With sixty-six state parks, fifteen thousand lakes, and ocean-like coastlines on both Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, it's kinda surprising there isn't more fanfare for Wisconsin. But it gets easy to figure out after getting to know the locals. The residents here love their state, and they're proud that it hasn't been overrun with tourists. Families from Wisconsin stay in Wisconsin, and when you spend some time here you'll understand why.
With all of those options for nature, scenery, and recreation, when the locals say that Copper Falls State Park is their favorite, that's quite a statement! In the northeast corner of Wisconsin, near Duluth and the Apostle Islands, Copper Falls State Park is 3,068 acres of wooded beauty shaped by the Bad River, Tyler Forks River, Murphy and Loon Lakes. It is one of the many parks in debt to the Civilian Conservation Corps' hard work during the 1930s.
The Bad River creates several amazing waterfalls which are easily accessed by well-maintained hiking trails around the gorge. The park's namesake waterfall drops thirty feet and is an easy one and a half- mile loop from the main parking area. The campground has room for RVers and even has free showers and a lunch concession stand with ice cream and firewood.
There is fun here all year round, as the park plows and maintains access for cross country skiing and snow shoeing in the very snowy winters. The lakes are great for canoeing and non-motorized boats, and all of the water is open to fishing. Hunting and even trapping are open seasonally. And to top it all off, the shore of Loon Lake is pleasantly sandy, and offers a perfect place to cool off and swim in the summer.
Don't worry about the orange-tinted water. Though the area has a history of copper mining, the water of Copper Falls is actually dyed naturally from the tamarack and white cedar trees which thrive in northern Wisconsin. The water is actually incredibly clean. Don't forget the bug repellent, this part of the country has some serious mosquitoes in summer.
RV Rentals in Copper Falls State Park
Transportation in Copper Falls State Park
There are regular restrooms and free hot showers, but they are situated a half mile away from the electric camping loop. The park roads and camping pads are in excellent shape and all but the biggest sizes of RVs and Trailers should feel comfortable getting around. Until the leaves drop in the fall, the cover is quite thick which will block most solar panels and satellite dishes. There is a discount store south a few miles in Mellen for groceries, drinks and fuel.
Campgrounds and parking in Copper Falls State Park
Campsites in Copper Falls State Park
Copper Falls State Park Campground
This is a fifty-six site campground with twenty-four powered sites. There are flush toilets, free showers, a dump station and even a nice concession stand for firewood and things you forgot at home. They even open for pancakes on Sunday mornings from Memorial Day through Labor Day. There is free WiFi at the visitor center and cell phones even work in the park. Pets are not allowed on the trails, so this doesn't feel as pet-friendly as it could. Reservations are made online and the park is busy and popular in peak season. Loon Lake will be filled with splashing kids on a hot summer day.
Seasonal activities in Copper Falls State Park
There are seventeen miles of trails throughout the park. The centerpiece Copper Falls are only a short fifteen minute hike from the main parking lot. But there are enough loops around to Loon Lake and other waterfalls to make a good day of hiking. The campgrounds are in the center of all the trails, so you'll never be too far from your car and the restrooms. The trails are frequently noted for being in excellent condition and a few are even leveled enough to be ADA accessible. The topography is very flat in this region, so don't expect sweeping vistas of the countryside. There is a large observation tower in the parking lot which, even thirty feet in the air, still only provides a view of trees. The snaking gorge carved by the Bad River is what visitors are here to experience.
The thirty-two acre Loon Lake is a popular swim spot in summer. This is even more true, now that the nearby concession stand in the park offers ice cream. The lake has a sandy shore swimming area that is roped off from the boaters and fishermen. The water is clean. The Park is clean. You'll feel like you've traveled back in time. Nearby Mellen has all the picnic supplies you need for a great day in the water. The hottest July and August days are usually in the high eighties with moderate humidity.
Northern Wisconsin is heaven for fishermen, and Copper Falls is right in the center of the action. The Bad and Tyler Forks rivers have opportunities for several kinds of trout and fly fishing, while Loon lake is known for pike, bass and walleye. The bass put up a great fight and make even this small lake feel like a serious angler's destination. Small boats and canoes can be launched at the sandy shore on Loon Lake, but only electric motors are allowed in order to keep it peaceful in the park. Check with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources about regulations and licensing details and fees.
Loon Lake, on the south end of Copper Falls State Park, provides a perfect sized spot for canoes, kayaks, and car-top boats. Only electric motors are allowed on the lake. The swimmers are sectioned off in their own area, but on a really hot day, the lake is small enough that noise from the swim area may be a little obnoxious. The lake is a great fishing spot for bass and pike and the water is very clean. There are larger lakes within 10 miles of the park with boat launches and opportunities for larger watercraft.
Copper Falls State Park is a photographer's dream. The waterfalls are constantly changing due to seasonal water levels. Spring and fall cause enormous changes in the trees, vegetation, birds and other wildlife viewable in the park. The miles of trails give up-close access to all of it, whether you only have time for a quick walk, or you're prepared to stick around and take everything in. Even in the heavy snow and ice of winter, the park maintains access for visitors. In addition to plants and flowers Copper Falls has a tremendous variety of wildlife. There are regular sightings of black bears, elk, deer, porcupines, and squirrels. If you're hoping to capture photos of nature, you've come to the right spot. (Note that drones are not allowed in WI state parks).
There are both classical and skate-ski trails available for cross-country skiers visiting the park in winter. About twenty miles of trail are specifically maintained for skiing, which is a serious job in northern Wisconsin, with lake effect snow falling almost constantly. There is a variety of terrain, but nothing steep in the park. Snowshoeing and winter hiking are allowed on other trails in the park but not on the ski trails. The frozen falls and river in winter are excellent photo opportunities with a telephoto lens and tripod.