Explore more than 8,900 acres across the six units that comprise Yellow River State Forest. State forest trails and amenities are often less developed and provide a more rugged outdoor experience. Please take this into account and plan accordingly.
- Paint Creek Unit is the largest at 5,237 acres and is located 15 miles north of Marquette on State Hwy 76. Look for the brown signs and turn right onto B25 (State Forest Road). This unit offers most of the outdoor recreation opportunities at Yellow River including several campgrounds, marked hiking trails, mountain biking and equestrian trails, trout streams and more.
- Luster Heights Unit is 770 acres and is 5 miles south of Harpers Ferry on the Great River Road (Hwy 364) on the east side of the road. Turn onto Luster Height Road; there is a parking lot 1 mile on the left. This unit has 3 miles of maintained hiking/mountain bike trails with two overlooks of the Mississippi River. In the winter time this trail system is groomed for cross country skiing.
- Yellow River Unit is 1,227 acres and located south of Hwy. 76, 10 miles north of Marquette. Take a left onto Ion Rd (gravel) and at the bottom of the hill before you go over the bridge turn right onto Old Mission Drive. Follow this road until it dead ends. This unit features a canoe launch and take out point on the Yellow River.
- Paint Rock Unit is 864 acres and located 3 miles south of Harpers Ferry on the west side of the Great River Road (Hwy 364). Parking is available here or continue another mile and turn left onto Paint Rock Road, with parking available on the right side. Paint Rock has 8 miles of hiking-only trails, along with a backpack camping area with three sites.
- Mudhen Unit is 196 acres and consists of islands in the Mississippi River. This area is only accessible by boat.
- Waukon Junction Unit is 209 acres and located 4 miles south of Harpers Ferry on the Great River Road (Hwy 364) the area is located on the west side.
overnight in a rustic camping cabin available from April 1st through October 31st each year. With a minimum two-night stay requirement, the cabin has a fireplace, electricity, electric heaters, a coffee maker, toaster, a microwave, refrigerator, a screened-in porch and an open-air porch. Running water and modern restrooms are not available, but an outdoor water hydrant and a vault toilet are nearby. This cabin can be reserved online through the park reservation system
in one of the four areas in the Paint Creek Unit, all connected to the forest’s trail system and offering serene beauty and tranquil overnight stays. The camping areas include Little Paint campground, Big Paint campground, Creekside equestrian campground, and Frontier equestrian campground. All sites are non-modern with vault toilets. In the two equestrian campgrounds, portable stalls/pens and electric fences are not permitted.
Drinking water is available near the office complex. Advance campsite reservations are recommended and can be made through the park reservation system
, and one quarter of the campsites are available for self registration on a first come first-served basis.
Additionally, four back-packing areas along the famous “backpacking trail” are free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis. Each area has four individual sites; however, no restroom facilities are available. Please carry out what you carried in. Campers using these sites must sign in at the forest headquarters prior to camping.
Please note: Chainsaws, both electric and gas, are prohibited throughout the Forest. Firewood may be gathered if it is down and dead with hand saws only. Felling of trees is prohibited.
along the 35 mile Yellow River Water Trail, which meanders into the state forest for three miles of the trail. Kayakers can spend the night at the primitive Ridgetop campsite, only accessible by canoe or kayak. The site is available on a first-come, first-served basis, does not have restroom facilities, and requires “carry in, carry out” of all trash.
Hike and mountain bike
on more than 50 miles of multi-purpose trails throughout the forest. Named one of Outside magazine’s Top 50 hiking spots, Yellow River is a popular destination for hikers of all experience levels who want to explore scenic overlooks, mature timber and other natural wonders. More than 40 miles of trails are marked and maintained in the Paint Creek Unit for easier navigation. Trails are also accessible and well maintained for equestrian use. In the winter, trails are groomed at the Luster Heights unit. Snowmobiling is also a popular winter trail activity.
along seven miles of trout streams within the forest. Little Paint and Paint creeks wind along rugged rock outcrops and steep forested valleys. The creeks are stocked with rainbow and brook trout, and also support naturally producing brown trout. Anglers can also fish marshy areas for bass and panfish.
throughout the forest for abundant game, including whitetail deer, turkey, squirrels, rabbits, waterfowl, and upland game birds. Public hunting is allowed in all areas of the 8,900 acre forest except the campgrounds.
about the history and ecology of Yellow River Forest: