25 Oct

When it comes to hiking, the Midwest might not be the first region that comes to mind, but it's home to an abundance of natural beauty and diverse landscapes. From rolling hills to dense forests, picturesque lakes, and charming prairies, the Midwest offers an array of hiking opportunities. In this article, we'll take you on a journey through the heart of America and explore some of the best hikes that this often underestimated region has to offer.

Gateway Arch National Park, Missouri

Towering above the Mississippi River, the Gateway Arch is not just an iconic symbol of St. Louis but also a great place for a hike. The park offers a series of paved and natural-surface trails that wind through beautifully landscaped grounds, making it an ideal choice for hikers of all levels. You can explore the riverfront, admire stunning views from the arch itself, and learn about the history of westward expansion in the museum located at the base of the arch.

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Michigan

Venture into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and you'll discover the rugged wilderness of Porcupine Mountains State Park. Known locally as the "Porkies," this park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. With over 90 miles of hiking trails, you can choose from a variety of routes that take you through dense forests, along the shores of Lake Superior, and up to scenic overlooks. The Lake of the Clouds Overlook Trail offers breathtaking views of one of the park's most picturesque landscapes.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

Located between Akron and Cleveland, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a green oasis in the heart of Ohio. The park boasts an extensive trail system, with hikes ranging from easy walks to challenging treks. The Ledges Trail is a favorite, leading you through mossy rock formations and lush woodlands. The Brandywine Gorge Trail is another gem, offering magnificent views of the Brandywine Falls. With its diverse ecosystems and rich cultural history, this park provides an exceptional hiking experience.

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

While the Badlands may not be the first place that comes to mind for a Midwest hike, it's an unmissable destination. The otherworldly landscapes of Badlands National Park in South Dakota are like nowhere else in the region. The park features a network of well-maintained trails, some leading through the rugged badlands formations and others guiding you to ancient fossil beds. The Door Trail is a popular choice, providing an easy walk with incredible views of the jagged terrain.

Shawnee National Forest, Illinois

Tucked away in southern Illinois, the Shawnee National Forest is a hidden gem for hiking enthusiasts. The Garden of the Gods Recreation Area is a must-visit within the forest, offering a stunning hike through unique sandstone rock formations. Camel Rock and Anvil Rock are just two of the many intriguing features you'll discover here. Shawnee National Forest is also home to the Rim Rock Recreational Trail, a challenging path that takes you along the edge of a steep cliff with panoramic views of the forest below.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

For a truly unique hiking experience in the Midwest, head to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on the southern shore of Lake Superior. The park's namesake, the colorful sandstone cliffs, is best explored on foot. The Chapel Loop Trail is a 10.4-mile trek that offers stunning views of cliffs, waterfalls, and pristine lakes. The diverse landscape here, combined with the crystal-clear waters of Lake Superior, creates a remarkable and unforgettable hiking adventure.

Ozark National Scenic Riverways, Missouri

If you're looking for a hiking destination that combines natural beauty with outdoor water adventures, the Ozark National Scenic Riverways in Missouri is a perfect choice. The park's trails meander through lush forests and along the riverbanks, making it an excellent spot for both hiking and floating. The Rocky Falls Shut-ins Trail is a great way to experience the park's natural beauty, leading to a picturesque waterfall and swimming area.

Custer State Park, South Dakota

Custer State Park in South Dakota is another gem in the Midwest. Known for its striking landscapes, wildlife, and serene lakes, this park offers numerous hiking opportunities. The Cathedral Spires Trail is a favorite, leading you through a pine forest to an area with unique granite rock formations. Wildlife enthusiasts will appreciate the Prairie Trail, which offers excellent chances to spot bison, pronghorn, and prairie dogs.

The Midwest may not have the towering mountain ranges or vast deserts found in other regions of the United States, but it offers a surprising and diverse array of hiking experiences. From the serene lakes of Michigan to the dramatic badlands of South Dakota, the Midwest's hiking trails have something to offer everyone, from novice hikers to seasoned trekkers. So, if you're looking for your next outdoor adventure, don't overlook the beauty and adventure that awaits you in the heart of America. Explore these best hikes in the Midwest, and you'll discover that this region has more to offer than meets the eye.

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