This is the account of our second visit to a state park during our week-long stay in Door County, June 4 through June 9, 2023.
Peninsula State Park, along with Devil’s Lake and Willow River, is one of the most popular parks in Wisconsin. I think that being in northern Door County has a lot to do with this. The entire area is popular with people all over the country – even all over the world.
Contrast Peninsula with Potawatomi in southern Door County. (I believe Sturgeon Bay is generally considered the dividing point, or line, between northern and southern Door.) Potawatomi is a fine park in its own right, but it doesn’t get nearly as much love as its cousin, Peninsula, which is just 30 miles (by road) to the north.
Peninsula is situated between two of the most popular tourist towns in the county – Fish Creek and Ephraim.
Potawatomi isn’t. It’s close to Sturgeon Bay. And while there is a Kwik Trip in Sturgeon Bay, it’s not enough to draw lots of folks to the park.
It’s All about the Eagle
As I’ve said, Peninsula State Park is located between Fish Creek to the south (technically, southwest) and Ephraim to the north (northeast). The main entrance is roughly 100 feet outside the borders of Fish Creek. We accidentally entered via the secondary entrance found in the southwestern corner of Ephraim by the golf course. (Sorry, no pictures. We’re not golfers, but you should check out the 69-yard hole that includes a 50-foot drop down a cliff.)
If you’re going to visit Peninsula, you really must see the Eagle Tower. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any eagles on this day.
If I recall correctly, it’s only 95 steps to the top. But if that’s too many or too difficult or impossible for you to climb, you can still get there via this long ramp.
The view from the top is quite good. The pictures below show the view to the west (left) and east (right).
Near the base of the tower is one end of the Sentinel Trail, which leads to the Eagle Trail.
The Eagle Trail is noted as “difficult” in several places.
This is true. (I actually took the shot above for the toy that someone lost in the faint hope that the owner would see it here.)
Where the Sentinel crosses the Eagle, the trail is easy.
Some portions have even been smoothed out for you with boards to walk on.
The difficult parts come when you get down to the area below the escarpment near the water. In all of Door County, they want to make visitors aware that the Niagara Escarpment is a big thing.
And it is, especially along the water.
In some places, there are caves in the limestone that I have no desire to try to get to or enter.
The Eagle Trail is difficult enough that there is an emergency access point from the water along the way. Granted, it’s not the trail difficulty in and of itself that is the reason for this access point, but at times you might think that’s the main reason for it.
There are a few places along the trail where you first have to puzzle out the best / correct path to take, then pray that you chose properly, and then take your next step. Many people used hiking poles (one for each of us) to make the hike easier. I would strongly recommend you add one to your gear, if you plan to tackle this trail.
I met a young man (going in the opposite direction) along the trail who was concerned that we might not be able to make it through the area ahead of us because of how tough it was. I assured him we’d be okay. When we got to that section, I understood his concern. It was probably the roughest puzzle-pray-step sections that we encountered.
As if the difficulty of the trail itself wasn’t enough, there is this somewhat confusing sign.
It’s confusing because there was no rock in the immediate area and because, if there were loose rocks above, what could you possibly do about them and how would staying on the trail help the situation?
The trail itself doesn’t technically ever go down to the water, but there are places where you can go off-trail to get there. Someone had obviously done so to create these rock towers.
After successfully completing the Eagle Trail loop, we drove to the lighthouse.
We didn’t go inside this one because 1) we had just seen a similar one on Rock Island and 2) there was a small fee.
Outside was this anchor from the Oak Leaf. I don’t know anything about it other than what the plaque says.
If you’re going to Door County, you should visit Peninsula State Park. If you’re going to the park and you feel capable, you should hike the Eagle Trail. It’s difficult, as advertised, but worth the effort.
Ephraim, Wisconsin (adjacent)
Nearest Emergency Facility
Between Fish Creek and Ephraim, Wisconsin (adjacent)
6:00 AM to 11:00 PM, year-round
Vehicle admission sticker required