Mountaineers usually ascend the deep canyons of the west and the icy mountains of the east, but you rarely hear about Midwest mountaineering trips. That is why we have created a list of the top Midwest mountaineering trails. So, whether you live nearby one of these locations, or you are willing to travel, check out the list below to get some ideas of where to mountaineer in the good old Midwest!
Midwest Mountaineering Trails
1.) The Knobstone Trail
Located in Indiana, the Knobstone Trail is the perfect training ground for the Appalachian Trail! With just over 50 miles, the Knobstone trail will test your endurance. One moment you are gliding through smooth and low terrain, and the next you are using your calves to haul yourself up steep hills. This is one of the most authentic Midwest mountaineering trails because of its brown and green flora and fauna, which executes a woodsy feeling. So, if you are looking for the perfect trail to kick start your Midwest mountaineering experience, check out the Knobstone trail!
2.) The Appalachian Trail
With just about 2,200 miles, the Appalachian Trail is the Pacific Crest trail to the Midwest and east coast! Although sections of the Appalachian Trail are not considered to be in the Midwest, the trail stretches throughout a total of 15 states, some of which are Midwest states. Thus, this trail is still considered to be a Midwest trail!
Since the trail winds through 15 trails, the terrain, scenery, altitude, and weather conditions vary. But, in general, it is a pretty tough trail to navigate. Thus, it is extremely important to understand the basics of mountaineering, so you can pick adequate areas to camp, and adapt to new environments quickly.
While people have completed this trail through all the way in one trip, it is advised to complete this trail in separate trips. Whether you choose to attack a thru-trip or break it up into separate trips, this is one trail you do not want to miss!
3.) Ice Age Trail
If you are looking for an authentic Midwest mountaineering experience, then travel along the Ice Age Trail. Located in Wisconsin, this trail has over 1,200 miles, and is not yet complete! The Ice Age Trail is similar to the Appalachian Trail in the sense that most people complete this trail in separate trips. But, people have completed this trail in one trip (they are dubbed, “thousand milers”, by the official Ice Age Trail website).
Before exploring this trail, it is advised that you create a detailed plan. The Ice Age Trail’s official website makes this extremely easy to do. They have outlined trail plans for multi-day overnight trips, multi-day day trips, and just day trips. Thus, since the website is extremely user-friendly, it is easy to understand each location and what each trail will contain.
Much like the Knobstone trail, the Ice Age Trail is full of dense greenery and woodland species. Due to extreme snow in the winter, it is advised to complete this trail during the late spring or summer.
4.) Ozark Trail
Located in Missouri, this 360-mile long trail is still being built with the intention of extending it to 700 miles long! Currently, the trail allows biking and horse riding along with walkers, which is different than most Midwest mountaineering trails. So, if you want to mountaineer in a new way, try horseback riding the Ozark Trail. Other than the alternative ways that you can explore this trail, the Ozark Trail is full of smooth and windy terrain, which is surrounded by a ton of variously colored flora and fauna. Thus, even though the trail may be more suitable for beginner and intermediate mountaineers, any mountaineer would have fun trekking this gorgeous trail!
5.) Superior Hiking Trail
Experience Midwest mountaineering in a new way! This famous trail is located in northeastern Minnesota. With 296 miles, the Superior Hiking Trail (commonly referred to as the SHT) takes mountaineers through pathways surrounded by aspen, pine, and cedar trees. While ascending the trail, mountaineers can expect to see breathtaking views of the Sawtooth Mountains, waterfalls, and various wildlife. Finally, once you reach the summit, you can look 1,829 feet down at the popular Lake Superior.
Due to the possibility of severe weather conditions in the winter, it is advised only to go mountaineering on this trail during late spring to early fall.
6.) Kanopolis State Park
Experience a similar experience to western mountaineering in Marquette, Kansas! The Kanopolis State Park resembles the southwest with the abundance of sandstone canyons and lack of population around the state park. To get the perfect Midwest mountaineering experience begin on the .75 mile Buffalo Track Canyon Nature Trail. The Buffalo Track Canyon Nature Trail is full of flat terrain and gorgeous flowers to keep you at a relaxed state. After trekking the short .75 miles, continue on the 5.5 mile Horsethief Canyon Trail. The Horsethief Canyon Trail will require more stamina and strength. Hike alongside the Buffalo Creek, then treks over rugged sandstone. Finally, once at the top, sit and relax, and enjoy the view of a perfect Midwest prairie!
7.) Ponca State Park
Ponca State Park is one of the most popular trails in the Midwest! Travel through over 20 miles in this beloved Nebraska park! You can expect to walk along the Missouri River, travel across rocky terrain, and trek through grassy pathways. While this trail is easy to moderate, check out the Corps of Discovery path, which ascends a 50-foot cliff, for a greater adventure!
8.) Pikes Peak State Park
The Pikes Peak State Park is home to many fantastic trails, but a local favorite is the Bridal Veil Trail. The Bridal Veil Trail is a 6.5-mile trails which overlook the Mississippi. At first, the trail seems as easy as strolling outside of your house, since it begins flat and paved perfectly. But, that does not last for long! A few feet ahead of the smooth path lays wooden and worn steps that trek all the way to the top of the cliffs. If you have ever tried the stairs machine at the gym, you are aware that climbing stairs make you pretty worn out, pretty fast. Thus, it takes a lot of strength and stamina to finish this trail. Aside from climbing thousands of stairs, you can expect to see gorgeous waterfalls, hills, and a breathtaking skyline. The scenery in this trail surely makes up for having to climb an abundance of stairs!
If you are interested in checking out the Bridal Veil Trail, travel to Mcgregor, Iowa!
9.) Tecumseh Trail
Located in Martinsville, Indiana, the Tecumseh Trail is a 42-mile hike that showcases the clear waters of Yellowwood Lake. While the trail is moderate, and can easily be done within a day or two, many people mountaineer this trail to see the gorgeous wilderness that encompasses this trail. While completing this trail, expect to see lizards, turtles, wild berries, mushrooms, and most importantly, the crystal clear waters of Yellowwood Lake that reflect the dark green trees and hills.
10.) Hawn State Park
If you are looking for a trail with multiple options of where to mountaineer, and what types of obstacles you will endure, then head over to Hawn State Park! Located in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri this park is home to the Pickle Creek Trail, a 2 miles long trail that takes you through uneasy terrain encompassed with rocks and fauna. At the end of the trail cool off in the Pickle Creek, or sit upon one of the granite boulders.
If you want to mountaineer along a longer trail, try the 4 miles long White Oaks Trail. The White Oaks Trail differs from the Pickle Creek Trail, not only due to the length, since it is encompassed by various species of flowers, oak, pine, and gorgeous trees that open at the top to showcase the bright and light blue sky.
11.) River to River Trail
Check out one of the most popular trails in Illinois, the River to River Trail! Located in the Shawnee National Forest, this 176-mile long trail connects the Mississippi River to the Ohio River (hence the name, River to River Trail). If you are looking for a trail with a ton of rock formations and amazing landscapes that are sure to take your breath away, check out the River to River Trail!
An awesome thing about this popular trail is it is only a short 5 to 8-hour drive for people who live in Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee. With that short travel distance, what are you waiting for?
12.) Buckeye Trail
If you are looking for a truly strenuous trail, check out the Buckeye Trail in Ohio! This 1,444-mile long trail is special because half of it is on roads, and the other half is on a trail. Another special thing about this trail is the special locations you will pass by, such as the Hocking Hills. Thus, this trail is also perfect for mountaineers who love history. If you want to overlook Lake Erie, check out the northern part of the trail. While people mountaineer the Buckeye Trail year round, be cautious of Ohio’s severe weather seasons and other risks the trail has, such as limited water, poison ivy, and venomous snakes.