Best Hiking in Midwest US: 7 Best Hiking Trails For Dreamy Views
Hiking is the way to discover the natural landscapes of the Midwest. The wide, open spaces of the Midwest have plenty of underrated parks, whether it’s the coastlines around Lake Michigan and the Wisconsin River or the Ozark Trail and the Starved Rock State Park.
These hiking destinations west of the Mississippi River have incredible scenic views that should make you want to set foot in the Midwest at least once in your lifetime…
…if not for an infamous topless selfie in the great outdoors!
So we asked a few travel bloggers what the best hikes in the Midwest are and boy did they deliver. We would know, we’ve got a few adventures in these places. Don’t worry, we dropped links to those adventures, just in case you need inspiration on where to go next!
7 Best Hiking Trails In The Midwest
1. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
Recommended by Rebecca Gade Sawicki of Veggies Abroad
A trip to Michigan’s famed Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore isn’t complete without a hike along the edge of the towering painted cliffs, to a secluded beach, and through lush forests.
The Chapel Loop Trail is a 10-mile loop that begins at the Chapel/Mosquito trailhead and passes through some of the most scenic parts of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
If 10-miles seems intimidating, then just hike the section from the trailhead to Chapel Beach. The beach is picture-perfect, complete with turquoise water and pristine white sands-you wouldn’t think this is in Michigan.
That section of the trail is just under 3-miles (one-way). If you decide to conquer all 10 miles, it will take you about 4 hours and isn’t overly difficult. Don’t forget to pack water and snacks, you will get hungry! Oh, and Fido needs to stay home. Dogs aren’t allowed on this trail.
2. Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio
If you want to do something different outdoors, then rappelling is an easy way to add some adrenaline to hike. This Explorer Chick hike and rappelling adventure starts with a hike through Hocking Hills State Park to see colossal rock formations.
And then the fun begins with a rappel down a 35-foot flat wall, then a 65-foot canyon rappel, and then a big overhang rappel, Pride Rock, which is under 100-feet where you can try flipping upside down while rappelling!
Try these other outdoor adventures in Ohio:
- Hocking Hills Rock Scramble & Climb
- Forest Bathing with Edible and Medical Plants in Hocking Hills
- Rock Climbing in Hocking Hills
- Yoga, meditation, and journaling at Chillicothe
3. Devil’s Lake State Park, Wisconsin
Recommended by Catherine Giljohann of Postcard Narrative
Ironically, you will feel like you have found heaven on earth when you reach the rock formation known as Devil’s Doorway overlooking a shimmering lake and lush forests.
For a real treat, go to the state park and hike in autumn when the trees don their fiery leaves. A word of caution if you’re traveling with kids or afraid of heights, the Doorway is positioned on a bluff with, often slippery, dangerous drop-offs. Bring trekking poles and a bottle of water.
There are four trails leading to the trailhead for Devil’s Doorway, which is only .1 mile on its own. If you’re seeking a strenuous workout for this rewarding view, scramble up the Balanced Rock trail and down either the CCC or the Potholes trails.
If you prefer easy/moderate, park north of the lake and take the East Bluff trail to and from the Devil’s Doorway trailhead. Your round-trip hike will take roughly 2.5 hours, regardless of which path you choose. Consider spending an entire day at the State Park or camp to take advantage of the variety of attractions offered.
4. Meramec State Park, Missouri
Instead of a usual hike, this EC mini adventure at Meramec State Park starts with a serene canoe ride down the Meramec River that leads to Green’s Cave. Once you have admired its massive 100-foot archway, it is time to muster up the courage to climb atop the entrance and free rappel down! After all the excitement we’ll have a lovely picnic along the riverbank before heading home.
Try out these other outdoor activities in Missouri:
- Learn how to rock climb at Robinson Bluff
- Explore the Katy Bike Trail and the surrounding wineries for a tasting (or two!)
5. Loess Hill State Forest, Iowa
Recommended by Nikki of She Saves She Travels
One of the best hikes in Iowa is the Loess Hills. A unique land formation that extends 200 miles from South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, and Missouri along the Missouri River, the Loess Hills are home to one of the best spots for hiking in the Midwest.
The Hitchcock Nature Center located in western Iowa along the Missouri River and about 15 minutes from Council Bluffs and Omaha is a dedicated preserve for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy. It costs just $5 per vehicle to enter the preserve.
While there are several hiking trails within the preserve, the best views are hiking the Badger Ridge Trail Loop. By hiking this 3.1-mile loop, you’ll see the rolling hills in Iowa, the Omaha skyline, and the plains of eastern Nebraska all within the same trail! It’s a fairly easy trail with a few challenging hills, but doable for hikers of most skill levels. It takes about an hour to complete, maybe more if you’re busy soaking in the views.
As an Omaha resident, this is one of the most scenic hikes in the area, and one worth doing! It’s best done in early summer through fall. During the winter it’s snow-packed and in the early spring, it can be very muddy. Hiking poles aren’t necessary but can be fun to bring along. Be sure to choose shoes with traction in case of mud. Oh, and lay the mosquito and tick repellent on thick in the summer and fall as this area has an intense amount of bugs!
6. Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Recommended by Nikki of She Saves She Travels
This is just one of the Great 8 famous South Dakota landmarks to visit. So get ready to do a lot more hiking in South Dakota. One of the best hikes in South Dakota is also one of the top things to do in Badlands National Park. Tucked away in the southwest corner of the state, it’s one of the most underrated national parks in the USA. Offering incredible scenery, the hikes here are unforgettable!
The Notch Trail is a moderate hiking trail and just 1.5 miles round trip, taking an hour to 1.5 hours to complete. One of the most impressive features of the trail is a ladder that you climb about halfway through the trail. It is definitely not for those with a fear of heights. But once conquered, it leads you to amazing views of the Badlands!
The hiking trail can get really crowded, creating a long line at the ladder. Hike the Notch Trail early in the morning or towards the evening to avoid crowds. There’s also no shade on the hike so come prepared with plenty of water, and in the summer avoid the hiking trail during the heat of the day.
7. Superior National Forest, Minnesota
Recommended by Shelly with Almost There Adventures
The North Shore of Minnesota along Lake Superior has waterfalls, awesome hikes, and countless adventure activities within a 30-mile radius. For a superior hiking trail, head over to the Oberg Mountain Loop, especially in the Fall to see the changing of the leaves.
8. Scotts Bluff National Monument, Nebraska
Recommended by Maggie of Pink Caddy Travelogue
Even though Nebraska is known as being flat and full of farmlands, there is plenty of hiking for those that need to get out into nature. Saddle Rock Trail is an easy hike through Scotts Bluff National Monument that has awesome views of limestone formations, amazing prairie views, and a cool walk through a rock tunnel.
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