Wisconsin Dells is all about the outdoors. Long before tourists came here to zip down waterslides, they were drawn to the area’s natural beauty. Top on the list: the intricately carved dells rimming the Wisconsin River. Today, after decades of ignoring the outdoors in favor of waterparks, visitors are turning back to nature. With good reason.
For starters, visitors have easy access to three state parks. Rocky Arbor north of downtown features campsites and a short hiking trail leading past stunning sandstone formations. Mirror Lake State Park, on the Dells’ southwestern edge, is much larger. Its highlight, not surprisingly, is its sparkling namesake, Mirror Lake. Recreation opportunities include prime fishing, swimming, canoeing and kayaking. Devil’s Lake State Park is 20 minutes south of the Dells. But as one of the most popular state parks in the entire Midwest, it’s worth the short drive. The park offers a wealth of recreational opportunities year-round and, uniquely, is a great spot for scuba diving and rock climbing. All of these parks offer winter recreational opportunities, too, such as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
Since the Wisconsin River flows through the Dells, enjoying the river in some fashion is a must. Stop in at Dells Watersports and rent stand-up paddleboards, wave runners or pontoon boats. If you’re staying at Holiday Shores Campground & Resort, you’re in luck. The business boasts 2,200 feet of river frontage. Try parasailing, canoeing or jet skiing; on-property rentals are available.
Like animals? Horseback riding is available at Red Ridge Ranch and Canyon Creek Riding Stables. And you can see all of the world’s crane species at the International Crane Foundation (ICF). The ICF features outdoor crane enclosures and several miles of interpretive nature trails.
More adventuresome folks can soar over the treetops by ziplining at Bigfoot Zipline Tours or Wilderness Canyon Zip Line, both in town. Or head north to Chimney Rock Park and zip with Vertical Illusions. Vertical Illusions features 15 consecutive tree-to-tree lines and 120-mile views. (Winter zipping is offered, too.) Water-lovers with the need for speed may prefer to fly along the Wisconsin River with Jet Boat Adventures or a Wild Thing Jet Boat Ride.
But don’t think enjoying the outdoors means strenuous or thrilling adventures. For the more sedate crowd, the Dells area offers plenty of scenic boat rides, such as the Mark Twain Upper Dells Tour. And duffers, rejoice. A vacation in Wisconsin Dells won’t pull you away from the links. There are opportunities for primo golfing at Cold Water Canyon Golf Course, Trappers Turn and Wild Rock.
Now take off that swimsuit and head outside!