By Amanda N. Wegner | Photo courtesy Travel Wisconsin
Exploring Wisconsin with a brisk hike is an excellent way to enjoy this wonderful state, and it’s even better with a four-legged friend as a companion. Luckily, Wisconsin offers numerous pet-friendly parks and paths for hiking with your pup.
When it comes to state parks, Danielle St. Louis, author of the recently released book, “A Dog Lover’s Guide to Hiking Wisconsin’s State Parks,” and her Labrador-border collie rescue dog, Lucky, have put in the miles to compile a book’s worth of hikes. Here are a few of her top state park suggestions.
BIG BAY STATE PARK, ASHLAND COUNTY
“Big Bay State Park is my favorite state park because Lake Superior is so beautiful, especially in this area that’s also home to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore,” says St. Louis. With seven miles of trails, she adds that the hiking isn’t particularly technical, and there are some great spots along the trail to stop for a snack or wade in the water with your pooch. (Note that pets are not allowed at the beach.)
PERROT STATE PARK, TREMPEALEAU COUNTY
Sitting in Wisconsin’s Driftless Area at the confluence of the Trempealeau and Mississippi rivers, Perrot State Park is great if you’re looking for more technical and strenuous trail options. The park has 121/2 miles of hiking trails and provides access to the 24-mile Great River State Trail.
“Perrot State Park has some great hiking,” says St. Louis, “and the views from the top of Brady’s Bluff are beautiful, sprawling scenes of the Trempealeau Bay and the Mississippi River.”
HIGH CLIFF STATE PARK, CALUMET COUNTY
Near Sherwood, High Cliff State Park is another favorite of St. Louis and Lucky because it is dog-friendly with several dog swimming and picnic areas throughout the park. Note that neither pets nor bikes are allowed on the park’s accessible, interpretive Butterfly Pond Nature Trail.
“The hiking between Lake Winnebago and the Niagara Escarpment is enchanting — lots of rock outcroppings covered in moss against a mixed hardwood forest backed up against a cliffside. It’s really remarkable.”
WYALUSING STATE PARK, GRANT COUNTY
Enjoy a bird’s eye view, 500 feet above the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers at Wyalusing State Park near Prairie du Chien. One of Wisconsin’s oldest state parks, you will find 14 miles of hiking trails to explore. While most are dog- friendly, the Sugar Maple Nature Trail, a technically challenging albeit extremely scenic trail, is not.
The vast park offers a variety of places to explore and some of the best views in the Midwest.
WHITEFISH DUNES STATE PARK, DOOR COUNTY
On the shores of Lake Michigan, this park has 14 1/2 miles of hiking trails. “Whitefish Dunes State Park is also exceptional,” says St. Louis. “It has, by far, the nicest pet beach of all of Wisconsin’s state parks. And the hiking options go through various ecosystems — the variety keeps things interesting, with lots to look at and sniff! The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources reminds visitors not to climb on the sand dunes and stay on the park’s designated trails and stairs to protect the rare plant and animal species that call the park home.”
St. Louis reminds pet owners-turned-hikers to be ready to go at their dog’s pace and be flexible about changing their plans if needed.
“For example,” she says, “if an area is too crowded and it’s not a good situation for your dog, be ready to change plans and try a different trail. If the weather is hot and humid, consider hiking a shorter or less strenuous trail, and make sure to stop often to give your dog water. Also, keep your pet leashed unless actively swimming in a designated area.”
“If we want our dogs to continue to be welcome in Wisconsin’s state parks, it’s important to be shining examples of well-behaved, rule-abiding patrons and canine companions.”