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11 Hidden Midwestern Hikes to Put on Your List

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The Midwest probably doesn’t seem like the place to go for challenging, fun hikes, but this Midwestern hikes prove that wrong entirely.

It doesn’t seem like it, because many of these type of hikes are “hidden,” or not well known. But there are many places to go in the region for more than a walk in the park.

For this list, we sought out trails that were more day hikes, that were a little more challenging and were (of course) hidden.

Here are 11 Midwest hiking trails you might have overlooked!

1. Big Woods Trail

Vermilion County Conservation District
Vermilion County Conservation District

The Big Woods Trail at Forest Glen Nature Preserve in Vermilion County, Ill., is only a mile one way, but it is a challenge. The trail heads down ravines to the stream below, twice, making for a nice, little challenge.

2. Matthiessen State Park

Illinois Department of Natural Resources
Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Matthiessen State Park near Utica, Ill., has five miles of trails. The upper area and bluff tops are easy, but two dells in the interior of the park can be challenging to negotiate.

3. Starved Rock State Park

Starved Rock State Park
Starved Rock State Park

Starved Rock State Park’s valleys and canyons were created by melting glaciers thousands of years ago. Just 90 minutes from Chicago, the park has 13 miles of trails. Spring is when the waterfalls are most active.

4. Charles C. Deam Wilderness Area

U.S. Forest Service
U.S. Forest Service

Seventy miles south of Indianapolis, the Charles C. Deam Wilderness Area has 37.3 miles of trails for hiking and more deep into Hoosier National Forest. The 4.9-mile Sycamore Loop trail is a hike-only trail.

5. Heron Rookery Trail

National Park Service
National Park Service

The Heron Rookery Trail located in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore near Chesterton, Ind., isn’t even familiar to state residents. The 3.3-mile trail follows Little Calumet River. It may not sound like much, but it takes about two hours to hike the trail.

6. Yellow River State Forest

Iowa Department of Natural Resources
Iowa Department of Natural Resources

Iowa, now that’s flat farm country. Not in Yellow River State Forest. The terrain in the state is rugged, and some of the Yellow River trails have been ranked on national backpacking lists.

7. Minong Ridge Trail

National Park Service
National Park Service

Located on Michigan’s Isle Royale National Park, the Minong Ridge Trail is a 26-mile adventure through the Windigo Area. The trail goes up and down along the ridge, goes into marshes and gets rocky in a pine forest. Oh, and you may encounter wolves.

8. Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area

U.S. Forest Service
U.S. Forest Service

Near Manistee, Mich., the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area has about 10 miles of trails, some of which lead to the beach. Other parts of the trail head into the wilderness.

9. Superior Hiking Trail

Superior Hiking Trail Association
Superior Hiking Trail Association

The Superior Hiking Trail is the longest on our list at 310 miles. It starts south of Duluth, Minn., and goes to the U.S.-Canadian border. The trail follows the rocky ridge line above Lake Superior. Not quite “hidden,” but it had to be mentioned.

10. Meremac Wilderness Trail

Missouri State Parks
Missouri State Parks

The Wilderness Trail at Meremac State Park near Sulllivan, Mo., is 8.5 miles of fascinating sights. Like what? Try dramatic caves, springs, buffs, glades and rock ledges. The trail goes through some of the most rugged and remote parts of the park.

11. Nelson Kennedy Ledges State Park

Ohio State Parks
Ohio State Parks

The trails at Nelson Kennedy Ledges State Park near Garrettsville, Ohio, range from easy to difficult. The most difficult is marked by a series of rugged cliffs. It’s only a half-mile long, but if you have a fear of heights, don’t do it.

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11 Hidden Midwestern Hikes to Put on Your List