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As the summer begins, you might be planning a trip to one of Wisconsin’s great state parks, such as Devil’s Lake State Park, Blue Mound State Park or Governor Dodge State Park.

There’s a lot to see, a lot to do and a lot to remember when planning a trip to a state park. Check out this list of things to know when traveling to state parks to help you plan your summer adventure.

Pack your gear

Whether you’re camping or just planning a day trip, it’s important to pack the proper gear so everyone enjoys their experience. If it’s a day trip, your gear might simply include a backpack or two full of the essentials like sunscreen, a hat, water bottles, sunglasses and snacks.

Be sure to pack some snacks in your backpack and consider also packing a picnic for another fun way to relax and take in the scenery. Some state parks may have a lodge, concession stand or park store with some food available, but you’ll want to check with the park you’re traveling to before you go.

If you’re planning on camping, your gear list is going to be a little longer. First, you’ll need to decide if you’re camping in a tent or camper. In thinking about the rest of your supplies like food and clothing, consider how many days you’ll be gone to guide your packing.

Plan your time

Some state parks have expansive landscapes to see and numerous activities you can do. Before you go, it will be helpful to have at least a rough schedule of your activities. This will ensure that you’ll have time to do and see all you wanted to on your trip. You’ll also feel less overwhelmed with your options of activities if you know what they are ahead of time.

In planning your time, don’t pack too many activities in the schedule so you must be on the move the whole time. You still want to relax and enjoy your time, so plan a schedule that allows for some down time to avoid feeling overwhelmed and rushed, as well as to allow for some buffer time in the event one of your activities (such as hiking a particular trail) takes longer than anticipated.

It will also be important to know the hours of the state park you are visiting, which vary depending on the park.

Make your reservation

If you plan on camping in the park, be sure to make a reservation for your camp site in advance of your trip. Camping reservations can be made on the day of arrival or up to 11 months in advance, though reservations fill up fast, so be sure to call or check online in advance or you may not have a place to camp. When you make your reservation, read camping rules and guidelines specific to the state park you are visiting so you know what you can and can’t bring and expectations for what you can and cannot do.

Keep in mind that although some COVID-19 protocols have been lifted at state parks, some rules are still in place. You’ll want to review the current COVID-19 guidelines for your state park (particularly for camping protocols) before you arrive.

Know your pass price

Whether you’ve made your reservation to camp at the park or you’re just planning a day trip, know your admission pass price before you go. Most of the state parks require an admission pass to enter. If you think you may return to the state park, you may want to consider buying an annual vehicle admission sticker. Otherwise, daily vehicle admission stickers are also available. Either can be bought at the state park when you arrive, or annual admission stickers can also be bought online.

Is adventure calling? Check out our other travel tips including garden getaways and family vacation planning tips.