A Little Time and a Keyboard: Favorite Midwest Hiking Adventures

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Favorite Midwest Hiking Adventures

Favorite Midwest Hiking Adventures Suggested By Midwest Travel Writers
Pictured: Galien River County Park and Mississippi Palisades State Park

Favorite Midwest Hiking Adventures Suggested By Midwest Travel Writers

Midwest hiking destinations provide a wealth of unique nature adventures. Throughout the region, our nature preserves allow visitors to experience a range of environments, geological formations and views. Hikers can appreciate trails along rivers, over dunes, through glacially molded landscapes, up on bluffs and more. A few of my favorite Midwest Travel Writers and I have put together a list of some fabulous places for you to hike this year:

Illinois

Mississippi Palisades State Park

A rocky landscape inching high up on bluffs along the Mississippi River dazzles with incredible vistas and intriguing formations at Mississippi Palisades State Park in Savanna, Illinois. During our summer visit, we were charmed by interesting rock outcrops, caves, dense ferns, expansive river views and more while hiking on the park's Sentinel Trail.

Moraine Hills State Park

The rolling, glacially molded landscape of Moraine Hills State Park in McHenry immediately entices hikers! We thoroughly enjoyed hiking in the summer splendoring in forest, grassland and wetland. But, fall colors make the preserve even more spectacular in autumn!

Fall colors emerging over a slightly rolling landscape at Moraine Hills State Park.
Fall colors emerging over a slightly rolling landscape at Moraine Hills State Park.

Pere Marquette State Park

Pere Marquette State Park in Grafton, Illinois has long been one of my favorite hiking spots along the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. Unparalleled views, chances to see bald eagles and slightly challenging hiking in beautiful forest scenery delight.

Indiana

Brown County State Park

Jamie Ward, author and editor of Cornfields & High Heels, suggests wandering Indiana's Brown County State Park. She explains that "A beauty to visit and must-see park in Indiana, Brown County’s rolling hills, yellowwood trees, and scenic views are breathtaking." The park includes an amazing 7 vistas to soak in.


Winding through Brown County State Park. Image Credit Jamie Ward.
Winding through Brown County State Park. Image Credit Jamie Ward.


Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial

Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in Lincoln City, Indiana affords visitors a place to explore the history of Lincoln's younger years while also exploring nature. Jamie Ward explains that  Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial includes a memorial at Lincoln's boyhood cabin site, a trail with historic markers, two miles of trails and more!

Thistlethwaite Falls

Located in Richmond, Indiana, Thistlethwaite Falls cascades as one of the most stunning waterfalls in the state. Jamie Ward explains that the falls formed as a result of the damming of the Whitewater River and provides for a beautiful area to hike and savor nature activities.

Iowa

Effigy Mounds National Monument

For an adventure exploring history and nature, spend a day wandering Effigy Mounds National Monument in northeastern Iowa. Jennifer Ciha, author and editor of Fieldtrip Iowa, recommends a visit to this unique and sacred site not only to enjoy nature trails and birding but to appreciate the history of the region and learn about mound building cultures. She recommends familiarizing your family with the history of the site before visiting. 

Effigy Mounds National Monument Eagle Rock Overlook. Image credit Jennifer Ciha.
Effigy Mounds National Monument Eagle Rock Overlook. Image credit Jennifer Ciha

Yellow River State Forest

Miles of trails invite explorers to rich nature experiences inside Yellow River State Forest in Iowa's Allamakee County. Jennifer Ciha notes that families will splendor in hiking along limestone cliffs, floating on the Mississippi River and more in this stunning preserve in Iowa's Driftless Area.

Michigan

Galien River County Park

Perched up above the Galien River in New Buffalo, Michigan, we basked in one of the most wonderful views at Galien River County Park! Hiking does take you up to a perch quite literally in the trees for the splendid views. 

Breathtaking view from the trees at Galien River County Park in New Buffalo, Michigan
Breathtaking view from the trees at Galien River County Park in New Buffalo, Michigan

Rosy Mound Natural Area

Located along Lake Michigan in Grand Haven, Michigan, Rosy Mound Natural Area offers families a challenge hiking through a forest and up a mound. Hikers are very much rewarded with fantastic views. If you hike down to the lake, you will also enjoy a nice beach respite!

Minnesota

Boiling Springs

Jenn Singer, writer and editor of Day Tripper, proposes Boiling Springs in Savage, Minnesota as a novel hiking experience. She details that Boiling Springs is a natural spring that maintains a consistent 50 degree temperature due to the water bubbling up from underground and the minerals in the water. The spring is always active but bubbles seem more vibrant in spring.

Bubbling at Boiling Springs adds a distinctive element to a nature adventure! Image credit Jenn Singer.
Bubbling at Boiling Springs adds a distinctive element to a nature adventure! Image credit Jenn Singer.

Whitewater State Park

Jenn Singer also recommends Whitewater State Park in Southern Minnesota's bluff country! Exploring Whitewater State Park treats hikers to spectacular views, unique formations such as Chimney Rock and water views. Whitewater State Park's rocky landscape provides challenging hiking with breathtaking vistas.

Missouri

Wallace State Park

Wallace State Park in Cameron, Missouri offers 4 scenic trails. Jennifer Ciha, author and editor of Field Trip Iowa, found the landscape of Wallace State Park intriguing and her family enjoyed exploring rocky ledges, river banks, a lake and more. Definitely, worth a wander through a distinctive landscape!

Wildcat Park

Christine Semptrean Smith, writer and editor of Joplin MO Life loves Wildcat Park in Joplin, Missouri for an adventure marveling at unique creations of Mother Nature. She explains that inside Wildcat Park, explorers can find unique and rare chert glades which are desert-like glades upon chert rock. You may even see a cactus in the chert glades! Trails offer a wealth of experiences including peeking into caves, climbing bluffs and more!

Nebraska

Smith Falls State Park

Along the Niobrara River in Nebraska, author and editor of The Local Tourist Theresa L. Goodrich discovered Smith Falls State Park. Smith Falls represents the tallest waterfall in the state and magically tumbles as glistening threads over chunky rock outcrops. The Niobrara River itself holds the designation of a National Wild and Scenic River. The region is noted for a blend of unique and fragile microclimates and banks rich with fossils along the river. Sandhills in the region are arid on top but the canyons between bluffs create cooler climates where trees nonexistent in the rest of the state grow.

Smith Falls tumbles as glistening threads over chunky rock outcrops. Image credit Theresa L. Goodrich.
Smith Falls tumbles as glistening threads over chunky rock outcrops.
Image credit Theresa L. Goodrich.

Ohio

California Woods Nature Preserve

Stephanie Taleghani, author and editor of Consistently Curious,  encourages visiting Cincinnati's California Woods Nature Preserve's 113-acres for an amazing, away-from-it all nature ramble. Stephanie loves to hike the scenic 2.5 mile California Woods Trail and suggests adding an exploration of the nature center.

Caldwell Nature Preserve

Additionally, Stephanie Taleghani suggests  Caldwell Nature Preserve in Finneytown, Ohio offering a natural oasis for adventurers noted in particular for birding. The stunning preserve presents 3.5 miles of interconnected trails so that hikers can create the length of hike perfect for their day.

Wandering the landscape of Caldwell Nature Preserve. Image credit Stephanie Taleghani.
Wandering the landscape of Caldwell Nature Preserve. Image credit Stephanie Taleghani.

Hocking Hills

April Berry, author and editor of Minivan Adventures, splendors in scouting the incredible landscape of the Hocking Hills including waterfalls, rock ledges, canyons, caves and more. April details: "There were waterfalls. So many waterfalls! There were caves. There were interesting rock formations and beautiful bridges. There was even a large natural land bridge to walk over!" Hocking Hills is quite the nature wonderland and place where your family could easily spend a few days.

Each trail is intriguing traversing through Hocking Hills State Park  including Conkles Hollow Gorge  Trail. Image credit April Berry.
Each trail is intriguing traversing through Hocking Hills State Park
 including Conkles Hollow Gorge  Trail. Image credit April Berry.
South Dakota

Custer State Park

Love, Laughter, and Luggage author and editor Stacey Billingsley recommends spending a day exploring South Dakota's Custer State Park. While her family definitely enjoyed searching for bison and visiting with burros, they also discovered spots to stretch their legs and exploring distinctive and beautiful rocky landscapes within the preserve.

Wisconsin

Devil's Staircase and the Ice Age National Scenic Trail

Visitors to Janesville should carve out time to wander along Wisconsin's Ice Age National Scenic Trail including the portion at Devil's Staircase. We have hiked Devil's Staircase twice and each time felt drawn to the striking landscape. However, the portion of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail through Robert O. Cooke Memorial Arboretum is absolutely picturesque and should no be missed.

Admiring the escarpment while hiking Devil's Staircase in Janesville, Wisconsin.
Admiring the escarpment while hiking Devil's Staircase.


Willow River State Park

Waterfalling in Wisconsin, we discovered Willow River State Park in Hudson. Steep-in-some-areas trails lead to the much loved tiered waterfall. However, other trails lead through the forest, to water views and splendid birding!

Thank you to all of the Midwest Travel Writers that have contributed to this article!

For more hiking ideas in the Midwest, see Favorite Hiking Locations in the Midwest and Favorite Hiking Locations in the Midwest Part 2.

Favorite Midwest Hiking Adventures Suggested By Midwest Travel Writers


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