A Complete Guide to Interstate State Park

A Complete Guide to Interstate State Park

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Nestled in the picturesque landscapes of Wisconsin, Interstate State Park stands as a true gem, beckoning nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike to immerse themselves in its pristine beauty. This extraordinary park system spans state lines, extending its reach into neighboring regions, and offers an abundance of natural wonders, outdoor activities, and cultural significance.

Interstate State Park potholes

In this comprehensive guide, we will embark on a journey to uncover the treasures that await within Wisconsin’s Interstate State Park, delving into its rich history, showcasing its unique features, and providing valuable insights to help you make the most of your visit. Whether you are a passionate hiker, a curious geologist, or simply someone yearning for an escape to nature’s embrace, this guide will serve as your compass to explore the wonders of Interstate State Park in Wisconsin.

Interstate State Park is located in St. Croix Falls along Wisconsin Highway 35, around 0.5 miles south of U.S. Highway 8.

History of Interstate Park

Interstate State Park is Wisconsin’s oldest state park that was initially established back in 1900. It is situated along the northwestern end of the state and lines the beautiful view of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. In addition, it provides a great view of the steep-sided gorge, which is referred to as the Dalles of the St. Croix.

Interestingly, Wisconsin’s Interstate State Park is one of two parks with a similar name as Minnesota has a park with the same name situated on the other of the Gorge. The state park sits on roughly 1,330 acres and is within the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway and the Ice Age National Scientific Reserve. Many people describe the park as one of Wisconsin’s finest even though it is among the oldest and sees many visitors every year.  

The St. Croix River Valley, where the park sits, has a rich history that many people have never heard or known about. In the 1830s, the valley’s upper side saw people settling in the region on both sides and in both states. As the group started to expand, major developments started occurring in the region. Over the years, they did so much work that we can still experience a taste of while traveling the various trails on the park’s compound. There is so much to explore from the early years, still in existence at the park, that will help you understand why the park is treasured to this day.

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Glacial Potholes

The Glacial Potholes are an interesting feature of the park (adjoining the section close to Minnesota) as the trail leading to the area covers 1/2 mile and is relatively easy. Along this trail, you will get a diverse experience like no other as you learn more about the Lily Pond, Angle Rock, The Squeeze, Bake Oven, Cauldron, Cracked Rock Wall, St. Croix National Scenic River, and Shadow Rock.

Things to Do in Interstate Park

Are you looking for a State Park in Wisconsin that offers a myriad of enchanting experiences for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike? From towering cliffs and captivating river valleys to scenic trails and mesmerizing geological formations, this park presents a playground of opportunities to immerse oneself in the great outdoors.

Whether you seek a tranquil escape, thrilling adventures, or a chance to deepen your understanding of the Earth’s geological wonders, Interstate State Park has something for everyone. In this guide, we will explore the diverse range of activities and attractions that await visitors, ensuring that your journey through this natural wonderland is both unforgettable and enriching. Get ready to embark on an adventure of a lifetime as we unravel the countless things to do at Interstate State Park.

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Camping at Interstate State Park

Camping at Interstate State Park has loads of fun attached to it as there is an average of 82 family campsites and two major group campsites. The two groups can accommodate up to 60 people at any given time. For all registered campers, there are shower facilities available in the north campground. In addition, there is a dump station across from the Ice Age Center. You can reserve a camping spot online or by checking their information desk on the park’s ground.

You can access firewood, ice, and other concessions at the Ice Age Interpretive Center during operational hours. However, they have a strict policy against moving firewood across different areas due to fear of harmful tree pests and other wood diseases.

Campground Map

North Campground

South Campground

Cabins near Interstate State Park 

Don’t want the traditional hotels and motels to stay for the night? No problem! Here are a few cabins you can check out around the area to enjoy with your friends and family…

* Beautiful Deer Lake

This amazing cottage features 3 bedrooms with convertible beds, 1 bathroom and accommodates up to 6 people. It creates the perfect environment for you to relive your youthful bliss as the surrounding is serene, tranquil, and very much relaxing. The location has a traditional touch mixed with a class of modern class as the design creates a panoramic view of nature. The master bedroom is equipped with a fireplace and lots of space.

* Private Northwoods Retreat

Seated on roughly 2,300 sq. ft space, this amazing cabin is equipped with 4 bedrooms and five beds that can accommodate up to 12 people at a time. It features 3 bathrooms, 3 full baths, a patio/deck, a living room, and a kitchen. Private Northwoods Retreat connects you with an ambiance of relaxation as you meditate and focus on the best that nature has to offer.

Get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and enjoy life in a traditional and secluded location. Interestingly, the location allows you to enjoy fun activities like hiking, biking, and wildlife tours. Your pets may not be allowed, but it is perfect for the entire family.  

Interstate State Park Activities

Wisconsin really has an embarrassment of riches with our state parks in Wisconsin. This one is no different with what nature enthusiasts.

Visitor Center at Interstate State Park

The visitor center provides you with an introductory experience of what to expect as you enter the park. It helps to guide you on planning every activity you will engage in around the park. Get all the directions, maps, and other necessary information from the visitor center and access the parking to enter other sections of the park. It features a lodging area where you can stop to relax before venturing into the inner terrains of the park. The center is open every day and can be accessed via telephone. The park is opened all year round between 6 am to 11 pm daily.

Interstate State Park Water Sports

In the summer there is fun to be had scuba diving, fishing, swimming, kayaking, boating, and canoeing.

Fishing at Interstate

Fishing is a must-do activity while on vacation near any riverway, and Wisconsin’s Interstate State Park opens its doors to this relaxing sport. The St. Croix River is one of the best places to yield a good catch, as you can expect fishes such as muskies, small-mouth bass, northern pike, and walleyes. Those youngsters just getting into the game will enjoy the fine-shore fishing that Lake O’ the Dalles provides. Lake O’ the Dalles also provides a handicapped-accessibility pier.

Swimming at Interstate

Lake O’ the Dalles has a cool swimming area and a beach house, but while swimming, one must consider their wading as water depth varies and can change without notice. Bear in mind, lifeguards are not provided in the area, so you have to swim with caution. In addition, cliff jumping is not allowed, and swimming, not allowed close to the boat launch.

Cliff Jumping at Interstate

Let me make this beyond clear: cliff jumping is not permitted on the park grounds as it is relatively dangerous, and the area is not maintained to facilitate this activity.

Boat Tours

What is better than going for a scenic boat road along the St. Croix River while you relax and have the cool summer breeze dazzle across your face? There are different options to choose from related to boat rides, so it is best to get the full details from the information desk to see which best suits your desires.

canoeing at interstate state park

Canoe Rentals at Interstate

What better way to enjoy your vacation or even staycation away from the busy setup of life? Take a trip on a canoe down one of Wisconsin’s cleanest and most tranquil riverways – the St. Croix River. It creates the perfect avenue for you and your family or friends to unwind for a few hours as you enjoy the breath of fresh air and amazing picturesque that nature provides.

The park provides the opportunity to rent canoes for your ride, or you can check their information desk as to whether you can rent from close-by stations as well. Their rental system is relatively easy, and you get all the tools needed in one place. Ensure you check with the park’s authorities on what you should expect, as there are times when the riverways get really low, and various approaches may be needed to get your canoe going.

Kayaking and Kayaking Rental at Interstate

You can go kayaking on the river or get a few kayaks for rental in the area, but only motorized crafts are allowed in Lake O’ the Dalles. You can access the boat’s launch rivers, both available at the St. Croix River and Lake O’ the Dales.

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Hiking at Interstate State Park

Nine plus miles of hiking trails provide hikers the opportunity to get a taste of what the park has to offer. Guided hikes run through the summer months, and their difficulty levels vary as not all areas are surfaced but designed with steep bluffs and edging cliffs. Many of these hiking trails can also become slippery when wet or due to fallen leaves and loose gravel. You can take your pets along, but they should be on a leash of 8 feet or shorter at all times. You can see all the accessible hiking trails under the park’s available trails listed above.


There are lots of trails you can enjoy while you spent some time with friends and family at Interstate State Park. As you enjoy the best of the parks, here are the trails you will get an opportunity to explore…

silhouette photo of three person near tall trees while hiking at interstate state park

* Pothole Trail – This trail is a little under half-mile and takes you through a scenic view of the Dalles of the St. Croix River gorge. You will travel atop Old Man of the Dalles rock formation and experience a once-in-a-lifetime moment. The trail includes a gravel surface, uneven terrain, and stone stairs.

You can enjoy the best fall colors at this park as you traverse the 0.4-mile Pothole Trail (loop). It provides one of the best scenic views throughout the park and some of the best nature offerings you can ever imagine. For instance, the ancient potholes are classified as smooth round holes formed in the bedrock by glacial meltwaters. There is also a selfie stand that allows you to capture the beautiful scene behind you, especially during the fall season when the colors start to kick in.

* Horizon Rock Trail – This trail covers roughly half-mile and starts at the creekbed, and runs through a wooded region to the dry Horizon Rock, where many prairie plants boom. It creates a scenic view of the river valley and boasts a historic stone shelter where you can rest from your walk. From the stone shelter, you can head over to the Ice Age Center. The trail includes stone stairs, uneven terrain, and unsurfaced grounds.

* Meadow Valley Trail – The Meadow Valley Trail runs an average of 0.3 miles and connects Horon Rock Trail to the beach area. It has an area of steepness but is easy to get over, and most of the trail sits along an extinct riverbed of glacial meltwaters that now consists of ferns, wildflowers, and mosses. It features stone stairs, unsurfaced grounds, and uneven terrain.

* Summit Rock Trail – Here, we have another half-mile loop trail that provides an amazing view of the river gorge. Making a right turn at the intersection through Canyon Valley and end out in the Summit. You will get a spectacular view of Old Man of the Dalles rock formation, among many other beautiful scenes. Keeping left will take you back to the trailhead, and right will lead to Echo Canyon Trail. The trail features a few areas of steep terrain, wooden and stone stairs, and unsurfaced grounds.

* Echo Canyon Trail – This loop trail is a little longer than the previous trails as it covers an average of 0.7 miles and is a connector between Summit Rocks and Lake O’ the Dalles Trails. Exiting the Summit will see this trail taking you into Echo Canyon, which is an extinct riverbed carved by glacial meltwaters. It runs across unsurfaced grounds, stone stairs, and uneven and steep terrain.

* River Bluff Trail – Here, we have another 0.7 miles trail that intersects Lake O’ the Dalles Trail on the north shore. The trail heads from the lake through the canyon and pond up to the edge of the lower gorge. Close to the end of this trail, it heads down 60 feet from the bluff to River Bottoms Picnic Area. It runs along stone stairs and uneven and steep terrains.

* Silverbrook Trail – The Silverbrook Trail runs an estimated 1.2 miles and gives you an amazing view of the wildlife features of Interstate State Park. This trail runs through a remote area of the park that boasts a lot of history of the park’s existence. Along this trail, you will get the chance to view an abandoned copper mine as well as the Silverbrook Mansion. Bear in mind, you will also come across the Silverbrook Falls, which stands at a whopping 18-foot tall.

* Skyline Trail – This amazing trail covers roughly 1.6 miles and is the park’s longest trail that takes in Skyline Nature Trail and is a part of the National Scenic Ice Age Trail. Skyline Trail connects the Pines Group Camp to the Ice AgeCenter and intersects Ravine Trail. It also covers a part of the forested area of the park. Along this trail, you should expect to go across both uneven and steep terrains, as well as get a few wooden benches to rest as you stop to take in the amazing view of what nature has to offer.

* Lake O’ the Dalles Trail – Here is a 1-mile loop trail that will help you to get a taste of the park’s wildlife setup. This trail connects the beach, the Camp Interstate Shelter, and the River Bottoms Picnic Area. The trail also features a bridge that crosses Dalles Creek and features stone stairs, a beach house, and an accessible fishing pier.

* Eagle Peak Trail – Eagle Peak Trail is a 0.8-mile trail that overlooks the valley. Hiking will take you 120 feet from the Pines Group Camp up to Eagle Peak. You can either return to the Group Camp or continue the journey to the South Campground, where you will get to experience a part of the past – a 1930s CCC traprock quarry. The trail features stone stairs as well as steep and uneven terrain.

* Ravine Trail – A half-mile trail that connects Skyline Trail to the beach parking area. The trail extends downward of 260 feet from the valley’s rim through to an area that features a 1930s rock shelter built by early inhabitants. The trail features shelter buildings, both steep and uneven terrain, and 40 wooden steps.

Trail Map

Cycling and Biking at Interstate State Park

There are selected areas around Interstate State Park that allow you to bike or cycle with friends and family. Several trails go over several miles and provide a different experience in each. However, many of the trails on the park’s compound are prohibited from cycling, while some of the available ones are also used by motorized vehicles. These trails include…

* River Road Route

This amazing trail takes you alongside the soothing St. Croix River and provides a “wilderness relaxing feeling.” The route is on paved grounds with easy to intermediate difficulty levels and covers an average of 10 miles. There are no passes required to access this trail but be mindful if you are riding in groups, there is only one shoulder to ride as cars used the road just the same.  

* Rustic Road Route – County Road S

Bear in mind, this roadway is also used by motor vehicles, so you have to ride with caution. The journey runs over 6 miles and requires no pass to access and features both paved roadways and challenging hills. The course will see you encountering sudden hills when you go around several corners. But, the ride will be worth it as the scene is relatively beautiful and relaxing.

man in black jacket riding bicycle on forest during daytime

Eagle Rock

There are not many accessible summits in Wisconsin, but Interstate State Park provides you the opportunity to access one. Eagle Rock is one of the amazing locations that gives hikers the ability to explore the park’s nature setup from an ascended point. The rock stands 120 feet high above the trailhead and about 200 feet above the St. Croix River. The Eagle Peak Trail gives hikers a fantastic panoramic view of the park with its lush green spaces.

Climbing at Interstate State Park

Love rock climbing? Well, this may be one of the locations you will enjoy the sport of rock climbing to get your adrenaline rushing. However, even though the park allows rock climbing in certain areas, it is done at climbers’ own risk as the park is not fully maintained to facilitate this sport. As such, climbers may come across loose rocks or slippery areas due to wet conditions.

A climbing permit may not be required for individual climbers, but for instructors, you may need to contact the information desk to gain access to a use permit. Bear in mind, not all areas are open for this sport, so checking with the relevant authorities will give you a more guided approach.

white and brown wicker basket with white textile while picnic at interstate state park

Picnicking at Interstate State Park

Unlike many other parks, Interstate provides numerous areas on the park compound fully equipped with picnic tables, potable water, grills, fireplaces, and restrooms. Interestingly, there are also reservable shelters that can cater to group picnicking. These include River Bottoms Shelter and Camp Interstate Shelter.

Interstate State Park Hunting

Wisconsin state parks authorities only allow hunting and trapping in the open areas of the parks during their selected hunting and trapping time frame. They do not allow trapping in closed areas or anywhere close to or within 100 yards of any use areas to include hiking trails. Bear in mind, not all weapons are allowed, so it is best to consult with the relevant authorities which tool is best for the sport at this park. In addition, hunting and trapping are mainly allowed over two periods:

* Spring – This runs between April 1 to the closest Tuesday to May 3 and

* Fall/Winter – This runs from November 15 to December 15, but those with legal archery may go up to the Sunday closest to January 6.

The instructions and variations for hunting may change over time, so it is best to consult the park’s information center for more details as you make your plans.

Here is a copy of the park’s hunting map:

Get the Hunting Map

showshoeing in Interstate State Park in WInter

Interstate State Park in Winter

Winter is no time to slow down in Wisconsin!


Snowshoeing is among the many winter sports you can engage in at the park, as there are numerous trails and open areas that allow you to engage in it.


Are you a winter fan and love to enjoy the fun and excitement that comes with the snow? Then, you are going to love the 12.5 miles of winter trail that the park provides. It is perfect for all-level skiing, and there are different types of terrain you will traverse over the course. By far, one of the best cross-country skiing spots in Wisconsin! There is a selected 2.8-mile trail that is groomed and set for cross-country skiing only.

Dogs at Interstate State Park

dogs at Interstate State Park

Let’s start with the obvious: dogs shouldn’t be left unattended and you should pick up the poop. Waste should be disposed of in dumpsters or trash receptacles.

Dogs are allowed in most campgrounds, trails, roads, and outlying areas of the parks. They must be on a leash no longer than 8 feet at all times, if they are not under control at all times, they can be seized and subject to local laws pertaining to stray animals.

ID tags are a good idea if your dog isn’t micro-chipped. If you do lose your pet you can contact the Northwoods Humane Society at (651) 982-0240.

Rabies could be a thing as there are wild animals like raccoons your pooch could come in contact with so make sure your pooch has all current vaccinations.

Other animals like deer, red fox, coyote, squirrels, and beavers. Black bears, cougars, groundhogs, and wolves have all been spotted at the park

Hotels near Interstate State Park

What better way to enjoy the best of Wisconsin than to stick around, so you miss out on neither the day nor the nightlife. So, where do you need to stick around to get the best of local life? Here are a few hotels you can check out and book into just the same…

* Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites

Located on 2190 US Highway 8, St. Croix Falls, this amazing hotel provides you with the perfect home away from home experience. Whether traveling for business or leisure, Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites create that ambiance for relaxation with some of the most interesting and intriguing features.

This hotel features the region’s largest swimming pool and spa, a 24-hour gym, great meeting space, and a convenience room equipped with a fireplace. Each suite has access to free high-speed internet and many other amenities to complement your stay. Enjoy some mouth-watering food from both local and international cuisine and a staff ready and waiting to serve you like the star you are. It is also in close range to lots of the state’s historic buildings and landmarks. Reach out to them today to book your stay and creating a lasting memory of fun and enjoyment.

* AmericInn by Wyndham North Branch

AmericInn by Wyndham North Branch is located on 38675 14th Ave, North Branch, roughly 20.4 miles away from Interstate Park. The hotel is designed to create relaxation, and great unwinding as the services are above par. Each room is fully equipped with a flat-screen TV, free high-speed internet, and air-conditioning.

They also have a 24-hour help desk and their own newspaper to keep you fully informed. It is in close range to some amazing restaurants that will satisfy your need for some good food as well as close to some of the state’s most interesting historic dwellings.

* Best Western Plus New Richmond Inn & Suites

Located at 240 Paperjack Dr, New Richmond, Best Western Plus New Richmond Inn & Suites is one of the best places to stay while visiting this area in Wisconsin. They are fully equipped with some of the most intriguing amenities to complement your stay as you enjoy the best of what the region has to offer. It is situated around 20.8 miles away from Interstate Park and is perfect for all family members or your friend group.

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Restaurants near Interestate

You have to eat no matter where you go, and Wisconsin sure knows how to create the perfect moment for you to enjoy some good food. So, where around town can you satisfy your tastebuds? Here are a few places you can head over to…  

* Tangled Up In Blue Restaurant

You are in for a great treat the moment you step through the doors of this amazing restaurant. Their tranquil and relaxing environment coupled with warm and pleasant staff will be more than what you bargained for. From their breakfast menu to their dinner dishes, there is so much to choose from. Enjoy a mix of local and international cuisine prepared by some of the area’s best cooks and chefs.

Have a special function to host and want some great catering? You are in the perfect place. Reach out to them today at +1 651-465-1000 to make your order or step in and have your meal served in a sizzling manner. After all, they are only half a mile from Interstate Park.

* Dalles House Restaurant

Located along 720 S Highway 35, Saint Croix Falls, you are in for some mouth-watering goodness of local and international cuisine. They serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, and other side dishes in between, and sure enough, the food complements the serene and calm environment.

Perfect for all family members, and it is around 0.6 miles away from Interstate Park, so you can grab a bite while you enjoy the best of the state park. Call them today at +1 715-483-3246 to reserve a spot or order your delicious meals.

Final Thoughts 

While this might not be as large a park as Devil’s Lake State Park, I hope you can see how it certainly has plenty to offer those who choose to make use of it.

Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments!

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