One of the most special parts of a Wisconsin camping trip comes when the day is almost over. The s’mores have been made, the fire’s burned out, and the time has come to slow down and relax under a brilliant sky of stars.
These days, fewer campsites can offer a fully unobstructed view of our universe, with light from neighboring communities clouding the sky and making stars less visible. But the right camping spots are out there – all you’ll need is a tent, a sense of adventure, and a reservation at one of these amazing dark campsites.
Newport State Park in Door County is the first and only park in Wisconsin to receive an official “Dark Sky Park” designation from the International Dark-Sky Association. Views of the night sky here will be brighter and more detailed than anywhere else in the state.
Camping at Newport is not for the faint of heart, as all 14 campsites will require you to carry your equipment 1 to 2.5 miles from the parking area to your site. Your hard work will be rewarded with incredible views of the Milky Way and astrological events like the Perseid Meteor Shower that normally require a journey out West to experience.
Devil’s Lake State Park offers a unique opportunity to camp in a convenient and popular location while still allowing you to marvel at the night sky. You’ll want to journey from your campsite down to the lakeshore to experience the widest possible view of the sky.
If you’re looking for a more structured experience, the Madison Astronomy Society hosts occasional astronomy nights at the park where you can view the night sky through powerful telescopes.
Wildcat Mountain State Park is the perfect camping spot if you’re looking to pack your day with outdoor adventures and end it with incredible views of the night sky. The park offers a series of excellent and challenging trails, easy access to great kayaking on the Kickapoo River, and secluded campsites with clear views of the sky.
If you’re planning to stargaze, book one of their “cart-in” sites. You’ll be provided a wheeled cart to move all your gear from the parking area into the woods, which in turn keeps your views of the night sky uninterrupted by car headlights.
The Beaver Creek Reserve offers a unique opportunity for a large group camping trip near the Hobbs Observatory, one of only ten active observatories in Wisconsin. You can reserve the Beaver Creek Reserve’s large group campsite or one of their five rustic sleeper cabins. The observatory holds special programs on the third Saturday of every month and often opens the domes on clear nights.
Sometimes to escape the lights of the city you need to board a boat and embrace the Island life. Head north to Bayfield and you can do just this! Take the car ferry over to Madeline Island to Big Bay State Park, where you can set up camp and enjoy sandstone bluffs, a picturesque beach, and breathtaking views of Lake Superior.
Once night falls, stars light up the sky. Come at the right time and you just might get lucky – this state park is far enough north to catch a rare view of the Aurora Borealis.