This large Wisconsin state park really has something for everyone! The park is over 1,400 acres! It has six lakes with multiple places to fish or launch a canoe. There are several swimming areas and there is crystal clear water! They have trails catering to hikers, horse riders, and a variety of bike trails including paved, gravel and single track. There is a large and sandy swimming beach, a concession stand, a playground, and a campground. Whatever you’re looking for in a state park, Hartman Creek has it! Read on below for details on the park as well as recommendations for near by food and activities.
If you’re looking for other parks in central Wisconsin check out Rib Mountain State Park for a challenging hike, scenic views, or rock scrambling. You can also go a bit farther North to Council Grounds State Park for more water access and camping. If you are looking for information about other Wisconsin State Parks, check out the list of parks I’ve written about so far here.
There is about 10 miles of trails to choose from for hiking all of which are fairly flat. I love that there are several short options which is always nice for very young hikers or those who like to get outside but don’t feel like committing to a long hike. Deer Path trail is scenic and goes around Allen lake. It starts right near one of the parking areas and has a beautiful picnic area in the shade with a great view of the water. The DNR map marks it as having a playground as well but at this time it is only a couple of swings.
Dike Trail is also under a mile but isn’t a loop so if you don’t have someone to drop a car off it will be a bit longer. It’s a fun trail that goes between Hartman Lake and an inlet of another lake. There are lots of water views. I haven’t had the chance to try Pope Lake trail but it is also about a mile.
If you are feeling more ambitious or have more time, the Oak Ridge Trail system is the most extensive trail in the park and has several options depending on how you are feeling. There are also a couple miles of different options of Windfeldt Trail. The famous Ice Age National Scenic Trail also crosses through Hartman Creek State Park. There is a total of 3 miles of the trail in the park. It is just over half a mile to the campground from the Ice Age Trail.
There is a 300 foot beach area. It is a sandy beach front with plenty of area to play or sunbathe. The water is clear and lots of fun to splash around in. There are simple changing rooms and pit toilets as well. There is a playground with swings, and slides close to the beach. The beach is adjacent to a large grassy area with picnic tables and room for a game of catch. Adventure Outfitters, based in nearby Waupaca, has a rental stand there. They have kayaks, canoes, paddle boards, and peddle boats available to rent. They also rent bicycles and one of the multi use hike/bike trails goes right by the beach.
If you’re less interested in a sandy beach and more interested in diving right in, go to the whispering pines entrance. It is at the east end of the park and has a medium sized parking area. Follow the short path under towering pine trees to find a rustic stone stairway. At the bottom you’ll find a fishing/swimming pier where you can jump into the crystal clear water. This would not be a good option if you have a lot to carry as the parking lot is a short walk away and the stairs would make carrying things a bit challenging. This may be the most beautiful part of the park though it is a tough call!
There are 12 miles of biking trails in the Park. This includes paved trails and off road multi use trails which share with hikers. There are several different loop options to bike within the park. You can also add a little mileage following with the park road but the trail system is robust enough that you really don’t need to go off the trails if you don’t want to. If you are looking to extend your ride, there are plenty of surrounding roads with minimal traffic.
There is also 6-8 miles of single track mountain biking trails. There are a few miles designated as easy, a few more miles designated at “more difficult” and just under 2 miles designated as “very difficult.” The whole park is rather sandy and dries out quickly after a big storm. Hartman Creek State Park also usually opens their trails before other nearby single track in the spring because of how quickly they dry out. The trails are sandy and flowy. The advanced trail has a few larger man made obstacles which are fun to try.
Boating and Fishing
If you’re renting from Adventure Outfitters their location is right near the beach at Hartman Lake. They rent a variety of paddle crafts (details above) which launch right at the beach on Hartman Lake. You can of course also bring your own boat too. Then you can launch at Allen Lake or Hartman Lake from inside the park.
You can also put a boat into Marl Lake just southwest of the Whispering Pines entrance. There is not space to turn around but the road to the launch is straight. Motorized boats are allowed but the lakes that are accessible by the state park are no wake lakes. There are several lakes in the chain of lakes that do allow faster boating.
With so many fun activities to do, might as well set up camp and spend a night or two. There are 90 campsites with a couple of shower houses and flush toilets. There are several additional pit toilets. Site number 20-30 have views of the lake but are not electric. They sell firewood and fire starters at the entrance to the park. All the sites have a picnic table and a fire ring with a grill on it.
Campsites are a short walk to Allen Lake where you can get on the Deer Lake Path which connects to the Oak Ridge trail system. Campsites are perhaps a half mile away from the beach. There is paved multi use trail connecting the campground to the beach. They are also about a half mile from the mountain bike trails.
Hartman Creek Wisconsin State Park has seven miles of dedicated horse trails. I’ve never ridden here myself but my sister has done a lot trail riding. She tells me the trails are well marked and easy to follow. The terrain is sandy and easy to ride. There is a creek crossing as well which can be a lot of fun. The parking is a bit tight if you have a larger horse trailer.
All seasons fun
I have been to the park in the early spring, summer, and fall but haven’t had the pleasure to see park in the winter. I might have to change that this winter! They have 6 miles of cross country skiing and their mountain bike trails are open to fat tire bikes. They also have 3.5 miles of snowshoeing trails. The website states you can ice fish as well. Snowmobile trails also run through the park.
The closest town is Waupaca which is only 5-10 minutes east. According to Travel Wisconsin it is a town with “terrific water resources, timeless charm…and a place that draws visitors during all seasons.” It is home to the Chain of Lakes which features beautiful, crystal clear water. We always find plenty of outdoor activities to do here.
Near by Food
Clearwater Harbor is a solid choice at anytime and has a great view of the water. They open for lunch and stay open into the early morning hours. Check their website as they often have free live music. This is a sit down restaurant, the food is great but not a place to go if you are in a hurry. There is plenty to do while you wait though. They have a playground with toy trucks, fish food to throw off the dock, and cornhole. There is an attached ice cream shop serving premium Wisconsin made ice cream.
For dinner we also love Wheel House . They serve pizza, sandwiches, burgers, or pasta and have been a locals favorite for years. Scoopers is right next store and a great place for ice cream. Chain of Lakes Bar and Grill is also quite popular for dinner. It is a bar type atmosphere with a large deck for outdoor dining. Central Waters Brewing is abut 20 minutes away but has a great selection of craft brews.
For breakfast we recommend Waupaca Woods Restaurant, they serve breakfast all day! You can also check out Little Fat Gretchen’s in downtown. For coffee (and ice cream and gifts) we like Red Mill Gift shop. There is space for a beautiful walk over an old covered bridge to wonder around while you enjoy your treats.
Near by Activities
If you don’t get enough swimming at Hartman Creek, you can check out South Park Beach. They have a large beach area which has life guards through out the summer months. There is plenty of shallow areas for the kids to swim and splash There is also a swimming pier with a tall diving board, and a couple of slides. A great way to enjoy the lake! There are changing rooms and flush toilets near by. Next to the beach is a large playground.
Adventure Outfitters, the same place that rents kayaks and such at the park, also does guided paddle tours. This year we tried their lighted night paddle with clear bottom boats. It was a beautiful and peaceful way to enjoy the evening. The best thing about the Chain of Lakes is the crystal clear water so any way you can get out there is a win! A few other things to do might include paintball, mini golf and batting cages, Waupaca Falls, or tubing.
I wasn’t expecting much from Hartman Creek State Park, maybe because it seemed to be in the middle of nowhere? But as usual with Wisconsin State Parks, I was not disappointed! There are so many lakes and the views are just lovely. There is lots of variety with hikes and something to suit everyone. The beach is large, the paddling opportunities are fun, and there is so much biking to do! Swimming in the crystal clear water on a warm day is amazing! We’ve been here several times and I still feel there is more left to explore. If you’re in central Wisconsin and want to check out more State Parks, visit Rib Mountain State Park (an hour away) for a great hike, beautiful views, and rock scrabbles or Council Grounds State Park (An hour and a half away) for more water fun and camping. Check out Roche-A-Cri State Park (an hour away) for hiking and a 303 step climb to amazing views. On Wisconsin!