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Primitive Camping

Black River State Forest


The forest offers a great primitive camping experience through backpack camping, which is allowed anywhere on 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 packing your trash and recyclables out 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 away 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 either the DNR Service Center in Black River Falls or from the state forest office. Also, please review our hunting regulations when planning your hunting trip.

Canoe camping

Two primitive canoe campsites are available south of Black River Falls. These campsites are on the east side of the river and include a picnic table, fire ring and portable toilet. The sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis and limited to a one-night stay.

For additional information, including a map of canoe landings, see our Paddling the Black River brochure [PDF].