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Backpack Camping

Wisconsin State Park System

Several state parks and forests offer sites for backpack camping, or sites within traditional campgrounds that may require campers walk a distance to access the site. These campsites may be several hundred yards to a few miles away from the nearest parking area. Most campsites can be reserved, some are first-come, first-served. Campers need to backpack all supplies and gear into and out of the sites.


Reserve a campsite online.

Property name Backpack or walk-to campsites
Amnicon Falls State Park 2 (about 100 to 150 feet from the parking area)
Big Bay State Park 7 (about 100 to 400 feet from the parking area)
Big Foot Beach State Park 37
Blue Mound State Park 12
Brule River State Forest 8
Buckhorn State Park 46
Copper Falls State Park 1
Chippewa Moraine State Recreation Area 3
Elroy-Sparta State Trail 11
Governor Dodge State Park 24
Governor Earl Peshtigo River State Forest 1
Governor Knowles State Forest 9
Kettle Moraine State Forest - Northern Unit 6 backpack shelters (5 along Ice Age Trail) 
Kettle Moraine State Forest - Southern Unit 3 backpack shelters along Ice Age Trail 
Lapham Peak Unit Kettle Moraine State Forest 1
Merrick State Park 12
Mirror Lake State Park 13
Nelson Dewey State Park 4
New Glarus Woods State Park 14
Newport State Park 17
Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest 47
Pattison State Park 3
Pike Lake Unit Kettle Moraine State Forest 3
Point Beach State Forest 1
Rock Island State Park 40
Straight Lake State Park 10
Wildcat Mountain State Park 20
Willow River State Park 4
Yellowstone Lake State Park 16

Off-site permit camping

Off-site camping by permit only is allowed at northern state forest properties including Black River, Brule River, Flambeau River, Governor Earl Peshtigo River, Governor Knowles and Northern Highland-American Legion state forests. 

Multi-day backpacking on the Ice Age Trail

The Ice Age National Scenic Trail offers some of the best long-distance hiking and backpacking opportunities in the state. The Ice Age Trail Atlas and Ice Age Trail Guidebook, available for sale from the Ice Age Trail Alliance [exit DNR], provide camping and lodging details for all segments of the trail.

There are backpack shelters along the Ice Age Trail at the Northern Unit and Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest. These Adirondack-style shelters have a fire ring and accommodate up to 10 people. Users may set up tents outside the shelter. All camping equipment and drinking water must be backpacked in and all refuse packed out. Camping is limited to one night per site.

Multi-day backpacking on the North Country Trail

The North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) offers premier backpacking opportunities. Below are descriptions of the segments of the trail that offer multi-day backpacking opportunities. For the latest information on trail segments and conditions, to get help finding a shuttle or to acquire maps of the NCT in Wisconsin, contact the North Country Trail Association [exit DNR].

Copper Falls State Park and Mellen segment

The North Country Trail runs several miles through Copper Falls State Park. Visitors can pick up the trail at a number of locations within the park. Part of the NCT coincides with the Doughboys' Nature Trail, where it offers spectacular views of the park's namesake waterfalls. North past the Doughboys' Trail, the NCT offers scenic views of the Bad River and a short spur trail leads to a secluded backpack campsite along the river. The trail continues southwest from Copper Falls State Park, passing through Mellen (one of only two towns the trail goes through in Wisconsin) before reaching a 2-mile road walk that connects to the beginning of the trail segment through the Chequamegon National Forest. For more information about this segment of the trail, email the NCTA Heritage Chapter.

Chequamegon National Forest segment

The North Country Trail goes through the Washburn and Great Divide districts of the Chequamegon National Forest for about 61 miles in Ashland and Bayfield Counties. Highlights of this stretch include views from the Penokee Mountains, numerous lakes and rivers and two of Wisconsin's federally designated wilderness areas: the Porcupine Lake Wilderness and the Rainbow Lakes Wilderness. There are numerous undesignated backpacking campsites along the trail and two shelters, as well as access to a number of National Forest campgrounds. Maps of the NCT in Wisconsin are available from the North Country Trail Association [exit DNR]. For more information about this segment of the trail, for additional trail maps or for help arranging a shuttle, email the NCTA Chequamegon Chapter.

Brule-St. Croix Area segment

The North Country Trail continues west of the Chequamegon National Forest for an additional 48 miles through a variety of properties including Bayfield and Douglas County Forests, the Brule River State Forest, the Village of Solon Springs and other lands. Highlights of this section include bluffs along the Brule River, the headwaters of the Bois Brule River, the scenic and historic Brule-St. Croix Portage, the pine barrens of Mott's Ravine State Natural Area, the Brule Bog, Lucius Woods County Park and the Douglas County Wildlife Area's extensive prairie/pine barrens. Camping is available at nine designated backpack campsites—the only places where hikers are legally allowed to camp along this stretch of trail. Each campsite includes a water source, fire ring, wilderness style latrine, bench and tent pads. A developed campground is also available in Lucius Woods County Park. For more information about this segment of the trail, for additional trail maps or for help arranging a shuttle, email the NCTA Brule-St. Croix Chapter.