Seal of Dane County County of Dane
Dane County Parks

Park System Classification

Dane County Parks uses a property classification system to inform the public of the management practices and recreational opportunities available at each property. Dane County Parks manages over 18,000 acres of land in the following categories: Recreation Parks, Wildlife Areas, Natural Resource Areas, Historical/Cultural Sites, Forests, and Trails. In addition, Dane County Parks also provides nearly 3,000 acres of Conservation Easements and 24 miles of Streambank Easements. Explore the Dane County Park System properties by classification in the tabs below.

Dane County Recreation Parks are large, regional-scale parks with specific outdoor recreation attractions, developed access, and facilities. Activities include, but are not limited to, hiking, biking, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, horseback riding, camping, picnicking, mountain biking, soccer, aeromodelling, lake access, dog walking, disc golf, bow-hunting (by permit), foraging, and fishing.

A Dane County Wildlife Area is land designated as open to public hunting (all types) and is primarily undeveloped with the exception of limited parking opportunities along the outer fringes. Management practices focus on providing wildlife habitat and undeveloped recreation uses such as hunting, trapping, hiking, foraging, snowshoeing, fishing and cross-country skiing. All dogs must have a valid dog permit. They must also be leashed UNLESS engaged in a hunting activity.

For more information on hunting, please visit our Hunting webpage. 

Dane County Natural Resource Areas are lands designated for the protection of a valuable natural environment, wildlife habitat, open space, and/or greenbelt corridor. Recreation at Natural Resource Areas is a secondary objective, with limited to no developed facilities -- users are encouraged to enjoy the resource as is. Visitors can park along the road for walk-in access or at designated parking areas, if provided. 

A Dane County Historical/Cultural Site is a property designated for the preservation, restoration, or reconstruction of features significant to the history or cultural heritage of an area. This can include historic buildings, reconstruction of historic buildings, and archaeological sites. Activities at a Historical/Cultural site may be limited to sightseeing and the study of the historic or cultural features.

A Dane County Forest is land where timber is managed using sustainable methods and where some passive, non-motorized recreation such as hiking, cross-country skiing, berry picking, wildlife observation, hunting, snowshoeing and foraging may occur.

Dane County Parks has hundreds of acres of land in the system classified as Trails, which also includes approximately 32 miles of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail (NST) maintained by the Ice Age Trail Alliance and 23 miles of county-owned shared-use trails. Shared-use trails are typically paved, compacted crushed limestone, and/or boardwalk that provides for hiking, biking, roller blading, and roller skiing. The Ice Age NST is a footpath that is limited to hiking, backpacking and snowshoeing. Motorized recreation use is not allowed on the Ice Age NST or Dane County shared-use trails.

The Lussier Family Heritage Center is a year-round Dane County Parks facility available for weddings & receptions, meetings, educational programs, retreats, conferences and special events. Located in Lake Farm County Park within the Capital Springs State Recreation Area, it is the gateway to the 3,600 acre Lewis Nine Springs E-Way Corridor Resources Protection Area, which runs from Verona Road east to Lake Waubesa.  Please visit the Lussier Family Heritage Center webpage for more information.