Nicole’s Travels: Perrot & Mirror Lake State Park

2020 has thrown us all for a loop! I could probably fly to Europe and back three times with my flight vouchers from cancelled trips this year. But in all seriousness – as soon as I can, I’m using that flight credit to fly to Hawaii.

This year, my hubby and I had plans to visit 3 National Parks – if you didn’t know we have a goal to visit ALL of the US National Parks someday! We also had plans to attend weddings, and visit family. Soo yeah – none of that happened obviously. But we still had planned vacation days and we decided to use them to explore our great state!

First we brainstormed some ideas of things we could safely do. Although we were tempted to go explore Door County, we figured it would be too crowded and risky. Then we wanted to see if we could go to some National Parks – we looked up information on Isle Royale and the Apostle Islands. Unfortunately the ferries aren’t running this year to Isle Royale and the Apostle Islands (and the nearby Big Bay State Park) were booked SOLID. My husband immediately started researching other state parks we could camp at instead.

We decided on Perrot State Park (near Lacrosse) and Mirror Lake State Park (near Wisconsin Dells). We spent 5 days and 4 nights camping – 2 nights in each park. Here’s a recap of our trip! I hope it helps you think of some ideas to safely take a trip during a pandemic.

Day 1 – Perrot State Park

This day was mainly a driving day. We left Milwaukee around noon – and after hitting a massive thunderstorm halfway between Milwaukee and Madison, we were in the clear for the rest of the trip. No more rain after that! The drive is SUPER easy since it’s mostly interstate travel. As you get closer to Lacrosse, the scenery changes from rolling farm fields to rolling hills (or what my husband called mountains but as a native Idaho girl, I beg to differ). We got to the park and set up camp. Our spot had an amazing view of some marshy landscape and another hill (technically mountain – but like I said, only by Wisconsin standards). We hiked along the Riverview trail and sat on the boat launch dock, relaxing. We returned to camp and set upon the ambitious task to cook brats over the campfire. NEVER AGAIN. It took almost an hour to make sure they were fully cooked. I don’t recommend. At least they were tasty when they were done! A quick note: There was poison ivy EVERYWHERE so make sure you stay on the trails!

Day 2 – Brady’s Bluff

We hiked the Brady’s Bluff trail. The views when we ascended to the top were amazing! This trail is definitely not for the faint of heart – there were a lot of stairs and the climb at times could get pretty steep. But the views were worth it! The Mississippi River was outlined by gorgeous Wisconsin/Minnesota Mountains (aka Hills) and you could see barges travelling up and down the river. We took our time on the hike and didn’t bring enough snacks so instead of continuing on to the Perrot Ridge hike, we headed back to camp and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon. Before dinner we hiked the Black Walnut Nature trail which is a short but interesting hike. That evening we cooked quesadillas over the campfire – much easier than the brats!!

Day 3 – Perrot Ridge

We packed up camp in the morning and drove to the Perrot Ridge trail head. This hike was EVEN STEEPER than the Brady’s bluff trail, and was much more primitive. There were no stairs, just rocks and dirt. I had to take a few breaks on the way up because I haven’t been to the gym since COVID began #outofshape. We enjoyed the views from the top again and said our farewell to Perrot State Park. It was bittersweet because the park was amazing, but I had also been eaten alive by mosquitos so I was ready to get out!

We made our way to Mirror Lake State Park with a quick stop for more supplies (aka every bug spray and repellent known to man) and ice on the way. Once we arrived we set up our camp and started to explore the park. We hiked a few short trails near the campground to get the lay of the land before we came back to camp and made chicken tacos over the campfire. Our best meal yet!

Day 4 – Mirror Lake State Park

Our last full day, we decided to rent some kayaks. We spent two hours kayaking on Mirror lake and it was serene. There were very few people on the lake and at times it felt like we were paddling through another world – it didn’t feel like Wisconsin! After eating a quick lunch, we hiked the Northwest Trail and then the Echo Rock trail. The Northwest trail was moderate compared to the hikes at Perrot. And the Echo Rock trail is almost completely accessible since it’s paved for most of the way. You get a nice view of Ishnala supper club at the end! For dinner we had pulled pork cooked over the campfire – YUM!

Day 5 – Goodbye!

We packed up our site in the morning and drove to the Pulpit rock trailhead for one last goodbye before we hit the road back home. This super easy 1 mile trail was what I needed – we had logged about 40 miles of hiking from our trip so my feet were feeling pretty dead. It was SO nice to disconnect from everything for the week and I’m so glad we did. I highly recommend both of these state parks for anyone looking for some great hikes/kayaking but don’t want to go to the really popular (and busy!) State Parks.


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