The outside world may be chaotic and ever-changing, but overnight camping with the family is the same as it ever was. Explore the great outdoors at these nearby state parks:
1. Kettle Moraine State Forest Pike Lake Unit 3544 Kettle Moraine Rd., Hartford, WI 53086
The Pike Lake Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest offers several short and kid-friendly hikes that will enable you to enjoy the outdoors together. Astronomy Trail is a half mile portion of the blue trail that takes hikers on a walk through the solar system. The Boardwalk Trail is another half mile hike, accessible to wheelchairs and strollers, and with an observation deck along the shore. Be sure to hike to Powder Hill, whose trailhead is about a half mile away from the Nature Trail parking lot.
Campsites: Family campsites, two shelters and an amphitheater are reservable. Pets are allowed!
Fun Fact: Powder Hill is the second highest point in southeastern Wisconsin, and you can climb the observation tower for a panoramic view.
Other activities: Biking, Hiking, Swimming, Boating, Canoeing, Kayaking
2. Richard Bong State Recreation Area
26313 Burlington Rd, Kansasville, WI 53139
When you first arrive, stop by the Molinaro Visitor Center to check out the live animals, hands-on exhibits and displays, and a solarium with butterflies, play areas, and beautiful views. There are usually nature programs going on throughout the year. From the visitor center, you can hike a .7 mile-long nature trail that is stroller friendly. In the summer, you'll see bobolinks! It runs through prairie and grasslands, and there’s a boardwalk that overlooks Wolf Lake where you can spot migrating and resident waterfowl. You can also enjoy the Vista Nature trail that runs through a hardwood forest and past a small pond.
Campsites: There are two family campgrounds (Sunrise and Sunset), group sites and an accessible cabin for people with disabilities at the property. Several shelters and an amphitheater are also reservable. Reserve your campsite.
Fun Fact: The Richard Bong State Recreation Area used to be a jet fighter base. It’s named after Major Richard I. Bong, a Wisconsinite who was America's leading air ace during World War II. Plans were underway to pour a 12,500 foot runway for the air base, but it was abandoned three days before it was scheduled to happen. A group of locals decided to protect the natural area, and the rest is history.
Other activities: ATV Trails, biking, boating, canoeing, kayaking, swimming
3. Kettle Moraine State Forest Southern Unit
W39091 WI-59, Eagle, WI 53119
Photo: Jeff Banowetz, RootsRated.com
The southern unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest is 30 miles long, stretching from Dousman to Whitewater. With kids, you can hike the Bald Bluff nature trail, just a half mile long. It’s one of the highest points in Jefferson County and it used to be a signal hill for Native Americans. The Lone Tree Bluff nature trail is also just a half mile long. You’ll be rewarded with a beautiful view of the Kettle Moraine’s landscape, and you’ll learn all about its history through the markers on the way up. The Rice Lake nature trail is also just a half a mile long, and hugs the edge of a small pond.
Campsites: There are three family campgrounds (Ottawa Lake, Pinewoods, Whitewater Lake), a horseriders camp, two group camps, and remote backpack shelters on the Ice Age Trail. An accessible cabin for persons with disabilities, several picnic shelters, an outdoor amphitheater and an indoor auditorium are also reservable. Reserve your campsite.
4. Kohler-Andrae State Park 1020 Beach Park Ln., Sheboygan, WI 53081
One of the last remaining nature preserves along Lake Michigan, Kohler-Andrae State Park offers hikes along sandy beaches and rolling sand dunes, and through pine trees and wildlife. The Sanderling Nature Center is situated among the sand dunes right on the shore of the lake. There are interactive exhibits, nature films, picture books, and a rooftop observation deck. The Creeping Juniper Nature Trail starts and ends at the nature center and will immerse you among the sand dunes. Other short hikes include the Black River Marsh Boardwalk, just a quarter mile hike through wetland, and the Fishing Pond Trail, another quarter mile hike with a flat surface for strollers and plenty of resting spots. The one-mile Woodland Dunes Nature Trail is also stroller accessible, and it starts and ends at the playground.
Campsites: The park has a 137-unit family campground, including 52 sites with electrical hookups. Each campsite has a campfire ring and a picnic table and can accommodate a limit of six people or one family (parents and minor children plus two guests). Reserve your campsite.
5. Harrington Beach State Park 531 County Rd. D, Belgium, WI 53004
Harrington Beach State Park boasts more than a mile of beautiful, clean beach along Lake Michigan. Take a walking path down to the scenic limestone quarry lake. The park is also dog-friendly. For stargazing, visit the Jim and Gwen Plunkett Observatory that has a 20-inch telescope weighing over 2000 pounds. The roof of the observatory is designed to expose the full night sky. Throughout the summer and early fall, the North Cross Science Foundation holds free astronomy evenings that are open to the public.
Campsites: The park has a 69-unit family campground, including 31 sites with electrical hookups, 33 non-electrical sites and 3 first-come, first-served sites. Each campsite has a campfire ring and a picnic table. The campground is open from the first Wednesday in May to the last weekend in October. During the warm weather season, showers, flush toilet and laundry facilities are available in the family campground. Reserve your campsite.
How to prepare at home for your camping adventure:
Do a dry run in your own backyard to help you determine all the things you're going to need, without having to be out in the woods right away. Here are some ideas and tips:
Pick a night that doesn't have rain in the forecast!
Work together to put the tent together.
Collect wood from around the house for your fire.
Teach about fire safety while making a fire together.
Practice widdling & carving sticks for your marshmallows.
Make hot dogs over the fire.
Practice putting bug spray on.
Use binoculars and magnifying glasses to spot wildlife.
Play yard games like bean bag toss.
Practice rolling and unrolling your sleeping bags.
Read a story or play the guitar around the campfire.