Thinking about planning your vacation to Wisconsin? Consider these natural destinations perfect for nature lovers and adventure seekers or those just looking to escape to a scenic landscape. Natural wonders are abundant in Wisconsin and found in every region of the state. With lakes and streams, rolling hills and limestone formations, it’s hard not to find and appreciate the natural resources and destinations offered within.
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Located in northern Wisconsin in the Bayfield Peninsula along the shores of Lake Superior rests the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. The beauty and scope of this area are amazing with sweeping views and water on all sides. The 21 islands of the point make up the Apostle Archipelago and offer miles of shoreline to explore and the highest concentration of lighthouses than any other National Park.
You can kayak, boat or take an excursion tour to visit the islands or stay on the mainland to explore the red-brown sandstone Apostle Island Sea Caves on the west side of the peninsula. Get in your kayak for an up close and personal view of sandstone arches, chambers and honeycombed passages throughout the caves. If you visit in the winter and you’re lucky enough that the iced-over sea caves are open, take full advantage of the opportunity – they are not to be missed!
Cave of the Mounds National Natural Landmark
Located in southwest Wisconsin west of Madison and under the Blue Mounds, this is one fascinating place. Discovered in 1939 during a quarry blast, Cave of the Mounds has become a popular location for tourists and locals alike. You’ll find this magical and special cave filled with internal columns of stalactites and stalagmites and unique and colorful cave jewels of all types. Nestled 40-70 feet below ground, it’s the same temperature of 50 degrees all year long. To see and explore the cave, you need to join one of their daily hour-long tours and once inside, you’ll find the beauty of the “jewel box of caves” inside this million-year-old cave made of galena dolomite. The pathways are lit and paved to make the tours accessible and easy to navigate.
Devil’s Lake State Park
Devil’s Lake State Park is one of the most popular and beautiful state parks in Wisconsin. Located near Baraboo, this park features Quartzite cliffs that reach up to 600 feet high along the lake’s edge. Hike on their thirty miles of trails to enjoy the lake views and find unique rock formations like Devil’s Doorway, Balanced Rock and Stone Arches. You can also spend time here camping or rock climbing. Explore at Parfrey’s Glen, a Sandstone gorge edged by layered quartzite and pebbles. This natural area reaches 100 feet deep at the top with a mountain stream running through the middle.
Big Manitou Falls
Found near Superior, Wisconsin in the Pattison State Park, Big Manitou Falls is the highest waterfall in the state at 165 feet tall (that’s as high as Niagara Falls!) To see the falls, you need to hike up the half-mile trail, but the view is worth it once you get there. Through time, the water has formed the surrounding steep-sided gorge the falls travel through. These falls have a brownish tint – a result of the mineral-rich water found in the Black River. Native Americans called the falls Gitchee Manitou, believing that the voice of the Great Spirit, who created the falls, could be heard from the water. It’s a popular park, but not overly crowded making the experience of visiting here all that much more enjoyable.
As the largest cattail marsh in the country, Horicon Marsh is 33,000 acres of wetlands near Waupon with hundreds of resident bird species, including cranes, swans, and geese. Every spring and fall, thousands of geese stop here as they migrate both north and south. To enjoy the natural beauty of this landscape, travel on the miles of trails and boardwalks throughout the area or visit the newly constructed Explorium for information about the diverse wildlife that call this place home, and the history of how the marsh came to be. Take in the Horicon Marsh Bird Festival during Mother’s Day weekend each year to appreciate and celebrate the uniqueness of this area.
This 1000-mile-long stretch of rock reaches from Wisconsin through the Great Lakes and Canada and down through New York, giving Niagara Falls their name. The limestone breaks off leaving cliffs and high ridges. Also known as “the ledge”, the escarpment is essentially the edge of a rock bowl formed millions of years ago, one that’s been historically important to the landscape and economy of the state. The limestone is used for building and construction in many forms, but it also houses important biological findings and unique growths. Much of it is now protected, including a large chunk of land in the High Cliffs State Park, found on the edge of Lake Winnebago near Appleton and south of Green Bay.
Wisconsin Great River Road
Traveling more than 250 miles along the shores of the Mississippi River, this scenic byway passes through historic towns and offers incredible water views. The river has been an influence and resource for many people living here; native people, settlers and modern-day users alike have all benefited from what the great river provides. Nature is abundant along this drive, including the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, 240,000 acres set aside for public use and wildlife refuge. You’ll find hundreds of bird species and other wildlife among these marshlands and waterways. You can enjoy the water hands-on with multiple entry points to kayak, boat or fish.
Adventure seekers of all types will find what they’re looking for among these natural wonders. Offering distinct opportunities for all to enjoy, Wisconsin is a scenic and picturesque state to appreciate and discover.