Camping at High Cliff State Park, Wisconsin

Camping at High Cliff State Park, Wisconsin

Wisconsin, the dairyland of America is kinda one-state-fits-all and there is not much anyone cannot do here. It is a state of joy with waterfalls, cliffs, lush green lands, and lakes – to be precise 15,074 and the largest of them is Lake Winnebago flowing next to Niagara Escarpment, regionally called High Cliff. Spread about 1200 acres with over 16 miles of trails in Sherwood village of WI state, there is so much to do from fishing, bicycling, hiking, horseback riding, boating at High Cliff State Park and the best thing have to be Camping.

Niagara Escarpment
Niagara Escarpment

Welcome to High Cliff State Park

It is a super sunny day, temperatures above 90ยฐF when Sun shining directly above us. We arrived at the park office, picked up trail maps (which we recycled after use), and proceeded as we purchased the annual pass online as daily passes are not available. Passes are required to visit any state-owned park in Wisconsin. Since our WI park sticker hasn’t arrived in the mail yet, we wrote Your Pass Now, Order ID and Pass type on a paper and left it on the dashboard. Others stop at the office which is closed now due to COVID-19 but otherwise stay open from 6 AM – 11 PM. Some might be skipping the purchase as we saw Park Ranger left tickets on the windshield when we entered the beach parking.

Parking and benches near Swim Area and Pines Shelter are already filling, so we headed towards Lower Shelter and occupied a bench under the tree. Even in that scorching Sun, we found happiness therefrom a cool breeze. It was pleasant with beach views and we quickly finished our lunch to get out there, in search of more.

We strolled at the beach for some time which is actually tiny for WI’s largest lake. We then hiked in the direction of Observation tower from Pines Shelter crossing Lower Cliff Rd. It is definitely not an easy hike with a very steep road but worth-it. We got a glimpse of limestone cliffs and Lake Winnebago but we couldn’t get to the top of the Tower, as it is closed due to COVID-19. As well as playgrounds and water fountains.

High-Cliff-State-Park-Map
High Cliff State Park Map – Courtesy of DNR Wisconsin

Its time for Camping

When its time for check-in at 3 PM, we are already on Lower Cliff Rd and soon, it is High Cliff State Park Rd which is showing off its cliff. Took right to Family Camp Rd under tall trees and we are instantly fresh after sunburn.

Camping check-in at High Cliff involves no human, and we are loving it. Booked our campground a few days before and still managed to get a decent site. Campgrounds are easy to book especially in the states where the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) like Wisconsin and Michigan run the websites. It is fun to hover different parts of State and find campgrounds with amenities or if it is near a beach or cliff and if we like a campsite, we can check for the available dates and book.

The Family Campground signs are well marked and easy to navigate. One-way made us go-rounds but soon we are at our campsite. It is neat, trees all around with enough shade and ready for us. There are a bench and a fire ring, a good space to park, and to set-up the camp. There is no wood for purchase in the park and luckily, we won’t need it today. We went for a quick walk and checked out toilets. Vault Toilets on our alley are horrible but showers at the entrance of campground are actual flush toilets and clean. Some people use their cars as beds, but it is fun to set up a tent, isn’t it? Let’s get to it already.

Campground area
Campground area – Courtesy of DNR WI

Setting up the Camp

All it takes is a person and 10 minutes to set up the Ozark trail tent, it is really simple and elegant, you know like the site says ๐Ÿ™‚ The ground is flat and well maintained so the back won’t hurt while sleeping although we brought extra comforters. There are trees around to setup hammock as well as giving enough privacy for each campground. It is hot but the little breeze is pleasant now-and-then, from those lush green trees.

The table is comfortable enough to set up our food and sit to eat. There are mosquitoes and our insect repellent definitely helped. We quickly refreshed, had snacks, packed, and headed to the beach at the park entrance as there is no beach access at the campground.

Beach is too small for the crowd. Also, it is not one of the clean beaches. We found algae. When moved further towards the break wall, it looked better. The shower area is also not good here. I would go to the beach for lounging at shore or boating, fishing, jet-ski, or in the water on floating objects.

We came back to the campsite, took a bath, and got ready for the night. We had our home-made food and went for a quick stroll around the campground. As the sun goes down, the fresh air and the birds cooing gave us a good feeling. We played for a bit and then headed into the tent. Looking up the stars from the tent is a cool experience that brought a smile on our faces and then we quickly drifted to sleep. It was a calm night except for one instance where we woke up to steps next to us. It was probably raccoon passing silently. No harm is done.

Perks of Camping at High Cliff

We woke up to a pleasant alarm of a big bird loud cooing. The cool breeze wished good morning and called towards trails. We quickly refreshed, applied sunscreen, packed snacks, and headed towards the Red Bird trail next to the campground.

Campground
Courtesy of DNR WI

This trail is over High cliff next to camping, amid thick trees and offered cool views. We came on to trail straight from our site at about 1.0-mile marker. The sun rays are finding their way thru trees and bringing up the forest to life.

We walked for 5 min and are already at an overlook. We stopped and took a seat for a quick breakfast bar. Along the trail, we came across tree-tunnels, creek, cliffs, early morning humming of birds along with walkers/joggers. Since this part of the trail is farther from the park entrance, there is a lesser crowd.

After passing the lower cliff road, we saw more cliffs, stood on the edge a couple of times. Just before Red Bird Statue, off the trail a bit, there is a view of a steep cliff that we enjoyed for some time. The bottom of this cliff is the same steep trail that we came from the beach earlier.

Overlook at Red Bird Statue
Overlook at Red Bird Statue

Red Bird is the leader of the Winnebago Native American tribe who also led a war against the United States in the late 1820s due to some misunderstandings. There is so much history on this land and it is unbelievable how much things have changed in the last two centuries.

The overlook here is one of the coolest on the trail with panoramic views of Lake Winnebago. We can see the beach, marina and all from here. The observation tower could have been a great view which is closed now.

Not just cliffs and views

To complete the loop, we proceeded on the other side. We passed thru tree tunnels and quickly found us on the edge of the cliff. We loved the views as cars pass on the High cliff rd. It became interesting after we crossed the road.

High Cliff State park Rd
Trails have great views

The trail divided here – one leading to Indian Mound trail where effigy mounds are found. And the other lead into the forest. We enjoyed here looking at woodpecker, small red bird, spiders, squirrels including black ones, big Owl, and a wild peacock. That is a lot of wildlife, if I can call it, we have ever seen on a trail. Woodpeckers especially are fun. The sound of them pecking the trees for their nest is too loud and it is hard to figure out the source when several of them going at once. Also, the trail is full of sugar maple trees and should be beautiful in fall with yellow, orange, and reds.

The trail loops in at the family campground where we passed by group cabins and RV stations. This is one easy trail to experience everything at the park, well maintained to even bike the whole way. The trail is about 4 miles and it took about 4 hours to complete while enjoying the overlooks and stopping to take photos. Just before the 1.0-mile marker, there is a path down the bluff which leads to Lime Kiln Ruins. It is a difficult trail over the rocks where we can walk on cliffs, and soon along the lakeshore, at the end of Lime Kiln Road near the park entrance.

Leave No Trace Behind

Sun is shining hard over us and it is time to unpack and set our journey back. Packing tent is as easy as unpacking which took less than 10 minutes again. Checking out the camp is easy – no human contact, just picking up the trash and leave. We checked around to ensure that things are the same as they should be. We used showers one last time, right after they are cleaned at noon. Camping at High Cliff State Park is a cool experience with enough amenities, no complaints.

Apart from camping, the High Cliff State Park has about three shelters in the picnic area near the entrance with water and restrooms, good for a day camping. There are even trails for horseback riding. Also, a pet beach and dogs on leash are allowed in the park. So it has everything that the whole family can be entertained. No wonder, it is one of the best state parks in Wisconsin.

Are you camping at High Cliff State Park? Then save this and treat yourself.

Things to do at High Cliff State Park

What do you think about our camping at High Cliff State Park? Have any questions on campground booking or camping tents? Or anything else? Drop a comment or email me and I will be happy to help. Looking forward to connecting.

Looking for more weekend trips? Check out this state park with several trails and rewarding trails or this one where the canyons put up an otherworldly show.

Cheers and Safe Travels!

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