Point Beach State Forest
Point Beach State Forest is your best bet for a beachfront camping experience in southeastern Wisconsin. Point Beach can be cool in the early season, busy later in the summer, and mosquito-ish at times, but a stroll along the tan sands on Lake Michigan more than compensates for any of these ills. From the beach, you will see Rawley Port Lighthouse, a century-old beacon to ships on Lake Michigan. Hikers and bikers can enjoy inland trails totaling 10 miles in distance. A word of caution: As a whole, the campground is a winner, but the sheer number of electric campsites brings in the big rigs. However, the electric sites are generally segregated, effectively leaving tent campers to their own loops. And there are some great tent-camping sites here.
The campground sits back about 100 yards from Lake Michigan, situated on undulating old dunes that are now heavily forested. While it may not be directly beside the shore, it does get the cooling lake effect. That is why early summer can be less busy—campers fear a freeze-out. A paved park road lies between the lake and the campground, but fortunately for campers, thick evergreens and underbrush mostly screen out the road.
On first inspection, the campground seems like a maze. The first loop houses sites #1-#16. It offers widely separated sites with thick brush between them in an oak-white pine forest. These are first come, first served sites. The next loop offers sites #17-#30. It is a little too close to the main park road, has a few electric sites mixed in, and is not recommended. Next comes the loop that offers the best in tent camping at Point Beach. Remember this loop for reservations: #31-#62. Pass the campground shower area and enter a narrow road that specifically forbids RVs. This narrow road twists and undulates beneath a pretty forest of sugar maple, birch, oak and white pine. The sites are widely spaced and have thick brush between them, offering good campsite privacy. Some of the sites have fences, prohibiting vehicles from driving up or down a hill to reach the actual site, effectively making them walk-in campsites. Both sides of the loop have good sites, and due to the twisting road and elevation changes, there is a variety of sites and situations. You won't go wrong choosing any of the sites, though after your first visit, you may find one you prefer for next time. During the week, the campground never fills; just come and take your chances.
With a few exceptions, sites #63 to #125 are electric. Of special note are #120, a non-electric site offering solitude, and #119, which is near the Ridges Trail. The electric sites are strung out on a long loop that is nicely forested, but I prefer to stay away from the big rigs with the lights strung on them like it was Christmas. The electric sites are first to fill. Make reservations after mid-June thorough mid-August if coming on a weekend. Remember, the mosquitoes can be troublesome here. Many campers bring screen shelters. Most campsites can accommodate a screen shelter, tent, and other gear. The Lodge, located near the entrance station, serves hamburgers and such.
The beach is the big draw here. Six miles of lakefront give beachcombers plenty of room to crunch their feet as clear, cool Lake Michigan laps against the shoreline. Swimmers can tackle the chilly waters, but be advised that lifeguards are not provided. Try to get up and watch sunrise from the beach—it's quite a sight. Everyone likes to visit Rawley Point Lighthouse. The original brick lighthouse was built in 1853. It was later cut down and made into the light keeper's house. The second tower was built in 1894 and at 113 feet is one of the largest and brightest on the Great Lakes. Other sights can be seen on the forest's 2,900 acres. Campers can pedal along the campground and forest roads, but they should be careful, as the roads can get busy on warm weekends. A bicycle trail plies the inland woods. The hiking trails loop south from the campground all the way to Molash Creek. The Red Pine Trail makes a 3-mile loop inland from the campground. You will enjoy these trails, but like most tent campers, you will be enjoying all that sand on Lake Michigan.
To get there: From Two Rivers, drive north on County Road O for 5 miles to reach the forest, on your right.
Address: Point Beach State Forest, 400 County Trunk O, Two Rivers, WI 54241; (920) 794-7480 www.wiparks.net
Open: Year-round, water on from last frost of spring to first frost of fall
Individual sites: 127
Fee: Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend Friday—Saturday $10 residents, $12 non-residents; summer weekdays and all days rest of year $8 residents, $10 non-residents; $3 extra for electricity
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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