July 30, 2012

Wildcat Mountain State Park {SW Wisconsin}

This past weekend was our annual camping trip with friends, seven of us in total. We alternate between Iowa and Wisconsin, and this year it was time to choose a Wisconsin State Park.

Chris suggested Wildcat Mountain State Park, because he had been in the area once before on a day trip and always wanted to come back to explore the area more.

It's a gorgeous area, and I definitely recommend visiting. I took the photos above and below from the observation area within the park. It's a short quarter-mile walk from the campsites, and sunset is an especially nice time to make the short trek.

Wildcat Mountain is near Ontario, and located in the driftless region of Southwestern Wisconsin. The park sits atop a steep ridge overlooking the scenic Kickapoo River Valley. The lack of water up top makes it one of the best state parks to avoid mosquitoes.

I was surprised at how small the park felt despite its 3,643 acre size. The campsites are out in the open, and only a few have any privacy. In fact, two out of our three campsites (sites 8 and 10) bordered the main park office and parking lot.

However, they actually ended up being very nice sites for our large group because they were more spacious than most sites. The worse sites are definitely 22-30, which have absolutely no privacy and border the main road into the park.

The loop portion of the campground (sites 1-13) offers the best sites, with the outside loop offering shaded, more private sites. Don't reserve site 13 unless you want to make small talk with every camper coming to fill up their water jug.

Our group used site 9 in the evenings for chatting around the campfire and enjoying desserts from a dutch oven. Our favorite was pineapple-upside down cake, which is easier to make while camping than it sounds.

The two most popular activities while camping at Wildcat Mountain are canoeing the Kickapoo River and biking the Elroy-Sparta trail. We enjoyed our time paddling the river, but I would love to go back sometime and bike the 32-mile rail trail that passes through three tunnels...or at least part of it :)

I'm a sucker for sunsets, and I dragged Chris back to the observation area on our last night for one more round of photos. I took many photos of the sun, but my favorite shot of the evening ended up being one of the moon.

Before leaving the park, we made one last stop at the Ice Cave. The hike is less than a mile and the geological formation is worth seeing. I've read that the cave has giant icicles in the winter, which would also be cool to see.

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