A Complete Guide to Rocky Arbor State Park

A Complete Guide to Rocky Arbor State Park

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Rocky Arbor State Park is in south central Wisconsin, about a mile and a half from The Dells. It only takes an hour to get here from Madison Wisconsin. Because of its closeness to the Dells, this park is frequently visited in combination with other state parks in the area. Rocky Arbor State Park visitors enjoy hiking, camping, picnicking, hunting, and snowshoeing.

A Complete Guide to Rocky Arbor State Park

Enjoy the scenery as you hike through the gorge’s cliffs, mixed woodlands, and wetlands. This park also provides visitors with the opportunity to see surreal rock outcroppings that are unique to this region of the state.

Camping here is popular among outdoor enthusiasts as a base for exploring the park and its surrounding area. It’s typically easier and cheaper to book a campsite here than at nearby state parks.

The park is open to foot traffic all year. Vehicles, however, are only permitted in the park between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends.

History of Rocky Arbor State Park

After the Kilbourne Dam was built in 1908, tourism began to flourish. The park was established with the purpose of protecting and preserving its important geologic formations of sandstone ledges and rock outcroppings. Rocky Arbor State Park was originally named Rocky Arbor Roadside Park when it was established in 1932.

Rocky Arbor State Park Geology

500 million years ago this region had numerous inland seas. The wind brought dune sand, which was then deposited as water drained into these seas. This is evident in the layering of the park’s eroded outcroppings. As the waters receded, the sand compressed into sandstone.

The Wisconsin River cut channels into the sandstone. The walls of the empty channel remained when the river shifted course. While the Dells region was carved by glaciers, the gorge here was not. While the Dells region is glacier carved, the gorge here is not. The gorge is part of a network of gorges produced by the flow of water when glacial lakes drained.

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Things to do in Rocky Arbor State Park

Park visitors enjoy camping, hiking, and picnicking at the park during its open season from Memorial Day to Labor Day weekends. Since the park is open year-round, it’s a great park to hike and snowshoe in the winter.

This is a smaller, quieter park, especially when compared to Devil’s Lake, etc. Many people prefer even Mirror lake – so this is a fantastic place to find quiet. Be prepared int he summer for the mosquitos and ticks – and you will have an enjoyable time.

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Camping at Rocky Arbor State Park

Many of the campsites are smaller than the average Wisconsin state campsite. As an older campground, most campsites here are sufficient for one vehicle and a tent. Fitting a fifth wheel or RV into a campsite here may be a tight squeeze.  However, all the sites are wooded and offer privacy from your neighbor. The campground is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day. (You can access the trails from the park entrance, so they just shut the gate during the off season.)

There are 89 wooded campground sites, and the campground has a dump station. There are also several vault toilets and water stations available throughout the campground. Flush toilets and showers are centrally located.

There are four loops within the circumference of the campground’s outer loop.

  • Neither the campground’s outer loop nor the first loop off the parking lot (sites 7-24) has campsites with power, but there is water and vault toilets.
  • The campground’s second loop (sites 31-47E) has sites with power and water.
  • The campground’s second and third loops share flush toilets, showers, and water.
  • The campground’s third loop (51 – 66E) has a few sites with power, vault toilets, and water.
  • Campsites 1 and 2, and Campsites 3 and 4, are “paired” campsites and may need to be reserved together.
  • Campsites 68-77 at the back of the campground’s outer loop, are known for the loud traffic noise level from the nearby Interstate. Just be warned, the hwy noise is kind of loud if you are in a tent.

Campground Map

Rocky Arbor Campsite Map - pick your site carefully to avoid the highway noise!
Rocky Arbor Campsite Map – pick your site carefully to avoid the highway noise!

Hiking at Rocky Arbor State Park

Rocky Arbor State Park has one hiking trail. The trail has a loop section that starts and ends near the park office. The main trail includes the trailhead at the campground. The self-guided trail is almost one and a half miles long and is a moderately difficult trail to hike. This trail has overgrowth and may have fallen trees that must be climbed over. There are also rock steps as well as wooden stairs to climb up or down as part of the trail. This trail has an elevation gain of 95 feet.

Visitors enjoy hiking along the former bed of the Wisconsin River while viewing wetlands, sandstone structures, and the ridge of the gorge. Seasonally, there are spring blossoms and fall foliage to appreciate. There are also opportunities to see a variety of species, including frogs, smaller mammals, and deer.

This hike is kid-friendly, but toddlers will need help. We don’t recommend taking a stroller or anything else with wheels on this trail.

Hiking trail map

Rocky Arbor State Park Hiking Trail Map
Rocky Arbor State Park Hiking Trail Map

Picnicking at Rocky Arbor State Park

Near the park office, there is a large grassy area with picnic tables and a picnic shelter. There’s also a nearby playground with a swing set, slide, and climbing wall.

Hunting at Rocky Arbor State Park

Hunting and trapping are allowed in the open areas of the park during Wisconsin State Park’s hunting and trapping seasons. Gun and archery hunting, as well as trapping, are allowed during the appropriate times.

Hunting or trapping is not permitted in closed areas as shown on the map or within 100 yards of any designated use area, including trails. The use of certain types of traps is also restricted.  Make sure to check the map for the rules and regulations for hunting and trapping at Rocky Arbor State Park.

Hunting Map

winter in peninsula state park

Rocky Arbor State Park in Winter

Enjoy winter hiking and snowshoeing here. Rocky Arbor is popular with snowshoers because none of the park is groomed for skiing.

Rocky Arbor State Park and Dogs

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 always be on a leash no longer than 8 feet. If they are not under control, 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, contact the Juneau County Humane Society in New Lisbon at (608) 565-2313.

Rabies and Parvo could be a thing as there are wild animals such as raccoons your pooch could meet, so make sure your pooch has all current vaccinations.

Pets are not allowed in the following places:

  • Buildings
  • Picnic areas and picnic shelters
  • Beaches
  • Playgrounds
  • Marked Nature Trails.
  • No Pets are allowed on the ski trails when they are snow-covered.

Of course, if your dog is a service animal, those rules do not apply.

State Permit

You will need a Wisconsin State Park System vehicle admission sticker to get into Potawatomi State Park. This permit also allows you to get into all the state parks, forests, and recreation parks in the state.


Restaurants Near Rocky Arbor State Park

Lets face it, not everyone wants a picnic. These places are fairly close to the park and have food worth checking out.

Edge-O-Dells Bar and Resort

Location: N555 U.S. Highway 12 and 16, Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965

More Information: https://www.edgeodells.com/bar-restaurant/

Most of the year, Edge-O-Dells is exclusively open to adults who are twenty-one and older. As a result, this resort restaurant offers a perfect variety of sophisticated entrees. Dinner specials include Jack Daniel’s BBQ Ribs and “Fish Fry and Old Fashioneds.”

Bring your appetite to enjoy dishes that include porterhouse steaks, brisket nachos, chicken wings, and half-pound burgers. If your tastes are on the chocoholic side, don’t forget to try the “Sinful 7” dessert. This chocolate cake is infused with seven different types of chocolate for a divine finish to your state park adventure.

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Dells Pizza Lab

Location: 332 State Highway 13, Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965

More Information: https://dellspizzalab.com/

Dells Pizza Lab is a family-friendly casual restaurant that offers a variety of custom options and fresh ingredients. Craft your own pizza and salad, or order one of the “Lab-Tested” pizzas and salads. The pizza dough is house-made, and you can even order a custom calzone.

Choose from traditional ingredients like Italian sausage or veg out with black beans and banana peppers. Or, experiment with different sauces and drizzles, like Alfredo and poblano ranch, to create your own. Dells Pizza Lab is perfect for families because the service is quick, but even the pickiest of eaters find something to enjoy!

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Eat On Hot Rocks

Location: 399 County Road A Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965

More Information: https://www.eatonhotrocks.com/

This unique restaurant offers great food in an island-style atmosphere for a fun dining experience. Diners order their “hot rock entrees,” including steak, pork, fish, seafood, and vegetarian entrees. The entrees are cooked and served on lava rocks, then brought to your table still sizzling.

Entrees come with standard sides, including potatoes or rice and soup or salad. Hot Rocks also offers seasonal specials ranging from the keto entrée to the fish fry or the opportunity to choose any size ribeye up to 32 ounces.

A kids’ menu is also available, and the whole family can share the Fudge Volcano Dessert, shaped like, you guessed it, a volcano.

Hotels Near Rocky Arbor State Park

Most of the hotels are on Frontage Road off I-90, southeast of the park. However, we’ve included one that is the most convenient to drive to, despite being north of the park.

When visiting Rocky Arbor State Park, there are several places to stay in the region. We’ve chosen our three favorites, all of which are within a fifteen-minute drive of the park.

Stairway in Rocky Arbor State park
This park is not the most accessible – stollers and wheelchairs would have a difficult time here.

Edge-O-Dells Bar and Resort

Location: N555 US Highway 12 and 16 Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965

More Information: https://www.edgeodells.com/

If you want a place to stay where you can socialize in a relaxed setting and enjoy activities while visiting Rocky Arbor State Park, then the Edge-O-Dells is the place for you. Enjoy the resort’s pool, tiki bar, and hot tub. You can also play volleyball and horseshoes here, as well as enjoy live music.

Choose from the resort’s variety of lodging options, which range from luxury cabins to tent camping.

  • Cabins: 16 luxury cabins, 4 rustic cabins, and 1 in-between cabin. These pet-friendly cabins all have queen-size beds, kitchenettes with a fridge and other small appliances, as well as plates, glasses, and utensils. Cabins come with AC, heat, a grill, a fire ring, and a picnic table. All cabins have bathrooms, but you must bring your own towels and toiletries.
  • Campground: This pet-friendly campground has almost 80 campsites with water and power, shower facilities, and picnic tables. There are sites of all sizes, from small single tents to large RVs.
  • Other Lodging: The resort hotel has king- and queen-sized rooms that accommodate two to eight people. There are also the Timber and Woodland houses, which are perfect for large groups to stay in. The hotel and houses are not pet-friendly.

The resort also has a restaurant that offers appetizers as well as meals like the Sconnie Hamburger and Honey Garlic Glazed Norwegian Salmon. Edge-O-Dells is the perfect place to stay for those who want to relax, play, and eat in a warm and welcoming environment.

Mt. Olympus Water and Theme Park Resort

Location: 655 N. Frontage Road, Wisconsin Dells WI, 53965

More Information: https://www.mtolympuspark.com/

When visiting Rocky Arbor, you may also wish to play at a water park in The Dells. Mt. Olympus Resort is a convenient place to stay and play while receiving park discounts.

Mt. Olympus Water and Theme Park Resort has two options for lodging. Choose either the Resort Room option or the Camp Resort option.

Resort Rooms: These rooms all have queen-size beds, but the number of beds and room sizes vary. Room accommodation ranges from two to ten guests. Each room has basic amenities and wi-fi.

Camp Resort: This option has luxury cabins to rent or the budget-friendly option of enjoying the outdoors with tent camping at the resort’s campground.

Enjoy the indoor and outdoor water parks with exciting water slides or the warm waters of the fire pool. There are attractions and rides for all ages at both the indoor and outdoor theme parks as well. Free play at the park is typically included with your stay here. Pets are not allowed at the Mt. Olympus resort or theme park.

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Blackhawk Motel and Suites

Location: 720 Race Street, Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965

More Information: https://blackhawkmotel.com/

The Blackhawk Motel is the perfect budget-friendly option, especially if you want to explore the Dells area on a low-key adventure. This hotel is family owned and operated, giving guests a home-away-from-home experience. There are plenty of different rooms to suit every need.  Choose from a standard room, whirlpool rooms, poolside rooms, cottages, rooms with a kitchenette, or even a house.

Family-friendly amenities include heated indoor and outdoor pools with waterslides, a heated kiddie pool, and playgrounds and picnic areas. Older kids and kids at heart enjoy the arcade, which includes video games, retro games, and a billiards table. This charming motel provides standard amenities, including reserved parking near your room. This motel is not pet-friendly.

Places To Stay Nearby

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Where is Rocky Arbor State Park?

Rocky Arbor State Park is located at Rocky Arbor State Park, N101 US Hwy. 12 and 16, Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965.

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