MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Free time in state parks

On the first two weekends of June, check out a new park, trail or fishing hole at no cost.

Beginning of the Mississippi.

© Beth Gauper

Visitors cross the Mississippi in Itasca State Park.

If you don't spend at least part of the first two weekends in June outdoors, you'll be missing the boat.

Especially in Wisconsin, where June 3-4 is Free Fishing Weekend, and Michigan, where June 10-11 is Free Fishing Weekend. In Minnesota, June 9-11 is Take a Kid Fishing Weekend.

On June 3-4, Wisconsin state parks celebrate National Trails Day by offering free admission — especially nice for non-residents, who now pay $11 for a daily pass.

June 10 is National Get Outdoors Day, when admission to all Minnesota state parks is free.

Here's what's free and discounted in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan the next two weekends.

Admission to state parks in Iowa and Illinois always is free.

First weekend in June

You get to explore Wisconsin state parks and trails for free during Free Fun Weekend, and there are special events in many parks, such as wildflower walks, tai chi, concerts and stargazing.

In Devil's Lake State Park, there's a 3˝-hour, 3˝-mile geology hike and a guided kayak tour. On Sunday, Willow River near Hudson hosts the Art Along the Willow fair.

Near Prairie du Chien, Wyalusing State Park is celebrating its 100th anniversary with hikes, music and a trail walk.

In Mirror Lake State Park near Wisconsin Dells, tours of Frank Lloyd Wright's Seth Peterson Cottage are free on Sunday.

During Free Fishing Weekend, more than 20 parks, nature centers and hatcheries offer tips, clinics, games and even food and prizes.

Free use of trails in Wisconsin saves bicyclists $5 for a daily pass. Free entry to parks saves residents $8 and non-residents $11.

The rocks of Big Bay State Park.

© Beth Gauper

A hiker basks on the rocky shoreline of Big Bay State Park.

There are guided hikes through the region to celebrate National Trails Day on Saturday. On Minnesota's North Shore, hike with the Superior Hiking Trail Association between Gooseberry Falls State Park and Castle Danger.

Eight chapters of Wisconsin's Ice Age Trail are planning National Trails Day hikes and trail runs.

On Madeline Island in Wisconsin, admission to the Madeline Island Museum is $4, half-price (always free for people 17 and under), and visitors also can pick up a voucher for a free return on the ferry to Bayfield. Admission to Big Bay State Park is free.

Second weekend of June

National Get Outdoors Day is June 10 in 2017, which Minnesota celebrates with an open house in its state parks.

Dozens of parks are holding special events, such as bird and flower hikes and raptor and snake programs.

There will be a peregrine falcon program at Gooseberry Falls, birding at Bear Head Lake and a family outdoor fair at Whitewater.

Nearly 20 public paddles will be on the Minnesota River State Water Trail between Ortonville and St. Paul.

On the North Shore, Split Rock Lighthouse historical site will have an open house June 10, along with the state park. 

Fishing from a boat in a lake.

© Beth Gauper

A family fishes on a lake in Minnesota.

June 9-11 is Take a Kid Fishing Weekend, when people 16 or older don't need a license if they take a youth 15 and younger fishing.

Throughout the season, 36 Minnesota state parks offer free use of fishing kits, including a stocked tackle box. Visitors also can borrow GPS units and kits for birding and kids' discovery. Many Wisconsin parks also offer the use of gear.

In Michigan, June 10-11 is Free Fishing Weekend.

And it's always free to use state trails in Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois.

Where to stay

Minnesota, Michigan and Iowa parks have a large selection of camper cabins, yurts and guesthouses. Reserve early for weekends.

For camper cabins in each state, see A roof in the woods.

For cabins, see Staying in a state park.

For yurts, see A yen for yurts.

For Minnesota, see Lodgings in Minnesota state parks.

For Michigan, see Michigan's great lake cabins.


Last updated on May 30, 2017