Hit the Trails for Free: Getting Outdoors during COVID-19 [UPDATED]

while everything closes, the natural wonders of Wisconsin are still open — and free!

V1 Staff

While everything seems to have closed down during the time of COVID-19, the natural beauty of the Eau Claire area’s trails certainly haven't. If you feel the need to get outside, and you’re willing to maintain proper social distancing, Wisconsin’s state parks and trails are open to the public. In fact, as of Tuesday, March 24, the Department of Natural Resources has waived all fees for the parks and trails it oversees. 

“Distance is key during this public health emergency,” the DNR said in a press release. “Please do not congregate at restrooms, self-registration stations or electronic kiosks. Additionally, do not gather in groups of 10 or more people and maintain six feet of distance from others.” While restrooms will remain open, all non-essential park buildings — such as visitors centers, rangers stations, and offices — will be closed. In addition, all campsites are closed until April 30.

Also, as of March 19, the National Park Service has waived entrance fees at currently opened National Parks to aid social distancing. Important: Traveling across state lines or long distances is definitely not recommended right now, but if you live a safe, short distance from a National Park you can use it for free.

IMPORTANT: If you choose to enjoy Wisconsin’s outdoors during this time, continue to avoid groups of more than 10 while doing so. Those that the CDC considered high risk (the elderly, sick, or immunosuppressed) are encouraged to stay home.

Check out our directory of Chippewa Valley Hiking Trails!

25 Hiking Trails in the Chippewa Valley

Flip thru 25 trails with this Web-App by Volume One. Includes aerial images, Satellite Google Maps, directions, trail maps, photos, and descriptions.


For more info, check out a statement released Tuesday, March 24, by the Wisconsin DNR:

Fees Waived For Wisconsin State Parks And Trails

State Parks, Trails And Restrooms Remain Open; Property Buildings Closed

 MADISON, Wis.Fees are now waived for all Wisconsin State Parks and Trails that continue to remain open to the public. Parks, law enforcement and property staff will also continue to provide routine sweeps of state park system properties.

Staying home as much as possible is the best way to lower COVID-19 infection rates, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, should you need a place with space, getting outdoors has both physical and mental benefits.

Distance is key during this public health emergency. Please do not congregate at restrooms, self-registration stations or electronic kiosks. Additionally, do not gather in groups of 10 or more people and maintain six feet of distance from others.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources continues to receive the most up-to-date information and will adjust operations as conditions change. We will also continue to monitor on-the-ground circumstances each day to determine if park closures become necessary.

Beginning March 24, 2020, the DNR will implement the following changes to the operation of all state parks and recreation areas across the state consistent with guidance provided by the Wisconsin Department of Health and Department of Administration.

Here is the latest:

Fees Waived
  • Entrance fees are waived.
  • Please do not congregate at self-registration stations or electronic kiosks.
Restrooms Open
  • Restrooms on state properties will remain open given there are enough resources, cleaning supplies and access to personal protective equipment for staff to maintain them.
  • Please do not congregate at restrooms.
All state park offices, visitor centers, and non-essential buildings are closed for the duration of the public health emergency
  • Effective immediately, the DNR will close the following state buildings to the public: Park headquarters, offices, visitor centers, nature centers, research stations, ranger stations, shooting ranges, fish hatcheries, shelters, showers, concessions, and indoor group camp buildings on all DNR owned properties open to the public.
  • Properties will continue to be staffed and outdoor recreational opportunities (hiking, trails, fishing, hunting, etc.) remain open at this time.
  • Boat launches at state parks remain open.
  • Visitors are reminded to practice proper personal hygiene to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to limit group sizes to under ten people when enjoying state properties.
Camping And Special Permits
  • All campsites (individual, group, and indoor) are closed through April 30, 2020.
    Refunds will be issued to all customers.
  • No new reservations will be accepted until further notice.
  • DNR staff or Camis Reservations staff will be reaching out to individuals with current or upcoming group camping reservations to issue refunds. Any other questions regarding camping reservations can be directed to the Camis Call Center at 1-888-947-2757.
  • DNR property managers will also be contacting groups or individuals who have existing special event permits.
  • Our customer service representatives also continue to provide service via phone at 1-888-936-7463 from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Hunting And Fishing
  • Wisconsin's waters are open. You can fish if you have a license. Normal season regulations apply.
  • All current regulations apply for hunting, trapping, and fishing seasons.
  • In light of Gov. Evers COVID-19 recommendations, please keep in mind the need for social distance, limited travel and proper handwashing.

People should follow simple steps to prevent illness and avoid exposure to this virus including:

  • Avoid social gatherings with people of all ages (including playdates and sleepovers, parties, large family dinners, visitors in your home, non-essential workers in your house);
  • Frequent and thorough hand washing with soap and water;
  • Covering coughs and sneezes;
  • Avoiding touching your face; and
  • Staying home when able.

For updates on event cancellations and building closures at DNR properties, visit the DNR website or follow @WIDNR on Facebook, @wi_dnr on Instagram, or @WDNR on Twitter.

This is a rapidly evolving situation. For specific information regarding the COVID-19 we encourage the public to frequently monitor the DHS website for updates, and to follow @DHSWI on Facebook and Twitter, or dhs.wi on Instagram. Additional information can be found on the CDC website.