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Fall camping in Door County is one of the most underrated ways to visit the peninsula and its secluded islands.
The temperatures might be cooler, but there may be no better time to experience the outdoors here than in the fall. The pace slows, fall breezes rustle the branches and perfect campsites are awash in the glow of fall colors.
A visit to Peninsula State Park puts you in the center of activity, with extraordinary hiking, biking, and off-road cycling trails just steps from your sleeping bag. If you’ve seen Sven’s Bluff or Eagle Terrace in summer, just wait until you see it in the light of an early fall morning or sunset.
If you want to take a step into seclusion, visit Newport State Park’s backcountry campsites that you can only access by foot, or take the ferry to Rock Island State Park and join the hearty souls amongst the stars.
Local campgrounds and camping resorts offer a wide array of amenities, perfect for those who fear a cool or rainy fall day. Game rooms, swimming pools, covered spaces and even group activities are available at many of these campgrounds.
When you camp in fall you’ll need to put in a little extra preparation. Nights can be unexpectedly chilly, so bring layers and a solid sleeping bag. Average low temperatures in September are in the low 50s, while October can drop into the 30s.
Pack a hat, light gloves, and always bring a hooded sweatshirt. You’ll never regret having one in Door County.
If you forget some gear don’t worry. You can swing by Ecology Sports in Sister Bay, Bayshore Outfitters in Sister Bay and Sturgeon Bay, and Nan & Jerry’s in Fish Creek to find specialty camping gear, or visit local convenience stores to get basic camping necessities.
1. Plan ahead. Even though it’s not prime camping season, Door County’s campgrounds - especially those in Peninsula State Park - are often booked full on fall weekends. Book in advance, or make weekday plans, when you’ll find prime sites easier to come by, and you’ll get the bonus of a less crowded, more solitary experience.
2. Be adventurous. It may take more travel, and a little more energy, but the trip to Rock Island State Park or hike into the backcountry sites of Newport State Park are well worth the effort. Two nights on Rock Island can give you memories you’ll never forget, and you’ll get the chance to visit the oldest lighthouse in Wisconsin, a gorgeous boathouse, and a stunning beach.
At Newport State Park, you can check out one of the country’s only dark sky parks, where you’ll see the stars and Milky Way like never before, and camp in seclusion with Lake Michigan’s waves as your lullaby.
3. Leave your firewood at home. Firewood can harbor many destructive pests, including the Emerald Ash Borer. Purchase firewood where you stay and keep it in that area.
4. Chase the light. The colors of fall are best at sunrise and sunset. Get up early and catch your favorite trail or view in the stillness of sunrise light, or find a secluded spot to catch a special sunset.
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