Located in the northeast section of Wisconsin, Willow River State Park is a fantastic place for your next RV adventure with the family. With almost 3,000 acres of woods, meadows, and water, you will be astounded by the beauty you can find here. The waterfall is the most popular attraction in the park. Willow Falls, which cascades 200 feet down into a deep gorge, is an amazing sight to see and get some selfies to share on your favorite social media sites.
Little Falls Lake is also a fun spot to hang out at any time of the year. During the summer it provides a nice shallow reservoir where you can cool off or toss in a line. But, during the off-season, you can also scour around here when the water is depleted and see what is left is fossils and other interesting geological artifacts. You may even find some trilobite fossils near the gorge, which is about 600 million years old.
The Sioux and Ojibwe Tribes were the first to settle in the area and enjoyed what were the wild rice lakes at the time. After the loggers moved in and wheat farmers crashed the party, it became more of an industrial area. When the land was sold back to the Wisconsin Conservation Commission in 1967, the park became a park again and provides boating, rock climbing, fishing, and 11 trails equaling over 13 miles of paths through the area. And with four campgrounds, you won’t have trouble getting a reservation so you can stay more than one day.
Just off of US-12 and WI-35 in Hudson, Wisconsin, you can reach the park from I-35, I-94, or US-63. The closest large cities include St. Paul, Minnesota 23 miles to the southwest and Minneapolis, which is about 33 miles to the west. Hudson, which is only six miles to the southwest, is a fantastic little town on the St. Croix River where you can check out the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. It offers 200 miles of pristine water to explore.
The roads leading into the park are fairly easy to drive no matter what you are in, but the 300 Campground area is tricky for those with large rigs. Anything over 30 feet will be difficult to maneuver near this campground as the roads are narrow and curvy. Parking is not easy in this campground either so if you have an RV longer than 30 feet, you are encouraged to use the 200 or 100 Campgrounds.
Most visitors to Willow River State Park like to leave the RV at the campsite and take another vehicle to explore the area. If you don’t plan on going too far, a bike or your own two feet will work just as well. There are over 13 miles of hiking and biking trails in the park you can enjoy. You can also walk or ride the camp and park roads, which take you to the main attractions like the Visitor Center, Nature Center, and the beach.
The main campground at Willow River State Park is the 300 Campground with 70 campsites. Many of these are primitive sites without utilities, but they do have camper comfort stations with modern restrooms and hot showers. Sixteen of the campsites have 30-amp electric hookups, so you can cook inside or outside on the provided campfire grills. You’ll also find a shaded picnic table that seats eight, so you don’t have to try and balance your food on your lap in a camp chair. While many of these campsites can accommodate rigs from 40 to 50 feet in length, there are some that can only fit those up to 15. Be sure to check the length limits when setting your reservation.
Located between the Little Falls Trail and the Willow Falls Trail, this spacious campground is also the closest to the Little Falls Lake. The kids will love being able to play in the lake, and there is a playground in the middle of the camp for them to enjoy as well. You will also find a dump station nearby in case you need to dump your tank. Fluffy can come too because pets are welcome. You just have to supervise her and keep her on a leash or otherwise secured at all times. There are several potable water spigots throughout the camp, and a camp host is on the main road.
In between the 100 and 300 Campgrounds, the 200 Campground has 30 well-spaced sites that can accommodate rigs up to 40 feet long. However, some are smaller so be sure to check that when making your reservations. Twelve of the campsites have 30-amp electric hookups, but the rest are primitive. The park provides a campfire ring with a grill to cook on, or you can use your own portable camp stove or BBQ grill. There is also a picnic table that seats eight people.
Right off of the Pioneer Trail, the 200 Campground is in the middle of the park near the service building. You are close enough to the lake to have a lake view in most sites, and you have access to a comfort station with showers and restrooms. Your furbabies are allowed but have to be kept supervised during your stay. Potable water spigots are available by sites 209 and 227. Reservations are needed and can be made up to 11 months in advance.
For those who have RVs or trailers larger than the norm, you will want to choose the 100 Campground because it can accommodate rigs up to 50 feet and some are even larger. If you have a rig longer than 50 feet, call ahead and see if it can be accommodated at one of the sites. This campground also has the most sites with electric hookups with 33 of them having 30-amp electricity. A shower house and full restrooms with flush toilets and running water are in the middle of the park. Drinking water spigots are located near sites 108 and 141. Pets are welcome and reservations are needed, which you can make up to 11 months in advance of your trip.
Cooking here is easy since there are so many electric options, as well as the campfire ring with a grill to cook on. Your whole group will fit at the picnic table too. No need to try and balance your plate of food on your lap in a camp chair. The playground in the middle of the park will make the kids happy and it will help you keep them busy for a while so you can relax. This camp is also located off the Pioneer and Knapweed Trails, so you can take a hike if you want to.
If you have a large family or group, you may want to check out the group campground. There are four group campsites here just to the south of the 300 Campground. Sites A – C can accommodate up to 30 people and have plenty of room for tents and lots of shade. The park provides several picnic tables and a fire ring with a grill you can cook on. You may also want to bring in your own camp stove and chairs. Site D can accommodate groups up to 40 and has partial shade, picnic tables, and a group campfire ring with a grill to cook on.
These are primitive sites with no running water or flush toilets, but there are vault toilets nearby. You will have to walk a bit to get to the camp so your RV will have to remain in the parking lot. Your furbabies can join you though, as long as you supervise them and keep them restrained. The camp is located along the Oak Ridge Trail and the Knapweed Trail, and near the White Tail Trail Loop. Be sure to make a reservation early since there are only four sites.
When packing up the rig, don’t forget the sunscreen and swimsuits because the Little Falls Lake Beach is gorgeous. But please note, there is no lifeguard on duty, so you will be swimming at your own risk. Non-swimmers and kids should wear life vests while in the water, and all children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. Sometimes, this beach is closed due to low water levels, so always check with the Park Office ahead of time. If that beach is too crowded or unavailable, there are many spots around the Willow River where you can swim and float.
The locals can tell you that Willow Falls State Park is one of the best places to get outside and rock climb in the Midwest. In the large amphitheater, steep climbing ranges from 5.11 to 5.13, with most being 5.12s. There are approximately 25 routes you can take on this huge climb with high roofs, large hidden pockets, and strenuous climbs. Many of these climbs are not for beginners, but you can find a few that are not too difficult. Watch out for loose rocks and be sure to climb with a partner.
Whether you have a kayak, canoe, or raft, you will love the paddling availabilities at Willow Falls State Park. The Willow River is the main spot for floating, paddling, and kayaking, especially at times when Little Falls Lake is low. Depending on the recent rainfall totals, the river can be super calm and flat, or you can find raging whitewater areas along the narrower parts. The St. Croix River is also nearby where you can find the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. Always ride safely and wear life vests at all times.
How long has it been since you went sledding? It may have been many years if you don’t have kids. At Willow Falls State Park, there is a special spot by the Nature Center conveniently called Sledding Hill. Just off of Lakeview Snowshoe Trail, Sledding Hill is a nice slope that people of all ages will enjoy, depending on the snowfall amounts. Don’t have a sled? That’s okay. You can use a kayak, inner tube, raft, or even a tote lid. People have gone down the hill on stranger things.
Snowshoeing is a popular sport at Willow Falls State Park as well with five different snowshoeing trails to choose from. If you forgot your snowshoes, don’t worry; the Nature Center has them for rent on a first-come, first-served basis. Check out the 1.3-mile Woodland Snowshoe Trail, which starts by the Sledding Hill near the Nature Center and meanders around the 300 Campground and up to the Falls Snowshoe Trail. If you still want to keep going, the Falls Snowshoe Trail can take you back down to the parking lot of the 200 Campground or on up a steep hill to the Overlook at Willow Falls.
Similar to skiing, skijoring also involves a couple of large dogs to pull you along. All you need is some skis, poles, and some ski harnesses for the pooches. They have setups for one to three dogs, but it is most commonly done with two. You can tell your pups where and when to go, but you are pretty much at their mercy, so make sure your dogs know what they are doing and can take directions well.