12 Favorite Midwest Hikes
Marquette, Kansas: Kanopolis State Park
Glimpses of the American Southwest emerge via sandstone canyons and bluffs in this remote state park in central Kansas. Start on the Buffalo Track Canyon Nature Trail at Trailhead C, and follow it 0.75 miles through a flower-filled meadow, where you’ll pick up the Horsethief Canyon Trail. On that looping 5.5-mile hike, you’ll rock-hop across Buffalo Creek, pass caves and climb over sandstone slabs to a stunning view of the prairie below. (785) 546-2565; kdwpt.state.ks.us
Eagan, Minnesota: Lebanon Hills Regional Park
The entrance to this suburban Twin Cities oasis awaits on busy, mall-lined Cliff Road. Traffic noise fades on trails weaving among lakes, light woods, marshes and meadows. Dozens of unnamed trail segments create an interconnected web of paths for 1-mile lakeside loops or long cross-park treks. (651) 554-6530; www.co.dakota.mn.us
Ponca, Nebraska: Ponca State Park
More than 20 miles of paths traverse stands of timber, open prairie and the banks of the Missouri River in this popular state park. Most paths are grassy, wide and rated as easy or moderate, but adventure-seekers find a thrill on Corps of Discovery’s single-track path along a 50-foot cliff. (402) 755-2284; outdoornebraska.ne.gov
Garretson, South Dakota: Palisades State Park
This small park near Sioux Falls showcases the work of Split Rock Creek, which carved 50-foot bluffs and rugged formations from large deposits of rosy Sioux quartzite. Though the trails are short (the longest is 1.5-mile Split Rock Creek Trail loop), challenging terrain and bluffside overlooks make the treks rewarding. (605) 594-3824; gfp.sd.gov
- Photo by Amber Matheson.
Loudonville, Ohio: Mohican State Park
About halfway between Cleveland and Columbus, these 1,110 acres are crisscrossed by dozens of interconnected trails centered around the Clear Fork of the Mohican River. Easy 1-mile Grist Mill Trail ends at a working 1880s (you guessed it) gristmill; 2-mile Lyons Falls Trail starts by a covered bridge and passes two waterfalls; and 3-mile Hog Hollow Trail leads to views from a climbable fire tower. mohicanstatepark.org
Mcgregor, Iowa: Pikes Peak State Park
Bridal Veil Trail begins as a flat, paved path but quickly turns into a wooden boardwalk with well-worn steps. A forest of moss-flecked hardwoods and large ferns lines the 6.5-mile trail, with its overlooks, waterfalls and other points of interest every half-mile or so through these hills along the Mississippi. (563) 873-2341; iowadnr.gov
- Photo by Danny Lee.
Martinsville, Indiana: Tecumseh Trail
Little surprises engage hikers along this trail. Look for lizards, turtles and deer; wild berries and mushrooms; an old cemetery; and the clear waters of Yellowwood Lake. Begin out-and-back day hikes from the Morgan-Monroe State Forest Headquarters in the north or from Lake Monroe in the Yellowwood State Forest in the south. Or hike the 42 miles between. (855) 812-4453; hoosierhikerscouncil.org/Tecumseh-trail
Utica, Illinois: Matthiessen State Park
A series of wooden boardwalks, bridges and stairs takes hikers along soaring north-central Illinois ridges and through fragrant cedar groves on the Upper Dells trails. Cross streams along the Lower Dells trails to rock formations with names like Giant’s Bathtub. Wear sturdy shoes; the terrain is rugged. (815) 667-4868; dnr.state.il.us
Ste. Genevieve, Missouri: Hawn State Park
It’s hard to decide what’s more fun: Climbing over the granite boulders dotting Pickle Creek Trail or wading into crystal-clear Pickle Creek to cool off at the end of the trek. The short, easy hike is just under 2 miles round-trip. Other options at this park south of St. Louis, including 4-mile White Oaks Trail, lead to wildflower meadows, stands of oak and pine, and bluff-top views. (573) 883-3603; mostateparks.com
- Photos by Amy Eckert.
Mesick, Michigan: Huron-Manistee National Forests
The Manistee River Trail reveals stands of white pine, giant ferns and a suspension bridge across the Manistee River. Located 2.5 miles from the trailhead in Seaton Creek Campground, a waterfall makes a great turnaround point for day hikers. But the 10.5-mile trail connects with the North Country National Scenic Trail to form a 23-mile riverside loop; overnight at a campsite along the Manistee River Trail portion. (231) 775-9727; michigan.gov
Wisconsin: Ice Age National Scenic Trail
More than 1,000 forested trail miles trace the edge of the last continental glacier across the state. Explore sections in parks like Interstate State Park (on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border near St. Croix) and Kettle Moraine State Forest (near Delafield). To tackle multiday segments, contact the Ice Age Trail Alliance for advice. (800) 227-0046; iceagetrail.org
- Photo by Ann Arbor Miller.
Lisbon, North Dakota: Sheyenne River State Forest
The 4.5-mile round-trip Mineral Springs and Waterfall Trail packs visual delights: bridges over streams, overlooks of the Sheyenne River Valley and the state’s only documented waterfall (more pretty than powerful). The trailhead southwest of Fargo can be tricky to find: Follow the Sheyenne River Valley National Scenic Byway to fire number 6268. (701) 683-4323; ransomcountynd.com