Just a little north of Dodgeville in southwest Wisconsin you'll find Governor Dodge State Park, home to some of the best scenic trails the state has to offer. In addition to these biking and hiking trails, the park has several bodies of water that are perfect for boating, swimming, fishing, and more.
Named for the Wisconsin Territory's first governor, Henry Dodge, Governor Dodge State Park is situated on what is known as The Driftless Area. The Driftless Area is a small region of the northern United States that never got flattened by glaciers during the last ice age. As such, it has a lot of unique natural features outdoors enthusiasts won't find elsewhere.
The park is open year-round from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., and yes, dogs are welcome!
Governor Dodge State Park Hiking
Trails, Trails, and More Trails
Other than the fee for the parking lot, hikers don't have to pay to use the park's trails. But please note that State Trail Passes are required if you're over the age of 16 and plan on biking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, or even in-line skating in Wisconsin State Parks.
Below we've rated some of the most popular trails to help you plan ahead.
- Easy: Short walks like the 1.25-mile Lake View Trail, the 1-mile Cave Trail, and the half-mile Gold Mine Trail are great for families with young kids or those taking a relaxing stroll.
- Moderate: If you're looking for some actual exercise, you might prefer routes between 2 and 4 miles in length like the Mill Creek Trail and the Pine Cliff Trail. Our personal favorite is a 3-mile loop that takes you by Stephens Falls named Lost Canyon Trail.
- Difficult: The Meadow Valley Trails is more rigorous for some due to its steep hills and considerable 5-mile length. The trail passes through both forest and meadows, keeping scenic views varied.
Many of these options overlap and intersect, so be sure to grab a trail map from the park office if you want to optimize your visit.
Riders will be happy to know there are three horseback trails in the park, as well as horse-friendly campgrounds with their own parking area. At 15.3 miles, the Outer Horse Trail is better for long haulers, while the 2.5-mile Uplands Trail is good for short jaunts. In addition to these, there is the park's Interior Horse Trail System, which is a sort of choose-your-own-adventure route made up of different segments.
Every trail in the park is open to hikers, so be prepared to share. Also, since the park doesn't stable any horses of their own, be sure to bring your own if you want to ride.
Camping at Governor Dodge State Park
Campers interested in overnighting at the park get their pick of two primary campgrounds nestled between Cox Hollow Lake and Twin Valley Lake. While both the Cox Hollow and Twin Valley Campgrounds each have modern facilities like bathrooms, showers, and RV hookups, folks interested in boating might prefer Cox Hollow since it's located near a landing.
Outside of these more traditional sites, there's the Hickory Ridge Group Camp Area in the northern section of the park, as well as a smattering of smaller backpacking campsites.
Have a favorite trail in Governor Dodge State Park? Let us know the way on our Wide Open Roads Facebook!