Open Wide the World


Top Midwest Hikes - as recommended by Midwest hikers

Our family loves hiking — so much that while other kids her age say they want to be youtube stars when they grow up, our 10-year old says her dream job is to be a hiker! (Full-time hiker would be my dream job, too, if I could find a way to earn a living from it. Sigh.)

So when a recent installment of #MidwestMondayChat on twitter had travelers sharing the best hikes in the Midwest, we perused the list and chose 12 bucket list hikes, one from each Midwest state. Here’s what we decided:

The best hikes in the Midwest! Top day hikes, and even a through-hike, in the Midwestern United States. Hiking trails for hiking families, hard core hikers and solo hikers. All recommended by Midwest hikers! #midwesthiking #openwidetheworld

Our Midwest Hiking Bucket List



Shawnee National Forest, Herod, IL

Recommended by: Dang Travelers

From the state’s tourism website: The stunning Shawnee National Forest landscape features rolling hills, lakes, creeks and rugged bluffs. The forest has a system of 403 miles of equestrian/hiking trails, where visitors hike past magnificent jutting walls of rock covered with emerald-green moss, and paths that meander through canyons under the forest canopy.


Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Porter, IN

Recommended by: Myles to Travel

From the destination’s website: Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore hugs 15 miles of the southern shore of Lake Michigan. Hikers will enjoy 50 miles of trails over rugged dunes, mysterious wetlands, sunny prairies, meandering rivers and peaceful forests. Most of the trails are open all year and the hiking experience will change with each season.


Maquoketa Caves State Park, Maquoketa, IA

Recommended by: Between England and Iowa

From the destination’s website: This state park’s caves, limestone formations and rugged bluffs provide visitors a chance to "step back" into geological time thousands of years. Some caves can be explored by walking while others can best be seen by crawling. A beautiful trail system links the caves, formations, and overlooks while providing an exciting hiking experience. 

Note: The caves in the park typically close from mid October through mid April for bat hibernation.


Mushroom Rock State Park, Brookville, KS

Recommended by: Mojo Traveler

From the state website: One of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Geography, Mushroom Rock State Park boasts some of the most unusual rock formations anywhere. Resembling giant mushrooms rising above the horizon, the Dakota formations of Mushroom Rock State Park are the remains of beach sands and sediments of the Cretaceous Period, from about 144 to 66 million years ago. 


Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Maple City, MI

Recommended by: Go Learn Things

From the destination’s website: There are 13 trails (100 miles) on the mainland for hiking; most maintained during winter for cross country skiing and snowshoeing.

Each trail has its own unique beauty and challenges. Some have beautiful views from high vistas overlooking lakes, hills, or dunes. Others take you through fields of wildflowers with views of fields and lakes or forest. Others take you through the sand dunes to explore the hardy vegetation and wildflowers that flourish in this harsh environment.


Superior Hiking Trail, Two Harbors, MN

Recommended by: Divergent Travelers

From the state’s tourism website: The Superior Hiking Trail is a 310-mile-long hiking trail that follows the rocky ridgeline above Lake Superior. Great for both day hikes and backpack camping. Enjoy scenic overlooks, waterfalls, forests and wildlife. The trail offers through hikers 93 free backcountry campsites, spaced every 5-8 miles.


Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park, Middle Brook, MO

Recommended by: Road Trips and Mascara

From the destination’s website: Carved into the rock by the flow of the Black River, Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park offers ancient beauty. The wilderness qualities and geology of Johnson’s Shut-Ins (and the surrounding St. Francois Mountains) make this park a special place to visit.


Toadstool Geologic Park, Harrison, NE

Recommended by: Postcard Jar

From the destination’s website: The most obvious and striking attraction to Toadstool is the scenery. The banded layers of clay and ash serve as silent testament to past geologic events that deposited sediments from periodic floods, and deep ash layers from volcanoes to the west. The build-up and later erosion have left an other-worldly landscape.

North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Medora, ND

Recommended by: The Walking Tourists

From the state’s tourism website: The colorful North Dakota Badlands offer sweeping vistas of one of the last remnants of wilderness in the Northern Great Plains. In the park you will find open prairie, hardwood draws, canyons, and the Little Missouri River. Visitors are provided a unique opportunity for viewing bison, prairie dogs and other wildlife.


Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Brecksville, OH

Recommended by: Yoder Toter Blog

From the destination’s website: The winding Cuyahoga (the "Crooked River") gives way to 33,000 acres of deep forests, rolling hills, and open farmlands. The park is a refuge for flora and fauna, gives a sense of times past, and provides recreation and solitude for Ohio's residents and visitors. Cuyahoga offers something for everyone—from hiking, golfing, historic train rides, and kayaking to snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

South Dakota

Custer State Park, Custer, SD

Recommended by: Oh My Omaha

From the state’s tourism website: Located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the park is home to a variety of wildlife and magnificent scenery spanning 71,000 acres. Nearly 1,300 bison roam the prairies and hills of the park, which they share with pronghorn, big horn sheep, elk and curious burros. Visitors often enjoy close encounters with these permanent residents.


Apostle Island National Lakeshore, Bayfield, WI

Recommended by: Miranda Knudtson

From the destination’s website: The 21 islands of the National Lakeshore feature a combination of raw natural beauty and rich cultural history. Trimmed with sea caves, sandstone cliffs and miles of pristine sand beaches, each island has it own character and story.

Hiking and camping on the Apostle Islands offer up old growth forests, historic fishing camps and well-maintained trails. 

Is all this hiking making you hungry? Check out:

The Best Pies in the Midwest, Recommended by Midwesterners!

Do you know a great Midwest hike we should add to our list?

Tell us about it in the comments!


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The best hikes in the Midwest! Top day hikes, and even a through-hike, in the Midwestern United States. Trails for hiking families, hard core hikers and solo hikers. All recommended by Midwest hikers! #midwesthiking #openwidetheworld

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