Governor Dodge State Park covers 5,350 acres, making it one of Wisconsin’s largest parks. Additionally, it's located in one of Wisconsin's most scenic areas. Its grand features include two lakes, a beautiful waterfall, deep valleys, steep hills, and stunning bluffs. These hills and valleys once provided protection from the harsh weather for early inhabitants. As the years went by, this area soon attracted miners, then later, farmers. In 1948, a farmstead was handed over to the state, and slowly but surely all the areas around it were obtained and Governor Dodge State Park was born.
Now when you visit on your RV vacation, you won't be bored for a minute with all this park has to offer. Nature lovers and explorers will enjoy the native plant and wildlife. On your camping trip, you are likely to spot such animals as deer, turkeys, and foxes, in addition to smaller animals such as woodchucks, muskrats, and various species of birds. Adventurers will want to take advantage of horseback riding, hiking, and mountain biking while sun-worshipers will enjoy fishing, boating, and swimming. Heading out for a winter getaway? You'll love the cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, and even ice fishing on your winter escape. There's so much to do at this park, you'll want to hitch up the trailer and come back every year to this RV destination.
Governor Dodge State Park is about an hour's drive west of Madison, Wisconsin and just 15 minutes north of Dodgeville off of Highway 18. Large RVs will have no trouble navigating the park as the roads are paved and maintained year-round. During the off-season, some roads will be closed, but they are only the roads that go to the closed-off campgrounds. All other roads are kept open for your safety and enjoyment year-round. Bicycles are allowed on all the roads in the park, making it easy to get around during your RV stay.
There are plenty of places to park your RV, even if you’re just visiting for the day. Parking lots are scattered all through the park for your convenience, and even when the park begins to get full and parking becomes more difficult, there is overflow parking that becomes available as well.
This gorgeous campground contains 149 sites that allow tent camping or trailers and RVs to set up for a comfortable stay. RV sites at this location will take rigs up to 50 feet long and has five pull-through sites to choose from for easy maneuverability. Seventy-eight of these sites offer 30-amp electric service and no water hookups. There is a dump station and drinking water nearby. These sites each come with picnic tables and fire rings, and bathrooms and showers are within walking distance. Leashed pets are welcome, and you'll find a nice playground nearby as well.
Like the Cox Hollow Campground, you'll need to register at the park office before heading to the campground, and quiet hours are from 11 PM to 8 AM. If you need an accessible site, there are two available at each campground.
This campground keeps 30 sites open for the winter and even plows the roads and parking, so your RV can get there just fine. During this time of the year, you’ll have electricity, a picnic table, fire ring, and access to pit toilets. RV camping is a great option at Governor Dodge State Park in the winter months.
This lovely campground contains 118 sites and most accept either tents or RVs and trailers up to 45 feet in length. Only three of these sites have 30-amp electric service, but all the modern necessities are located nearby: potable water, a dump station, both flush toilets and vault toilets, and showers. The campground even has a playground on-site for your children, picnic tables, and fire rings. Leashed pets are allowed.
A few things that you should know are that you need to register at the park office before heading to the campground, and quiet hours are from 11 PM to 8 AM. If you need an accessible site, there are two available at each campground. If you plan on coming camping during the wintertime, you'll have to camp at Twin Valley Campground, where they reserve 30 spots to keep open for the winter.
Both Cox Hollow and Twin Valley Campgrounds will allow first-come, first-served rentals if there are any unreserved campsites left over when you arrive. Reservations, however, are strongly encouraged.
If you’re looking for something a little more challenging, or you just want to get closer to nature, then you can leave the RV behind completely and go backpack camping. There are six backpacking sites, and in order to reach them, you’ll need to hike at least half a mile from the parking lot. With just six sites available, reservations are highly recommended for this kind of camping as well. Basic amenities, such as drinking water and restrooms, are available closer to the parking lot.
There are 11 campsites for those that decide to bring their horses along with them to the park. These sites are located in the Trails End Horse Camp. Keep in mind that you won’t have any electricity during your stay at one of these sites. With only 11 horse campsites available, reservations ahead of time are recommended to guarantee a place to stay with your horse. This horse campground, as well as the horse trails, are open from the beginning of May to mid-November.
As big as this park is, you can be sure to find miles and miles of trails to discover. In fact, there are almost 40 total miles of trails in the park, and all are open to hikers except when covered with snow and open for skiing. Meadow Valley Trail is five miles long, while Outer Horse Trail is a loop that goes on for over 15 miles. If either of these are too long, there are some that are much shorter too. Check out Stephen’s Falls Trail, which is just .25 miles long, or the half-mile Gold Mine Trail. There is a trail for every difficulty level whether you're are looking for a challenge or just want a casual nature hike.
If you are ready for adventure, check out the eight miles of off-road biking trails at Governor Dodge State Park. The two best trails for biking are Meadow Valley Trail and Mill Creek Trail, as these are designed specifically for this purpose and are open for cycling during the summer. These are the same trails that are groomed for snowmobiling and cross-country skiing in the winter. Keep in mind, though, that these trails can be challenging, and you’ll need a state trail pass to ride on them.
For the equestrian camper, there are 22 miles of trails that are perfect for taking in the beauty of the park on horseback. You’ll need a state trail pass to do this, but once you get out on these trails, you’ll get to experience the spectacular scenery of the park on the backwoods trails that most campers don't frequent. You'll have to bring your own horse and stay in the Equestrian Campground as the park does not rent horses.
There’s no better way to spend a summer day than by the lake unless you're in the lake! At both lakes, you’ll find swim beaches available for you to use, and when you visit the beaches at Governor Dodge State Park, you’ll have bathhouses located nearby for your convenience. The beaches are open from 6 AM to 11 PM every day. Swim at your own risk because the park does not supply lifeguards.
When you want some time on the water, either to fish or just to relax, Cox Hollow Lake and Twin Valley Lake have several launch points to choose from. Electric motors are the only type of motorboats allowed on either lake. You can drop in your canoe or kayak pretty much anywhere along the lakeside, and if you don't have your own, you can rent a canoe, kayak, or paddleboat from the concession stand at the Cox Hollow Beach.
There are over 12 miles of ski trails available during the snow season, and there are four trails that are kept groomed so that you can have the best ski experience. These trails are Lakeview, Lost Canyon, Mill Creek, and Meadow Valley. Lakeview is the easiest to ski on, while Meadow Valley is the most difficult. Governor Dodge State Park's trails are known to be extra wide, so they're perfect for skiing with a friend.
If you wish to go snowshoeing, you can do so on any of the trails except the ones that have been designated for cross-country skiing or snowmobiling. Some popular places for snowshoeing are the Hickory Ridge Group Camp Area, Uplands Trail, and the Twin Valley Picnic Area. This is a great way to get some exercise even when it’s cold out.
Ice fishing is a great way to spend a winter day in the park. During the winter, both Cox Hollow Lake and Twin Valley Lake freeze over, and anglers pull out their augers and set up their ice shanties. Make sure that the ice conditions are just right. You’ll want to check that the ice is thick enough in order to fish safely. Muskie, pan-fish, and walleye are all just below the surface of the ice. There is also a bait shop nearby for you to get any supplies you need, and make sure you have a Wisconsin fishing license before you take your limit.
There's nothing that says winter fun like sledding. If you’re looking for a great hill to launch your flyer, then look no further than the Twin Valley Beach hill. This hill offers a great incline and is relatively free from obstructions. This hill is a pretty popular place for sledding, so if it's a little more crowded than you care for, there are plenty of other hills for you to choose from inside the park. After a few hours of fast-paced, thrilling trips on your sled, you can warm up in the Airstream with a cup of hot chocolate before heading out for some more winter fun.
One of the most exciting ways to spend a winter afternoon is snowmobiling. If you’re looking for the perfect place to take out your machine, there are a few trails that are just right for your ride. The Lost Canyon Trail is a quick and easy trail that starts by the Cox Hollow Campground, or for another option close by, try the Meadow Valley Trail. No pets or snowshoeing is allowed on this trail, so it's safe to hit the gas.
But if this trail isn't long enough for you, you can also check out the Mill Creek Trail, or take the trail to the 40-mile Military Ridge Trail. It's accessible from the park and leads to other public lands outside the park. You'll be stunned by the breathtaking beauty of this winter wonderland, and snowmobiling is a great way to see it.