Peninsula State Park
Updated: Jun 3
If you’ve lived in Wisconsin for a minute, you’ve heard about Door County. It seems to be the vacation capital of Wisconsin, but in the 22 odd years I’ve lived in the state, I still had never been. So, I was happy to kill two (or more like six?) birds with one stone. There are five state parks throughout (and beyond) the length of the Door County Peninsula, so Lucky and I took an entire week at the beginning of October to visit Door County and hike Peninsula, Rock Island, Newport Beach, Potawatomi and Whitefish Dunes state parks. And of course, we checked out a Door County winery, Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant, and a few other classic Door County attractions.
Our home base for the week was Peninsula State Park, but since we were going to be out there for a whole week and it was starting to get chilly, we upgraded our tent for a pop-up camper. OH MAN, what a luxury! I’m convinced the only reason either of us made it through the jam-packed week was because we could come back after each long day of hiking, turn on a heater, and fall asleep on a camper mattress.1 Surprised we’re not harder core? :P
My parents graciously facilitated the glamping by accompanying us up to the park for our first night. My dad pulling the camper behind his Ford Escape, and after he got the pop-up popped-up, we all went for an easy hike that followed the shoreline for a bit before heading into the forest. We bypassed the more difficult Eagle Trail, but stopped for some photos at the Eagle Panorama, where Travel Wisconsin has another of their #scenicwisconsin selfie stations. I’m not sure when this selfie station will actually get put to use though. The entire week there were always so many people at the Panorama they would either take a photo for you or would be in the way of your selfie.
Lucky and I retraced some of this hike later in the week, this time opting to explore the technical Eagle Trail. Along the trail, we encountered several hikers using hiking sticks to help them navigate the terrain. At one point, a group stopped us and asked if Lucky would be able to handle the rocky hike. I laughed and assured them that if they needed to worry about anyone, it was me. Lucky is part mountain goat after all. They looked at me confused as if to say, “you know dogs and goats can’t reproduce?” and then they continued on their way.
The hike was rocky, but that’s what was so great about it. It traverses the side of the 150-foot cliffs offering you front row experience to the ancient sea caves that have now been left high and dry. And man, is one of them really high! You might just miss the most impressive cave if you don’t remember to look up. After I made Lucky do multiple photo shoots in the caves, we continued our journey―on to the next trail and photo shoot!
Speaking of photo shoots, I must mention the tennis court. Driving down Shore Road through the park, just after the intersection for Mengelberg Lane, there is a sign on the right-hand side of the road that says, “Tennis Court” and an arrow points into the woods. There is no road to the court, only the beginning of Skyline Trail. The court isn’t visible from the road, so naturally my interest was piqued. Where is this tennis court the sign speaks of? Do people actually play tennis here? So later in the afternoon, Lucky and I plotted out a circuitous route for our next hike, which would of course take us past this mystery tennis court.
There, in the middle of the woods, is no tennis court. This paved and fenced portion of forest is half low-security prison yard, half Chernobyl tennis club. The leaves pilling up at the foot of the net mock the “1 Hr limit when others are waiting” signs. In the past, playing tennis at this court in the middle of the woods may have been a delightful way to spend an afternoon, but now, the space felt haunted by ghosts of tennis pros past. We stayed just long enough to take some eerie photos of Lucky in the ruins of this by-gone recreational space―well within our one-hour time limit. Not surprisingly, there was no one else in sight waiting for their turn on the court.
We didn’t come across anything else unusual on our hike; the return portion went by quickly and uneventfully. By now, we’d worked up an appetite, so we returned to camp and cooked up some dinner. Then, sometime around 8 pm, we settled into our cozy pop-up camper bed for a solid night’s sleep.
Want more information about hiking with your dog at Peninsula State Park? Order your copy of A Dog Lover's Guide to Hiking Wisconsin's State Parks now!
Through the University of Wisconsin Press site.
And if you must, through Amazon.
1. When we’re tent camping, I sleep on a cot, and Lucky sleeps on his bed on the ground next to me. In the morning though, he’ll always wake up and crawl up onto the cot with me. At this point, my options are to either get up or, if I want to continue sleeping, accommodate him on the cot. The cot is narrow. It’s not meant for two. But, sleep. So I usually make it work.
In the camper, there wasn’t really room for Lucky’s bed on the ground in the galley kitchen/dining room/living room. So lucky Lucky got to sleep on the bed with me the entire week. Thankfully, it was much wider than the cot.