the Ice Age National Scenic Trail offers a range of experiences for backpackers

Along the trail, you can encounter wildlife, interesting geologic formations, and stunning vistas. You can also discover ancient Native American sites and historic settlements. 

The trail provides an opportunity to learn about the history and culture of Wisconsin while enjoying the beauty of its natural wonders.

If you plan to backpack the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, make sure you are well-prepared with proper gear, including a sturdy backpack, comfortable hiking shoes, and warm clothing. 

Some segments of the trail may require permits or reservations, so be sure to plan your route in advance. 

With its unique features and incredible beauty, the Ice Age National Scenic Trail is a backpacker’s paradise that should not be missed.

State Parks: Backpackers’ Haven

Wisconsin State Park backpacking

Wisconsin state parks are a treasure trove of natural beauty waiting to be explored by backpackers

With more than 100 state parks dotting the Wisconsin landscape, they offer some of the best backpacking experiences in the state.

Camp under the stars and wake up to birds chirping in the morning. 

Explore the hiking trails, take a dip in refreshing waters, or simply relax and soak up some sun. You’ll find something for every backpacker in Wisconsin state parks.

Backpacking Wisconsin State Parks

Wisconsin state parks offer a wide range of backpacking experiences. From rugged terrain to easy, scenic trails, there’s something for every backpacker’s skill level. Some popular parks for backpacking include:

Park NameLocationFeatures
Kettle Moraine State ForestSoutheastern WisconsinRolling hills, forest, hiking trails, campgrounds
Devil’s Lake State ParkBaraboo RangeCliffs, bluffs, hiking trails, swimming beach, campgrounds
Peninsula State ParkDoor CountyLake Michigan shoreline, hiking trails, campgrounds, kayaking

Camping and Hiking Trails

Backpackers in Wisconsin state parks can also enjoy camping and hiking trails. Many parks offer designated campsites for backpackers, complete with fire rings and picnic tables. 

Some even offer backpack campsites that are only accessible by foot, providing a true wilderness experience. State parks also provide a variety of hiking trails for backpackers. Some popular hikes include:

  • The Ice Age Trail
  • The North Country Trail
  • The Wisconsin River Trail

Camping Spots in Wisconsin State Parks

If you’re planning a backpacking trip to a Wisconsin state park, be sure to check out some of the camping spots available. 

From primitive campsites to modern, fully-equipped facilities, there’s something for every backpacker’s camping style. Some popular camping spots in Wisconsin state parks include:

  • Big Bay State Park
  • Chippewa Flowage State Recreation Area
  • Mirror Lake State Park

Whether you’re an experienced backpacker or a beginner, Wisconsin state parks offer a haven for backpacking enthusiasts.

Explore the hiking trails, camp under the stars, and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Wisconsin state parks.

The North Country Trail: A Serene Journey

North Country Trail

If you’re looking for backpacking routes in Wisconsin that offer solitude and breathtaking views, the North Country Trail should be at the top of your list. 

Spanning over 4,600 miles across seven states, including Wisconsin, this trail offers a serene journey through forests, meadows, and rugged terrain.

The North Country Trail in Wisconsin covers over 200 miles, providing ample opportunities for backpackers to explore the state’s natural beauty. 

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced backpacker, this trail has something to offer for everyone.

Trails Near Wisconsin

For those who want to venture beyond Wisconsin, the North Country Trail connects with other major trails, such as the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. 

These trails offer even more opportunities for backpacking and hiking adventures.

Wisconsin Backpacking Trip

Planning a backpacking trip in Wisconsin? The North Country Trail has numerous entry points throughout the state, including the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest and the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. 

These areas offer some of the best backpacking experiences in the state.

Backpacking Routes in Wisconsin

The North Country Trail in Wisconsin offers various backpacking routes, ranging from day hikes to multi-day trips. The trail is well-marked, making it easy to navigate and plan your trip accordingly.

Table: North Country Trail vs. Other Wisconsin Trails

 North Country TrailIce Age National Scenic TrailKettle Moraine State Forest
Distance~230 miles in WI~1,000 miles in WI~130 miles in WI
SceneryForests, meadows, rugged terrainGlacial landscapesRolling hills, glacial landscapes
Notable FeaturesChequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, Apostle Islands National LakeshoreGlacial drumlins, kettles, morainesLapham Peak, Pike Lake

“The North Country Trail is one of the best backpacking trails in Wisconsin. The pristine wilderness and breathtaking vistas make for an unforgettable journey.”

Are you ready to embark on a backpacking adventure in Wisconsin? The North Country Trail awaits, offering a serene journey through some of the state’s most beautiful landscapes.

Nicolet National Forest: A Wilderness Escape

backpacking in Nicolet National Forest

When it comes to backpacking destinations, Nicolet National Forest is a hidden gem in Wisconsin. With over 600,000 acres of forest, it offers endless opportunities for backpackers to immerse themselves in nature.

One of the most popular backpacking routes in Wisconsin is the Nicolet National Forest Backpacking Trail

This 14-mile trail takes backpackers through a scenic forested landscape and past several pristine lakes. The trail is moderate and can take up to two days to complete.

For those seeking more wilderness experiences in Wisconsin, Nicolet National Forest has several dispersed camping areas. 

These secluded campsites offer a chance to truly escape into nature. When preparing for a backpacking trip in Nicolet National Forest, make sure to bring appropriate backpacking gear. 

The forest can be rugged and remote, so it’s essential to pack essentials for your safety and comfort. Comfortable and sturdy hiking boots, a reliable map, and a backpacking stove are a few essential items to pack.

Whether you’re a seasoned backpacker or a novice, Nicolet National Forest is a must-visit destination for anyone exploring the wilderness of Wisconsin.

Nicolet National Forest Quick Facts

LocationNorth Central Wisconsin
SizeApproximately 661,000 acres
ActivitiesBackpacking, hiking, fishing, camping, wildlife watching

Kettle Moraine State Forest: Adventures Await

Kettle Moraine State Forest Backpacking

As an avid backpacker, Kettle Moraine State Forest in Wisconsin is one of my favorite destinations for outdoor adventures. 

With its rolling hills, glacial landscapes, and numerous campgrounds, it offers a range of backpacking opportunities for every skill level.

One of the best things about Kettle Moraine State Forest is the variety of trails available. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced backpacker, there’s a trail that will suit your needs. 

Some of the best backpacking spots in Wisconsin can be found within this state forest, including:

  • The Ice Age Trail, which offers stunning views of glacial formations and ancient landscapes.
  • The Northern Unit, which boasts challenging terrain and beautiful forests.
  • The Southern Unit, which features rolling hills and picturesque lakes.

Before embarking on your backpacking trip in Kettle Moraine State Forest, it’s important to pack the right essentials. 

In addition to the standard backpacking gear, such as a tent, sleeping bag, and cooking supplies, make sure to bring:

  1. A map and compass for navigation.
  2. Bug spray and sunscreen to protect yourself from the elements.
  3. A headlamp or flashlight for visibility at night.

As with any backpacking trip, it’s important to be prepared and plan ahead. Here are some backpacking tips for Wisconsin:

  1. Check the weather forecast before your trip and dress accordingly.
  2. Make sure to obtain any necessary permits and reservations in advance.
  3. Leave no trace and pack out everything you bring with you.
  4. Be aware of wildlife and follow proper safety precautions.

Overall, Kettle Moraine State Forest is a must-visit for any backpacker in Wisconsin. With its breathtaking landscapes and diverse trails, it offers endless opportunities for outdoor adventure.

Wisconsin’s National Parks: Nature at Its Finest

National Parks in Wisconsin

Wisconsin is home to several national parks, each showcasing the state’s natural beauty and offering unique backpacking opportunities. 

From the sandy beaches of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore to the rugged wilderness of Isle Royale National Park, Wisconsin’s national parks provide a breathtaking backdrop for outdoor adventures.

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Located on the northern tip of Wisconsin, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore encompasses 21 islands along the coast of Lake Superior. 

Backpackers can explore the sandy beaches, hike through the lush forests, and witness the stunning sea caves carved by lake erosion.

Camping is available on 18 of the islands, with permits required for overnight stays. 

Visitors can also take a guided sea kayak tour or a sunset cruise to fully experience the wonders of this unique national park.

Isle Royale National Park

Isle Royale National Park is located in Lake Superior, near the Canadian border. This remote wilderness area is only accessible by boat or seaplane, providing a truly secluded backpacking experience.

The park boasts over 165 miles of scenic hiking trails, with opportunities to spot moose, wolves, and other wildlife along the way. 

Backpackers can choose from several campgrounds, with permits required for overnight stays.

Isle Royale is known for its rugged terrain and unpredictable weather, making it a challenging but rewarding backpacking destination for experienced hikers.

Other National Parks in Wisconsin

In addition to Apostle Islands and Isle Royale, Wisconsin is also home to other national parks worth exploring.

  • North Country National Scenic Trail: This 4,600-mile trail passes through Wisconsin and offers backpackers a chance to explore over 1,000 miles of scenic trails in the state.
  • Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore: Located in Michigan, just across the Wisconsin border, this park features stunning rock formations, waterfalls, and beaches.
  • Mississippi National River and Recreation Area: Spanning over 72 miles of the Mississippi River, this park offers opportunities for hiking, camping, and bird watching.

No matter which national park you choose to explore, backpacking in Wisconsin’s national parks offers a chance to witness nature at its finest. So pack your gear, hit the trails, and discover the beauty of Wisconsin’s national parks.

Outdoor Activities: Beyond Backpacking

backpacking essentials Wisconsin

When it comes to outdoor activities, Wisconsin has something for everyone. Whether you prefer hiking, camping, or backpacking, the state offers a wealth of opportunities to explore its natural beauty.

Hiking in Wisconsin

There are numerous hiking trails throughout Wisconsin that showcase the state’s varied landscapes. 

From the rugged terrain of Devil’s Lake State Park to the rolling hills of Kettle Moraine State Forest, there’s a trail for every skill level. 

Many of these trails also offer breathtaking views and opportunities to spot wildlife.

Camping and Backpacking in Wisconsin

For those who prefer to immerse themselves in nature for a longer period, camping and backpacking are great options. 

Wisconsin offers a variety of campgrounds and primitive campsites, as well as backpacking trails that range from easy to challenging.

If you’re looking for a more remote experience, consider backpack camping in Wisconsin

Some state parks and forests allow backpack camping in designated areas, offering a truly immersive wilderness experience.

Outdoor Adventures in Wisconsin

Aside from backpacking, there are plenty of other outdoor activities to enjoy in Wisconsin. From fishing and kayaking to skiing and snowshoeing, the state offers a wide range of activities for all seasons. 

For thrill-seekers, there are also opportunities for rock climbing, zip-lining, and whitewater rafting.

No matter what outdoor activity you choose, Wisconsin’s natural beauty is sure to leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.


As a backpacking enthusiast, Wisconsin has blown me away with its hidden trails and gems. From the Ice Age National Scenic Trail to the Nicolet National Forest, there’s no shortage of breathtaking landscapes to explore. 

Whether you’re a seasoned backpacker or a beginner, Wisconsin state parks and national parks offer a variety of routes and trails suitable for all skill levels.

But backpacking isn’t the only outdoor activity that Wisconsin has to offer. If you’re looking to mix it up, the state has plenty of other outdoor adventures to offer, from hiking to camping. 

There’s truly something for everyone. In conclusion, Wisconsin is a treasure trove of stunning natural beauty and outdoor adventure. 

The memories and experiences you’ll gain from backpacking here will stay with you for a lifetime. So pack your gear, hit the trails, and discover the hidden treasures of backpacking in Wisconsin.


  1. What are some hidden trails in Wisconsin for backpacking?

    Wisconsin offers a plethora of hidden trails for backpacking enthusiasts. Some lesser-known trails include the Sugar River State Trail, the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, and the Tuscobia State Trail.

  2. What are some hidden gems to uncover while backpacking in Wisconsin?

    While backpacking in Wisconsin, you can uncover hidden gems such as Devil’s Lake State Park, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, and the Door County Peninsula. These destinations offer unique natural beauty and unforgettable experiences.

  3. Is the Ice Age National Scenic Trail suitable for backpacking?

    Yes, the Ice Age National Scenic Trail is a backpacker’s paradise. With over 1,000 miles of trail, it offers a diverse and scenic backpacking experience through Wisconsin’s glacial landscape.

  4. What are some recommended state parks for backpacking in Wisconsin?

    Wisconsin’s state parks are a haven for backpackers. Some recommended parks for backpacking include Devil’s Lake State Park, Peninsula State Park, and Governor Dodge State Park.

  5. Can you recommend a scenic backpacking route near Wisconsin?

    The North Country Trail is a scenic backpacking route that passes through Wisconsin. Covering over 4,600 miles and seven states, it offers a serene journey through forests, meadows, and rugged terrain.

  6. What are some backpacking destinations in Nicolet National Forest?

    Nicolet National Forest is a wilderness escape for backpackers. Some popular destinations within the forest include the Hidden Lakes Trail, Cathedral Pines Trail, and Morgan Falls Trail.

  7. Are there any must-visit spots for backpacking in Kettle Moraine State Forest?

    Kettle Moraine State Forest is known for its diverse backpacking opportunities. Must-visit spots include the Ice Age Trail, Lapham Peak, and the Parnell Tower Loop Trail.

  8. Which national parks in Wisconsin are best for backpacking?

    Wisconsin’s national parks offer incredible backpacking experiences. Some recommended parks include Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, and Ice Age National Scientific Reserve.

  9. What other outdoor activities can I enjoy in Wisconsin besides backpacking?

    Besides backpacking, Wisconsin offers a range of outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, kayaking, fishing, and wildlife watching. You can explore the state’s natural beauty through various outdoor adventures.

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