6 Best Campgrounds in the Southern Kettle Moraine State Forest

May 25, 2021

Camping weather has arrived and will continue to delight. Whether on a solo adventure, traveling with a family of 4, or off for the weekend with a big group of friends, one of these six campgrounds will suit your needs. From backwoods to chic, we’ve got your camping style covered.


Campground #1: Whitewater Lake Campground & Hickory Woods Group Camp

Primitive campground in the Kettle Moraine State Forest

📸: James Vandeneeden

Whitewater Lake Campground and Hickory Woods Group Camp are for the explorers. Located in the thick of the Southern Kettle Moraine State Forest, you’ll feel nestled in nature and disconnected from city life. Get a hike in on the Ice Age Trail that connects to the campground, head over to Whitewater Lake Beach for a quick swim to cool off, and then spend your evening kayaking Rice Lake to take in Whitewater’s iconic sunsets. As long as you’re cool with using vaulted toilets and not showering, this is where you want to be for your weekend!


Campground #2: Scenic Ridge Campground

Family/Friends campground on Whitewater Lake

📸: Scenic Ridge

Scenic Ridge Campground is the go-to family/friends camp for people with tents, campers, RVs, or wanting to book a cottage! This all inclusive campground offers a wide range of amenities and activities that’ll keep you and your group entertained the whole weekend. From a general store with a snack shop to its own private beach for swimming, fishing, or boating Whitewater Lake, you’ll never want to leave. Campground offers free wifi and restrooms with showers.


Campground #3: Dispersed Camp on Clover Valley Segment of the Ice Age Trail

Backwoods camping outside Whitewater, WI

📸: All Trails

The dispersed camping area on the Clover Valley Segment of the Ice Age Trail is tucked into a beautiful patch of oak and hickory in the Clover Valley State Wildlife Area. About a 15min hike from the parking lot, this camping spot is for the adventurous who love to rough it. Pack a backpack with essentials, meander the (easy) trail following Whitewater Creek taking in countryside and prairie views, and then spend your weekend away with the wildlife. Dispersed camping is free and on a first come, first serve basis. There is no toilet or firepit. Remember to leave no trace.


Campground #4: Shelter 3 on Blackhawk Segment of the Ice Age Trail

Primitive camping outside Whitewater, WI

📸: Wisconsin Explorer

Shelter #3 on the Blackhawk Segment of the Ice Age Trail sits atop a ridge overlooking the Kettle Moraine State Forest and countryside off in the distance. Also for the adventurous who love to rough it, backpackers can hike in from Young Rd. for a longer trek or park on Duffin Rd. for a short, but somewhat brutal climb to the shelter. Spend your weekend traversing the Ice Age Trail, cooking over the fire, and sleeping amidst coyote calls. There is an outhouse, a fire pit, and a shelter to hide from rain with hooks to hang up your backpacks.


Campground #5: Camp Kettlewood

Private campground in East Troy, WI

📸: Camp Kettlewood

Camp Kettlewood offers “charming campsites for both the ‘indoorsy’ and ‘outdoorsy’ alike.” With one to two acres allotted for each site, campers get to be in a world of their own amongst old growth forest and wetlands. From platform tents to vintage trailers, you can enjoy comfort during your weekend away in the woods. Kayak the wetlands, hike the trails, or simply relax. They offer two outdoor, open-air style showers and four separate bathrooms.


Campground #6: Camp Wandawega

Private campground in Elkhorn, WI

📸: Bob Coscarelli

Camp Wandawega is a vintage campground with worn, but loved, cabins for rental on AirBnB. If you love the rustic, chic aesthetic and a true summer camp vibe, this is your place. Indulge in their private beach, fishing pier, boating, hiking, biking, horse shoes, tennis, shuffleboard, and archery. Or spend your entire time taking pictures of the scenery. Before you book, look over their Manifesto of Low Expectations. And don’t be fooled by the word cabin. They aren’t air-conditioned or heated, but they’re still stellar.

With all of these campgrounds within minutes of downtown Whitewater, take a morning to grab coffee from SweetSpot Cafe or an afternoon to pop into the Fuzzy Pig Antique Barn or The Book Teller. Whatever you do, we hope your day ends with s’mores.

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