Skip to main content

Backpack Camping

Black River State Forest

The forest offers a great experience for backpack camping, which is allowed anywhere in the forest with the exception of Hawk Island. We encourage first-time backpackers to use the Wildcat, Red Oak or Ridge trails. Drinking water is available at the Wildcat and Smrekar Trail parking lots and at each designated campground.

Please observe the forest's carry-in/carry-out policy by taking your trash and recyclables with you. You may use dead and downed wood as firewood but do not cut live trees or brush. Make sure your campfire is out before you leave.

Printed versions of our trail map [PDF] are available at the campground contact station or you can purchase topographic maps from the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey [exit DNR].

A free Special Camp permit [PDF] is required and can be picked up at the Castle Mound campground. The permit can be filled out online or, if you’d like us to mail you one, please see our contact information. Completed permits can be emailed to Black River State Forest

Backpackers must camp at least 1 mile from their vehicle and 100 feet from any designated trail or road. You may park your vehicle in any trail or picnic area parking lot.

Hunter camping

Similar to backpacking, hunter camping provides another way to camp primitively. To camp during the nine-day gun deer season, hunters must obtain a camping permit prior to the opening day of the season. Locations for camping are restricted so please see our hunter camping information sheet [PDF] for more details.

Permits [PDF] are free and can be downloaded from the DNR website or picked up at the state forest office. Also, please review our hunting regulations when planning your hunting trip.