Wisconsin is well known for the unparalleled beauty left behind by areas that were not once covered and flattened by regional glaciers. Indeed, the Driftless Area of Wisconsin is one of the best areas to explore nature. Wyalusing State Park is nestled along the Mississippi River in far southwestern Wisconsin. This park is an absolute gem with stunning river views, great cliffside camping, a cave, trails galore, night sky views, and so much more!
If you haven’t been there yet, plan a family adventure to Wyalusing State Park ASAP! It will be well worth the almost 3.5 hours spent on the trip. Plus, we’ll help you plan your visit to maximize your time and get to all the best spots in the park and area.
Before you travel, we also recommend that you take part in the 2022 Wisconsin State Parks Challenge and get your kids started with the Wisconsin Explorer’s Program so you can earn prizes and patches while exploring nature together.
READ MORE: 26 Amazing Wisconsin State Parks Just Two Hours or Less From Appleton!
Overview of Wyalusing State Park:
- Travel Specifications: 3 hours, 24 minutes | 200 miles
- Address: 13081 State Park Lane, Bagley, Wisconsin
- Hours: Open daily from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
- Vehicle entry price: With a WI license plate, you can purchase a day pass for $8 or an annual pass for all Wisconsin state parks for $28. Stop at the park office.
- Camping: Yes, 109 family campsites and an indoor/outdoor group camp.
- Pets: Pets on a leash are allowed in the park.
- Story: Wyalusing is one of Wisconsin’s oldest state parks. It was once home to Native American tribes and many burial mounds remain in the park today. Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet were the first Europeans to come to this area in June 1673. The land was then used for the fur trade with Native American tribes, a few unsuccessful mining ventures and eventually agriculture. The national park was established in 1919.
Bicycling is permitted and popular on the park’s paved roads. There are also two trails where mountain biking is allowed: the Mississippi Ridge Trail (1.8 mile) and the Whitetail Meadows Trail (1.7 or 3.1 mile loop). Go slow, yield to hikers, and watch out for soft, eroded trails after the rainy or rainy season.
Bluff Top Concession Stand
Adjacent to the Wisconsin Ridge Campground, the Bluff Top concession stand offers camping essentials, such as firewood, ice, and camping supplies, in addition to canoe and kayak rentals. It is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Fishing, beach and boating/canoeing
The fishing is excellent here in Wyalusing! There is even a fishing pier accessible at the pier.
Although the state park itself does not have a beach, you can enjoy one nearby at the Wyalusing Recreation Area, just 2 miles from the park.
You can access the surrounding waters via the boat launch. The park maintains a well-marked 6-mile canoe trail through the backwaters of the Mississippi River. Look for the blue and white canoe trail signs to keep you on the right path. You can rent canoes and kayaks at the Blue Top Concession Stand.
Camping is definitely a highlight in Wyalusing! The park has two main family campgrounds with 109 sites to choose from:
- Wisconsin Ridge Campground: nestled along the cliffs of the Mississippi River. These are campsites with stunning views! However, you might not want one if you have wandering young children, as these cliffs are unprotected. This campground also has a concession stand and some of the best camp showers around!
- Homestead Campground: Situated in a circular fashion around a central play area and bathroom/shower. This one is closer to the park entrance and the Huser Astronomy Center.
If you came to hike, then you are in for a treat! Wyalusing offers 14 miles of hiking trails of varying lengths for your family to enjoy! Here are some of our favorites:
- Cliff Trail (1.5 km): for adventurers! This trail is high in the bluffs of the Wisconsin River and offers stunning views. There is also a small cave, Treasured Cave, to explore.
- Sugar Maple Nature Trail (1.5 mile loop): A nice hike through the woods. It will take you to Pictured Cave Rock with a small waterfall. There are stairs on this trail so baby carriers are a must for toddlers/babies.
- Sentinel Ridge Trail and Loop (1.6 miles): This trail begins at Point Lookout and descends along the cliff to the landing stage below. There are lots of stairs and an amazing view of the river! The “loop” section of the trail is wide and paved making it accessible and stroller friendly.
Huser Astronomy Center
Wyalusing State Park is the perfect place to watch the sky at night, as it overlooks the surrounding small towns and rivers. The Huser Astronomy Center is home to several high-powered telescopes, and the StarSplitters regularly offer FREE public events!
Picnic areas and playground
The park is home to two playgrounds: one near the Wisconsin Ridge & Point Lookout Campground and the other located in the Homestead Picnic Area (not far from the Homestead Campground). Plus, near Point Lookout, you’ll find a tennis and basketball court, sand volleyball court, and ball diamond!
There are five picnic shelters spread throughout the park, many of which offer spectacular views of the Mississippi!
The Whitetail Meadows Trail (1.7 or 3.1 mile loop) is groomed for class cross-country skiing and skating in the winter. This is a great trail for less experienced cross-country skiers. Please no pets or hikers.
All ungroomed cross-country ski trails are available for winter hiking and snowshoeing. If you are brave, take a hike to see these beautiful frozen waterfalls: Pictured Rock Cave, Big Sand Cave and Little Sand Cave!
Great pit stops along the way:
- Sassy Cow CreameryW4192 Bristol Road, Columbus, Wisconsin
- Stop by for an insanely delicious scoop of ice cream and play in their farm-themed outdoor playground! They also offer tours.
- Bavaria Sausages Inc6317 Nesbitt Rd, Fitchburg, WI
- Making and selling authentic, natural Old World Bavarian sausages and much more! You won’t regret a visit to their ‘Wurstkuche’ (sausage kitchen) shop to check out the abundance of European treats.
- Cave of the mounds2975 Cave of the Mounds Road, Blue Mounds, Wisconsin
- Explore a cave, then climb the observation tower at nearby Blue Mound State Park for stunning views of the area! This is a great pit stop on your way to Prairie du Chien.
- Governor Dodge State Park4175 WI-23 Dodgeville, Wisconsin
- Another great pit stop along the way, Governor Dodge is an awesome place to experience another taste of Wisconsin’s Driftless Zone! We recommend hiking and camping here.
- Popcorn Retail Store Rural Route 1101 US-18, Montfort, Wisconsin
- All the traditional popcorn gourmet favorites and more. Try the fudge or jalapeno popcorn for a great twist! This may be the snack that will allow you to overcome the last difficulty. little. kilometers…
Fun and delicious stops in the Wyalusing area:
- Fort amusement parkSouth 15th Street, Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin
- Community-built playground with a variety of options, including accessible play, for kids of all ages! There’s also a skate park here that’s open to skateboards, inline skates, and BMX-style bikes.
- Pete’s Burger Stand118 Blackhawk Avenue West
- Open seasonally, Pete’s has been a staple in downtown Prairie du Chien since 1909. The name of the game here is a singular one: onion burgers. Oh so good!
- Prairie Fun Land512 East, rue Paquette
- A child’s dream! Go karts, mini golf, bumper cars, water wars, arcade, and more!
- The local oven213 Blackhawk Avenue East
- Home of the maple bacon donut! Ice cream, bakery, gluten-free products and gifts.
READ MORE: Explore the Greater Madison Area: South Madison Day Trip with Kids