Hiking Governor Dodge State Park | Muddy, Bloody, & Wet!

On Memorial Day Weekend, I crossed off another Wisconsin State Park off my bucket list: Governor Dodge State Park! I live a short two hour drive away (153 mi, 246 km), so it was the perfect day trip with my parents. It’s so wonderful to see gorgeous scenery so close to home; it truly gives you a higher appreciation for your home state & city. As much fun as I have hiking in nature…I’m truly not the most graceful!

Stephens Falls Trail

One of the main reasons people visit Governor Dodge State Park is to see Stephens Falls. I’ve seen waterfalls at other National Parks, but never knew Wisconsin had a waterfall until we planned to visit this state park. This waterfall is super easy to get to, as it’s only a half-mile walk. If you want good shots on this waterfall, I recommend you arrive early and hike this trail first! There were a few other people when we arrived, who were rather polite to let us take “people-free” pictures. After we finished this trail and Lost Canyon (around lunchtime), there were about 30 more people… and about 10 dogs!

Governor Dodge State Park | Stephens Falls

Here’s where the first mess comes in… I decided to hop to the rock in the middle (lower right corner in picture above) in attempt to get a shot there. I initially wanted to take off my shoes/socks as to not get them wet, if I fell in, to which my lovely father responded, “That’s a stupid idea.” Okay, no big deal, I’ll hop over to the middle anyways. My father hastily replies, “How are you gonna get there? Here, let me help. Just take my hand.” My stubborn 24 year old self refused, because what’s the worst that could happen? It’s just water. Another hop, skip, jump, and a few wobbles, and I made it to the middle successfully! (insert picture below) The sun was not at a fantastic angle for pictures(what can ya do). Coming back… was another story. My father, in an attempt to get action shots, snapped the best one, 3 seconds before I splashed into the water.

Governor Dodge State Park
Here’s the hop, skip, and jump…
Governor Dodge State Park | Stephens Falls
A really terrible lighting/slightly blurry shot that really doesn’t deserve to be added… but it is only for proof.
Governor Dodge State Park
Beautiful.. What a memory


So, 20 minutes into our day and my feet are soaked, and my legs are WET. Honestly, pretty typical when it comes to an adventure with me.

Lost Canyon Trail

Lost Canyon trail is a full 8.1 mile (almost 13km) hike. Since it passes through Stephens Falls, we hiked only half the trail. The last half of this trail was pretty boring as it went through a meadow, not the least bit exciting. The rock formations were gorgeous though, and we love little scenic views over the valleys. Note: there are no rails, so view at your own risk! (I cheated and zoomed which is why it may look like I was closer to the edge.. Not gonna risk it with my clumsy self!)

Governor Dodge State Park

Governor Dodge State Park | Lost Canyon Trail

Oh and here’s a tip: don’t use BRAND NEW shoes when hiking. Break them in a little or you’ll leave BLOODY. Great job, Miranda! Mistake #2 of the day.

Pine Cliff Trail

Our last hike was Pine Cliff Trail which is a short 2.5 miles (4 km) and brings you to Cox Hollow Lake. Governor Dodge State Park is also a rather popular camping spot, so a majority of campers were near the lake. Nobody was swimming though except for a few dogs; Wisconsin in May means lakes are pretty chilly, even if they are smaller! This trail was beautiful and green. I don’t think I even noticed how vibrant the colors were until I looked at the pictures later.

Governor Dodge State Park | Cox Hollow Lake
Cox Hollow Lake


Governor Dodge State Park | Miranda Knudtson
Seriously.. this isn’t edited! Pinky promise.

Picture taking isn’t all that glamorous. Shout out to my father for getting some lovely “outtake” pictures. After falling so many times, this is what I look like trying to climb down. Example below:

Governor Dodge State Park

Here’s a tip for you: if you’re climbing rocks, don’t hesitate otherwise you’ll slip, fall, wipe out and get MUDDY. Unfortunately, no picture of me falling. I’m sure my expression would have been especially entertaining.

Governor Dodge State Park History

Governor Dodge State Park has a bit of history, too. Glaciers last covered Wisconsin around 10,000 years ago, yet they still missed a large portion of the state. We also saw a rock formation that the park called “An Ancient Arch,” because of the wind and rain over the years consistently beating against the rock to form a smooth, sandstone arch. The sand in sandstone was deposited by shallow seas that flooded Wisconsin over 355 million years ago. These floods deposited layers of sand, mud, and organisms such as trilobites and corals.

Governor Dodge State Park | Pine Cliff Trail
“Ancient Arch”


I would still call this a successful trip, despite getting muddy, bloody, and wet! I believe that makes life more interesting: imperfection.

Governor Dodge State Park | Miranda Knudtson


  1. Becky

    Ha ha it does look like a fun adventure. I wondered what the best time to visit the waterfall would be? it looks like it flows a lot heavier, lucky for you it wasn’t too big when you visited otherwise you might have got even more wet!

  2. Kate Bossany

    Great pictures! Even with the mishaps, it looks like you had a wonderful time. I live in MN and also was not aware of a waterfall in WI. So I’ll definitely have to check it out soon.

  3. I can totally relate to the clumsiness and not standing close to the edge! We’ve had so much rain this winter that we must have waterfalls somewhere but I don’t know where. I’ll have to add that to my list of things to research. Your park looks beautiful and like a great place to hike.

  4. It’s always a good thing to explore somewhere close to home. It makes you realize you don’t have to go far to have an adventure. 🙂 I love that super green backdrop with you by the rock,too.

  5. These trails look gorgeous and looks like you didn’t see any other people around which is always a treat. I definitely agree that you need to have some favourite, worn in shoes for a good hike, especially if you fall in the creek or you’re walking for a long time. Great tips, thanks.

  6. This looks like a great park to hike in. I haven’t been to Winsconsin before but this looks like a great park. So many hikes to do, I love seeing waterfalls and lakes, maybe one day I will get there too 🙂

  7. Sydney Meek

    I love your writing! Your talent definitely shines through. Also love the part about not wearing new shoes hiking because I literally did that last week and wrote about it in my newest blog! Lol!

  8. I love that you’re visiting all these state parks! I feel like people are so concerned with visiting the big National parks, that some of the really great state parks get overlooked! You should check out some of the great ones in Michigan 😛

  9. I’ve never been to Wisconsin, but your photos and descriptions are urging me to see more of the beauty in the States! Governor Dodge State Park looks fantastic, especially the Pine Cliff Trail! It looks like you had a great time- I love how fun your photos are! The U.S. has some incredible views, doesn’t it?!

  10. Glad you had fun and were a good sport about it. I am way too cautious on slippery rocks so I would have had less fun., I’m sure. Great spots to see though. I just visited Wisconsin back in April for the first time. I’ve seen more of the midwest in the past 3 months than in my entire life. 😉

  11. Pingback: Wisconsin State Parks | Summer Bucket List | Miranda Knudtson

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