Bring your bikes, tents, hiking boots, swim suits and camera. Lake Wissota State Park is a 1,000+ acre park that has a little bit of everything! There is a large and wooded campground. Plenty of hiking and biking trails which are both wooded and through meadows filled with wild flowers. It is adjacent to the beautiful Lake Wissota and has a beach, views overlooking the water, a fishing pier, and both a paved boat launch and another paddler specific boat launch. Come spend a day or the whole week!
Lake Wissota-fun facts
The name sake for the park, Lake Wissota, is a 6,300 acre man made lake. Fun Fact- in the movie “Titanic” Leonardo Dicaprio’s character Jack tells Rose he used to go ice fishing on Lake Wissota. Movie blunder, the lake wasn’t made until 5 years after the Titanic sunk! The dam was started in 1917 and was hailed as the “greatest hydroelectric dam on the American continent.” They named it Wissota as a shorter version of the Wisconsin and Minnesota Light and Powers Company. The dam remains in operation today. The best view of the lake is from the overlook at the Western end of the park near the park entrance. If you love Wisconsin state parks, Brunet Island state park is only 30 minutes north.
Boating, paddling, and fishing
There is a boat launch at Lake Wissota State Park with a large parking lot for boat trailers at the Southern part of the park. This launch puts you into a calm outlet on the northeastern part of the lake. There are multiple bar/restaurants along the lake if you have a faster boat and want to go on an outing, see below for some of my recommendations.
There is a box with life jackets for kiddos to use if needed, what a nice thought! It is free and has a variety of sizes. You can borrow whatever you need. Once you return them, they ask you to hang wet jackets outside the box until they dry out.
You can put canoes in at the main boat launch or the smaller paddler specific one. You will have to carry your boat a bit further though. If you prefer, you can rent boats at the park office from the Friends of Lake Wissota State Park. They currently have canoes, single kayaks, double kayaks, paddle boards, and a rowboat. They charge $15 for 3 hours or $25 for the day. The paddler specific boat launch is a bit farther west than the main launch, just to the east of the beach.
There is a fishing pier is between the two launches. Several fish cribs help attract walleye and largemouth bass. There is some fishing gear available to rent from the park office for free through the Tackler Loaner Program. It’s a good idea to call ahead and make sure they have what you need.
Swimming and waterside fun
There is a large sandy beach that is tons of fun to splash in. No lifeguards are on duty. There is a huge grassy hill next to the beach with plenty of space to put out some towels. You could also set up a picnic on one of the tables. They have a large and roomy changing room that has flush toilets as well. There is a cool playground just off the beach that includes a faux rock wall. There is a beach volley ball court and baseball field.
If you are looking for gentle off road or level paved biking, Lake Wissota State Park is a great choice. There are over 11 miles of off road bike trails. Most of these trails share with either hikers or horses so it is off road but not gnarly single track. These are trails that are great for all ages and for those who want to enjoy biking out in nature without worrying about a bunch of obstacles. I always see people-families, couples, and solos-out and about peddling their way around this park. The roads are wide enough to bike along. If there aren’t enough trails in the park for you, check out the Old Abe trail. It is a paved bike route which used to be a railroad and you can use that to bike to Brunet Island State Park! The trail between the parks is 20 miles.
Hiking at Lake Wissota State Park
This park is unique in that it is a combination of forests and prairie grasslands. There are over 18 miles of hiking trails to explore at Lake Wissota State Park! During the spring or summer I like to try to include the Prairie Wildflower Trail in my plans. It is a short but unique meadow-like trail that is hiking only. The Lake trail gives glimpses of the Lake all along and connects the campground to the beach. It also goes by two staircases giving access to the lake. Trails are mostly level and good for all ages. They do advise on the presence of poison ivy so make sure you watch out if you go off trail! The Beaver Meadow Nature Trail is one mike and includes interpretive signs.
Camping and Playgrounds
Aside from the playground by the beach, there is another playground in the center of the campground. It is called “The Treehouse.” It has a large slide and there are two seperate sets of swings. This playground is set in the middle of a large green space marked as the family, tent only, camp site. If there aren’t tents pitched, there would be plenty of room for soccer or ultimate frisbee.
The campsite has a 116 sites and 58 have electricity. The sites are heavily wooded and though they are close together, the trees provide more privacy than I would have expected after looking at the map. There are flush toilets and showers available. Each campsite has a picnic table and fire ring. None of the sites are directly next to the lake.
There is a wooden staircase that leads right down to the water near the campsites. There is not a beach area there but if you are looking to swim or wade into the water this would work well. It was my favorite part of the park just to sit and enjoy the lake.
I haven’t been riding here but the parking lot looks large enough for most trailers. It is circular and the spots are pull through. There is a mounting block and pit toilets. The park has nine miles of trail though most are shared with bicycles. No horse camping is available.
For near by activities I highly recommend Skydive Wissota! It’s an absolute adrenaline rush and a complete gem of a place here in small town Wisconsin. The owners are world renown skydivers who have a true passion for passing on their wisdom and experience. Their safety rating is excellent. If you’ve ever considered jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, here is your chance!
Irvine park Zoo is a small free zoo. The star exhibit is the bears who have a large well designed habitat. Next to the park is a duck pond where you can buy pellets. They have 2 large newly updated playgrounds as well. Just next to Irvine park is the Chippewa Fall Swimming Pool in case you prefer chlorine over lake water.
The Edge Pub and Eatery has burgers, pizza, and brews along with a beautiful outdoor seating area overlooking the lake and is minutes away from the park entrance. The Chippewa Family Restaurant doesn’t have the nice view but I’ve never been disappointed with the food and you can’t argue with their 4.5 star rating with 1,700 ratings in such a small town! If you aren’t sick of lake views and want a true small town bar type atmosphere, check out SandBar and Grill.
The Leinie’s Lodge is a fun place to stop for all your Leinenkugel’s apparel and drinks. They also offer a tasting room and a brewery tour. It is one of the oldest breweries in the country and was bought by Miller in 1988.
Lake Wissota state park really has a lot to offer. There are lots of hiking and biking opportunities most of which are flat and scenic. There is a plenty of lake front areas with a variety of ways to enjoy the water including boating, paddling, fishing, and swimming. The campsites are wooded, there are two nice playgrounds in addition to several large green spaces for play. If you are in the area and love state parks, be sure to check out Brunet Island State Park as well. Or if you are traveling further, check out my list of other Wisconsin State Parks we’ve visited and written about.