Complete Guide to Big Foot Beach State Park

Complete Guide to Big Foot Beach State Park

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The Big Foot Beach state park is a 271-acres piece of land located on the shores of Lake Geneva in the Southern Unit of Kettle Moraine State Forest. This is a busy vacation destination during the summer season, with campers, hikers, and outdoor lovers coming to enjoy the fantastic attractions found in the park and Lake Geneva nearby.

Complete Guide to Big Foot Beach State Park

The beach is not large (at 1900 feet of lakefront) but it is one of the most pristine (and crowded beaches) on Lake Geneva. There is a lot to do and see in this park, and around the lake.

Complete Guide to Big Foot Beach State Park

If you visit here seeking an amazing camping and vacationing experience, read on for a complete guide to Big Foot Beach State Park.

History Big Foot Beach State Park

The naming of this park has a deep history, dating back to before 796 A.D. Some of the members of the Anishinaabe tribe (a mixture of native Americans who had both Canadian and American roots) settled on lake Geneva, somewhere in the 18th century as they fled to the west in pursuit of better places to settle down for farming and to escape their warring neighbors. 

The tribes that settled here (Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi) created a close-knit society, and each tribe had its role to play. The Ojibwe were considered to be the ‘elder brother’, and they eventually spread across Wisconsin, advancing the Middle Mississippian culture wherever they went and leaving their marks (mounds and stockades) as far as the Azlatan State Park, and probably further south. The Odawa were the ‘middle brother’ and proficient traders and the Potawatomi were known as the ‘keepers of the fire’. 

Chief Big Foot and the Potawatomi Tribe

The Potawatomi tribe settled in the region near and around Lake Geneva because they valued the resources that were present in the region. There were rich fishing grounds, large, fertile tracts of land for farming, and lush forests that were home to wildlife that supplemented their food through hunting and trapping.

The women gathered tubers and roots that they used as food or for medicinal purposes. The reeds around the lake and lagoons in the region were used to weave mats that would be sold or traded for essential goods they could not find in the region. 

History suggests that Chief Big Foot was a ruthless chief, someone who ruled with a firm hand and was not afraid of starting wars. He was born somewhere between the 1780s and 90s as Oginouy Tigo and got his nickname from a dancing session when clay stuck to his moccasins, making his feet appear larger.

He is renowned for being part of the treaty that agreed to give up their land on Geneva Lake and get relocated to Kansas after coming up with a compensation plan with the government. He would later lead his tribe away but the forest was named after him as a tribute.

Lake Geneva and Big Foot Beach State Park

Lake Geneva is a huge (5,401 acres) body of natural, freshwater located in Walworth County. The lake is accessible to the public, with clear and well-marked swimming areas in different locations. The water in the lake is clean, pristine, and a rich ground for a wide variety of water sports and leisure activities that include boating, yacht racing, paddle boarding, kayaking, swimming, and scuba diving. 

There are four beaches on this lake, including the Big Foot Beach, the Fontana beach (in Fontana village), the Riviera Beach, and the Williams bay beach. 

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Ceylon Lagoon and Big Foot Beach State Park

About half a mile from the park you will find this 6-acre lake that is also among the favorite fishing spots for campers inside the Big Foot Beach State Park and hikers exploring Lake Geneva and the surrounding attractions. The most common fish species available here include the Black bullhead, the largemouth bass, and the common carp. You may also find other fish species (such as paddlefish, catfish, salmon, and trout) in limited quantities. 

Be sure to follow the fishing regulations on Ceylon Lagoon. For instance, you can only motor-troll with up to 3 hooks, lures, and baits per angler. Catch and release fishing is a popular spot here.

This is an amazing region for having picnics surrounded by scenic beauty. They have set up tables around for this purpose. The trails leading to this location are also wheelchair-accessible and ideal for people seeking to have peaceful and tranquil walks.

Big Foot Beach State Park Camping

Camping in Big Foot Beach Park is a prolific activity, with over 100 wooded campsites. These campsites accommodate both RV and tent campers. There are numerous open spaces where families can camp, and kids will have lots of ground to play on.

Big Foot Beach State Park

Campsites in the upper loop have a gravel pad, fire ring, and picnic table. There are 34 sites with electric pedestals and 2 are accessible. Tent sites in the lower loop are a short walk from your vehicle (30-100 feet). Each has a fire ring and picnic table.

The campground has a dump station, vault toilets and a shower building and all hiking trails will be easily accessible from your campsite.

RVing at Big Foot Beach State Park

The 34 designated RV campsites come fully equipped with electrical dumps and electrical hook-ups. The RV sites are not large but the ground is leveled, meaning you can easily squeeze in a big rig. Spaces will be tight though and privacy will be minimal. They recently installed private showers and more clean restrooms for the campers in the RV campground.

Activities in Big Foot Beach State Park

Outdoor lovers will love spending time in this park. A camping expedition would not be complete without the exploration of the beautiful trails in this park or engaging in water sports activities in Lake Geneva. Here are some of the best activities you can indulge in while you are in this location:

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Big Foot Beach State Park Water Sports

Lake Geneva is known for its clear, clean water. Big Foot Beach has a 100-foot marked swimming area.

Fishing at Big Foot Beach State Park

Fishing is done either in Lake Geneva or on the Ceylon Lagoon. If you are a camper here, you will be loaned fishing equipment freely from the park’s office. You will need to be aged over 16 years and possess a fishing license before you are allowed to fish here. 

What we love? An accessible fishing pier is a short distance from the disabled parking area.

Swimming on Big Foot Beach 

Although the shoreline of Lake Geneva on the Big Foot State Park is not large, swimming is still a popular activity here. There are no swim guards on duty, but the waters are shallow and clean.

An evening lounge at the beach, coupled with swimming and watching the sunset is an amazing way to end a long day in this park. The beach is also a bit removed from the public camping sites but the short trail takes you through scenic locations before ending at this shoreline.

It makes for a perfect place to cool off on a hot day – just read our section on dogs (below) before you let Fido join you!

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Big Foot Beach State Park Boating, paddle boarding, and kayaking

There are two places you can launch your boat on Lake Geneva; the southern part of the park or in Linn Township. If you are a true adventurer, you can always find other locations to launch your boat from the park.

You can rent a kayak or a boat near the park or in Lake Geneva town. The park’s staff will come in handy with information on how to go about this of you can check our list below of close places to visit. 

Lake Geneva is ideal for whitewater kayaking and canoeing. If you are a beginner kayaker, take a guided trip using different adventure companies and agencies close to the lake.

Popular agencies for canoe and kayak trips on Lake Geneva;

Clear Water Outdoor, LLC

  • Location: 744 W Main St, Lake Geneva WI 53147
  • Website: https://clearwateroutdoor.com/
  • They will handle all your needs, including renting gear and offering guides for the trip.

Fontana Paddle Company

  • Location: 454 Lake Street, Fontana WI, 53125
  • Website: https://www.fontanapaddleco.com/
  • Sightseeing boat tours operate from mid-April through November on Lake Geneva. There are numerous options available, including private boat charters and cruises.

Hiking and walking trails at Big Foot Beach State Park

Big Foot Beach State Park may have a small beach, but it makes it up with a series of beautiful, natural trails. The most popular ones include:

Lake Geneva Shore trail

Length: 21 miles

This loop takes you on a parallel course to Lake Geneva, offering you fantastic views of the lake while still sheltering you under a canopy of lush vegetation. It is a moderate and popular trail and pets are allowed if they are on a leash.

The paths are also well marked but you need to be careful when navigating some sections where the ground is more treacherous and too slippery. These sections are dangerous at night. This is the reason why this path is only explored during the daytime.

There are not many restrooms along the trail, so sort your bathroom needs before you begin your walk. The rugged terrain is not good for biking.

The shore path runs through both private and public properties, so hikers are advised to be respectful to others on the path and the homeowners in this location. Enjoy looking at meticulously maintained gardens and yards and the beautiful views of the pristine waters of the lake. The lake runs parallel to your course. Take time to enjoy the scenery and the unique architecture of some of the old buildings and statues you will come across as your hike.

Big Foot beach trail

Length: 4 miles

This trail stretch takes you through wooded areas and along the shores of Lake Geneva. It is an all-natural trail (apart from small paved sections) hence biking may not be ideal. You will be walking inside a beautiful pine forest, with several muddy sections to keep everything interesting. Numerous other short trails branch off from this one. 

big foot beach state park hiking trail map

Other trails inside Big Foot State Park

There are other shorter hiking trails within this pack, ideal for day hikers and campers who just want to watch the birds or enjoy the tranquility in the woods.

Blue trail 

Length: 0.9 miles

Take a walk through a patch of tall hardwoods in this nature trail and enjoy watching the birds or catching an occasional glimpse of a wild animal. This is a moderate trail ideal for beginners. It is located at the western end of the park that would be great for horse riding as it opens to a picturesque grassland patch.

Orange trail

Length: 0.8 miles

On the Eastern end of the park, you will find this beautiful trail with some paved sections that take you through series of planted pines and prairie. It is a moderate trail.

Purple trail 

Length: 0.6 miles

This trail is in the northeast section of the park. It takes you through grassland and planted pines. It is fairly level, although it is more inclined than the Orange trail.

Red trail

Length: 0.5 miles

This trail is located inside the park – right in the middle. It is a level terrain that takes you through grassland and mixed hardwood area. 

Green trail 

Length: 2.9 miles

You will follow the perimeter of the park, taking in different views and sceneries throughout your hike. It has a combination of both leveled and uneven grounds, making it ideal for all types of hikers.

Black trail 

Length: 1.6 miles

You will enjoy walking among beautiful prairie and conifers on this trail. It is a moderately crowded trail located at the Southern end of the park. Some sections are a bit inclined. There are great sceneries to see along this trail.

Yellow trail 

Length: 1.2 miles

This trail is located in the western section of the park. It is also a moderate trail that takes you through grassland and woodland areas of the park. Bird watching is a common activity on this trail.

Candlelit hike

The friends of Big Foot Beach State park organize candlelit hikes in the park. It is an event that features an evening of walking along candlelit trails (usually a 0.8 miles long trail) and then gathering together for a fun night by the park’s bonfire ring. Check their website and social media platforms for more information on these kinds of events.

Bike trails at Big foot beach state park

Bike trails at Big foot beach state park

Most of the trails in Big Foot are natural trails which mean that they take you through rough, undeveloped terrain, and sometimes force you to brush tree branches aside to surge ahead. However, some sections are also perfectly suited for exploration by bike lovers, especially those who love to tackle challenging terrains.

There are no restrictions on where you can go with your bike inside the park, but you can ask the staff at the park’s office for better recommendations on the best biking trails to try out.

Picnicking at Big Foot Beach State Park

With over 40 acres set aside for picnics and other recreational activities (such as volleyball) within this park, having a great time with your family will come easy. There are about 150 tables set for this purpose and several charcoal grills. You can play volleyball with your family as you wait for the meal to get ready. The park’s office loans out these volleyballs freely. Pets are not allowed at the general picnic areas.

Wildlife at Big Foot Beach State Park

Expect to see different kinds of wildlife in this park- foxes, cottontail rabbits, coyotes, white-tail deer- depending on the season.

Bird watching at Big Foot Beach State Park

Most of the birds you will encounter inside this park are woodland birds. Friends of Big Foot Beach State Park organize bird-watching hikes several times during the year.

Some of the woodland birds to see here include wood thrush, eastern meadowlark, bobolink, great-crested flycatchers, and northern flickers. At night, expect to see owls and bald eagles. On the lake (especially in spring and fall seasons), you’ll see the merganser and horned grebe ducks.

Hunting and trapping at Big Foot Beach State Park

Hunting is a common practice here going back many years when the Potawatomi tribes ruled the lands. You will need to have hunting and fishing license and follow the Wisconsin State Parks trails hunting and trapping rules and regulations. Gun hunting is not allowed in this park. 

The best hunting times are in the fall/winter season from November 15 to around January 6th. Trapping is not allowed in closed areas of the park, or within 100 yards of hiking trails and other designated use areas, such as campsites. Archery hunting is allowed in spring, from April 1 through May 3rd. You will be given a map at the location to know the hunting and trapping zoned areas. Make sure you check out the State of Wisconsin Hunting Information.

winter in peninsula state park

Big Foot Beach State Park in Winter

Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, and hiking (through the forest and in the open areas) are popular activities in the winter season in this park. Camping is not allowed during the winter season. The park’s staff creates tracks for cross country skiing if the situation allows. Ice fishing is also a popular activity but make sure you consult the office because this is a highly regulated sport for safety purposes.

Big Foot Beach 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 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 Walworth County Humane Society at (262) 723-1000.

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 more have all been spotted at the park.

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.

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Attractions close to Big Foot Beach State Park

Occasionally, we love to park and play. That means we camp in the area for a while and use that as home base as we explore the area. It can be fun to know what is in the area besides the incredible nature you immerse yourself in.

I find it also helps in the event of bad weather – hiking or kayaking in a mild monsoon (like my trip turned out last weekend) isn’t a ton of fun. Other ideas make for a plan B or even C…

Attractions close to Big Foot Beach State Park

Geneva Lake Museum

Location: 255 Mill Street, Lake Geneva, WI 53147

Indulge your family in a bit of the history of the area at the Geneva Lake Museum. Take a walk through small, historic homes and learn about how people lived in this area many centuries ago.

Safari Lake Geneva

Location: W1612 Litchfield Road, Lake Geneva, WI 53147

Experience “Jungle Jay’s” Safari Lake Geneva! This is a family-owned refuge for rare animals and animals that face the danger of extinction. You can get drive-through safaris and interact with the animals closely. The center also offers educational programs on animal and environmental conservation.

Animal Gardens

Location: 5065 WI-50, Delavan, WI 53115

On your way to (or from) the Big Foot Beach State Park, you can pop into this location to experience exotic animals and the singing parrot, nicknamed Echo. It is a petting zoo that also offers other numerous attractions including well-maintained grounds for holding events and parties, rides (train rides, pony rides, and tractor-pulled rides), and dancing horses shows.

Lake Geneva Ziplines & Adventures

Location: N3232 CO Road H, Lake Geneva, WI 53147

You can enjoy zip-lining, tackling challenging obstacle courses, snowshoeing, hiking, skiing, biking, and all sorts of outdoor adventure in this location.

Lake Geneva Cruise Line

A perfect way to end a trip to Big Foot State Park would be by taking a boat cruise on Lake Geneva. There are several options here, including public sightseeing cruises, private cruises, and wedding cruises. Cocktails and exotic food are offered on deck.

Restaurants and hotels near Big Foot Beach State Park

Restaurants and hotels near Big Foot Beach State Park

Most of the hotels close to the park are located in Lake Geneva town. Here are some of our favorite joints. Keep in mind that hands down, our favorite is the Simple Cafe. You can read more about it here: Simple Cafe Lake Geneva is Anything But Simple.

Next Door Pub & Pizza

Location: 411 Interchange North, Lake Geneva, WI 53147

This pub and pizza joint cooks its delicacies using the traditional, original stone-hearth oven design. They also have gluten-free options on their menu. You can enjoy a nice cocktail and listen to live entertainment as your food gets prepared.

Joni’s Diner

Location: 111 South Wells Street, Lake Geneva, WI 53147

Grab a delicious omelet or burger from one of the finest (and oldest) establishments in Lake Geneva. The ambiance in this location is amazing and they have a wide selection of meals to choose from.

Geneva ChopHouse 

Location: 7036 Grand Geneva Way, Lake Geneva, WI 53147

This is another American-themed hotel that serves tantalizing dishes. Be sure to test their signature wines and cocktails while you are here. Seafood, desserts, and steaks are the main delicacies.

Parking at Big Foot Beach State Park

There is ample and secure parking space inside the park. Display your vehicle admissions sticker to be allowed entry. Day hikers and backpackers get charged $8 per vehicle (with WI plates) and $11 per out-of-state vehicle. 

Directions to Big Foot Beach State Park

If you are coming from the Lake Geneva direction, head east towards Mill Street (following the West Main Street), then turn right and follow the South Lake Shore to the Big Foot Beach State Park.

Cities near Big Foot Beach State Park

  • Lake Geneva – 3.4 miles
  • Burlington – 13.4 miles away via WI-36 
  • Delavan – 15.8 miles via WI-50E

Places To Stay Nearby

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