New Glarus Woods State Park was established in 1934, but the surrounding land has been in use for centuries. The area has rich Native American, Swiss, and Germanic roots with sprinkles of French influence. The first maps of the area were made by U.S. Army surveyors in the 1800s, depicting a mixture of prairies and rolling hills. Due to the influence of Germanic folk tales and natural predators, there are many stories of monstrous wolves roaming the woods and attacking travelers in the late 1700s. Now the area celebrates its Swiss and Germanic heritage each year with many festivals including the largest called the “Wilhelm Tell Festival.”
New Glarus Woods State Park expands over 430 acres of land with a promise of adventure. You can find over 24 miles of trails to hike and explore during the summer or take a rod and tackle box to fish on the many streams that run through the park. Winter provides cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and the occasional snowball fight. While the park is open year-round, the campground closes at the beginning of November.
There are 38 sites for camping and 18 specifically designated for RV and trailer camping. There are no connections available in the park and no dumping station available either. Wastewater can be dumped in the bathrooms or the nearby parks with a dumping station. The park enjoys cool summers and snowy winters.
New Glarus Woods State Park is located several miles south of the city of New Glarus providing a quick getaway from the park for mini-grocery trips and the occasional shopping experience. I-39 runs along the right entrance of the park allowing for easy access. You will want to fill up your tank and stock up on fuel before you enter the park as there are no hookups available.
The roads surrounding the park are well maintained and have a slight incline due to the elevation of the area. You won’t have to worry about roads flooding due to rain, but the occasional snow storm may cause the highways to temporarily close for maintenance. It is advised that you either walk or ride your bike in the park. Dogs are allowed but only if they are kept on a leash.
If you anticipate arriving later than you had hoped, you can use the self-registration in the park to check-in. Self-registration also allows you to pay for your stay, in the morning, a park host or staff will stop by to explain some of the rules and answer any questions that you may have. The park enjoys cool summers and cold winters.
New Glarus Woods State Park has 18 sites specifically reserved for RV and trailer camping. Your rig must be less than 25 feet to reserve a spot. There are no hookups available but you are allowed to have a generator in certain sites. If your generator is very quiet, then you can have it near the main campground rather than in a secluded section away from other campers. The sites are well shaded and a little hilly but otherwise perfectly secluded from each other. You won’t have to worry about your neighbors peeking at you when you are sitting by the fire. Amenities include hot showers, restrooms, a picnic table, a grill, and a fire ring. You are prohibited from bringing your own firewood but you can buy locally-grown firewood near or in the park. You are also prohibited from collecting firewood from the surrounding area. You may stay a limit of 14 days at a time in a 21-day period. Reservations are accepted up to 11 months in advance.
The Sugar-River State Trail offers 24 miles of trails and a self-guided tour for you to explore the area surrounding the park. If you are interested in the Prairie lands in the park, try walking along the Bison Nature Trail in the northern tip of the park. Remember to carry a map, water bottle, and wear a sturdy pair of hiking boots to make the trip a bit easier on your body. Pets are allowed on the trails but only if they are kept on a leash and well-behaved. If you see any trash on the trails, remember to pick it up to keep the park looking beautiful.
All trails in New Glarus Woods State Park accommodate bikes, but it is recommended that you stick to Sugar-River State Trail for partially paved trails. Bikers must give way to hikers and ride at a reasonable speed while on the trails. You may venture off the trails but it is not recommended due to safety concerns. Be sure to wear a helmet and bring a bottle of water on your great outdoor adventure.
The lower half of the park is open for hunting season each year. The park allows bow/archer and gun hunting with limited trapping from April to May. Fall/winter hunting is available from November to December. You are required to bring the appropriate licenses and permits for all of your equipment and vehicle. The operation of motorized vehicles is prohibited in the hunting area along with overnight hunting. You can park your motorhome next to the hunting area and leave any equipment not needed for your trip in your vehicle.
You can pick up a birding checklist in the front office to find out the different types of birds that call the park home. The Havenbridge Nature Trail offers a guidebook and over four miles of trails to explore and spot the vireonidae, warblers, swallows, and sparrows. Remember to pack your binoculars in your RV before you head out of town for the best experience.
The trails are open in the winter for cross-country skiing. You will have to take your own risks on the trails as they are not maintained in the winter. Remember to take a map, a GPS device, and a flare with you in the event that you get lost or injured. It is advised that you dress according to the weather and make sure to check the forecast before you head out. If you become winded or need a break on the trail, you can take a break and begin again when you are ready. Stay off the trails at night and remember to have fun.
Geocaching is one of the most basic activities for the whole family to enjoy. You will need a GPS capable device, a pen/pencil, your own set of treasures to trade, a water bottle, and a snack for when you are on the trails. Remember to take along your spirit of adventure and wear a sturdy pair of hiking boots. Dress according to the weather and remember to leave the trails better than you found them.