It’s not always realistic to be able to spend a week or a month enjoying long trails and rural camping. During the summer, day trips and weekend camping trips are a fun and active mini-vacation. Here is your guide to the Midwest– a lot of hiking with a small side of camping if time allows.
Morgan-Monroe State Forest, IN
Indiana has nearly 2,500 miles of trails open to backwood hikers. Morgan-Monroe State Forest is one of the best places to take a day trip, or to settle down and camp for a while as you explore the scenery. It has three trails that are less than one mile long, including the Tree Identification Trail, where you learn about native trees.
There are also four longer, more rugged trails for those who are advanced hikers. The Mason Ridge Loop is a 2.7 mile trail of moderate difficulty, and the Three Lakes Trail and Low Gap Trail each span 10 miles and are more challenging to navigate. As the name implies, Three Lakes Trail passes by three lakes; Bryant Creek Lake, Cherry Lake, and Prather lake, where boating and fishing is popular. Gold panning is another unique activity, but a free license is required through the Forest Office.
Morgan-Monroe State Forest has 19 camping sites for tents and RVs, as well as 6 group sites. Primitive camping is also allowed with a permit, and there are also lodge rooms and cabins available to rent on a day-to-day basis.
Itasca State Park, MN
Itasca State Park offers year-round opportunities for the avid hiker. There is a total of 49 miles of trails, with certain ones offering 9-mile hikes or longer. In the park you’ll find 27 kinds of orchids, a wide variety of wildflowers, as well as red and white pines, and the trails wrap around many different lakes which are perfect for swimming in the summer.
There is also a 1.5 mile wheelchair-accessible trail, so even those who can’t do traditional hiking can enjoy the scenery, birdwatching, and fishing. In the off season, trails are available for snowshoeing and cross country skiing.
If you are an ardent hiker you’ll be spending long days exploring the park, and there are plenty of lodging options. If you are with a large group (up to 21 people), you might want to consider renting a clubhouse or group center, otherwise there are plenty of RV campgrounds and traditional tent sites. If you are traveling with pets you will be more limited in your options as the rented facilities do not allow them, but they can stay on leashes in your trailer or at your campsite. There are also very limited electric sites, so if you bring your trailer plan on camping dry if you have not made reservations.
Custer State Park, SD
Custer State Park is good for groups with hikers of varying levels because it has a variety of different trails. Sunday Gulch Trail is one of the more difficult, crossing streams and passing over boulders. You’ll see diverse and rare plant life as well as granite walls. This trail is only open from May-November, and there is still sometimes ice through the month of June. For those who are just beginning hiking, are not physically fit, or who are traveling with small children, the Creekside Trail might be more appropriate. It is only two miles long, is relatively level, and is even rollerblade friendly.
French Creek Natural Area is the longest of the trails spanning for 12 miles one-way. It is a moderately difficult trail and crosses through creeks several times. It also is not marked, but hikers will find it easy to follow the paths that other hikers have worn.
One of the benefits of the French Creek Natural Area is that primitive camping and backpacking is allowed all throughout. In other parts of the park there are campsites that accommodate tents, RV’s, and other types of trailers with electrical hook-ups. There are also group campsites, and campsites designated for non-profit youth groups.
Andi Singer is lifestyle writer working with Indiana RV Connection to share the best hidden treasures of the Midwest. She feels blessed to be able to work and travel at the same time, and enjoys sharing her travels with her hunting dog.
Hey you! You sitting on the couch or behind the desk! Yes You I am talking to you! Lets talk about all this being lazy. Isn’t it time to get out there and be active? Yes it is a lot of hard work and requires you to get up super early to get some trail time in before work. Stop with the excuses. Either get busy living or get busy dying…..
Have you had conversations like this one with yourself? I was starting to have those more and more and my lazy alter ego was starting to win. I find that the more comfortable you become in life the more relaxed you become. Being relaxed is not necessarily a bad thing. Some times its nice to be able to relax and enjoy your free time . Some times we can find ourselves becoming lazy. Working from home and having the ability to set my own hours is fantastic. I truly love it, however, it makes things very easy to become lazy. I found myself snacking more than I should and not really paying attention to my activity level. With the Hell Hike and Raft expedition in under 4 months I have kicked my training into high gear. I am not one to get up and go “running” however I am starting to get set into a routine and to be honest its not terrible.
We will see how it is going in a few weeks but for now its a start. I have been eating much healthier. My snacking has also changed since I am focusing on things more to ensure my snack options are healthier. Keeping that all under control is working ,but it is not enough. It is time to kick it into high gear and get my hike on.
Happy Trails and remember to get off the couch.
I have watched the Tell it on the Mountain PCT documentary several times now and I enjoy it every time. It follows a half a dozen hikers as they traverse the Pacific Crest Trail that starts at the Mexican border and runs 2,663 miles to the Canadian border. The journey lasts from April to October and requires hikers to hike on average 20 miles per day. If you wish to know what life really is like then this is a must watch. This film provides a fantastic behind the scenes look at the ups and downs of the trail. Everything from the peaks of happiness to the lows of having to leave he trail.
The fine folks at Tell it on the Mountain have given us a DVD and a Digital Download to giveaway. To enter simply use the widgets below. Happy Trails and Good luck. To learn more about the movie please visit their website.
Here are this weeks Adventure Monday Submissions. If you would like your photo featured simply tag your photos on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook with #hikeingthetrail. You may also submit photos by emailing them to photos [@] hikingthetrail.com
Photo by @twofrenchbraidlady
Every country in which hiking is popular has its best-known trail; its mascot that anyone with even the slightest inclination to long-distance walking will know about. For America it’s the Appalachian, for Canada you might say it’s the West Coast Trail, and for Spain and France it’s almost definitely the Camino de Santiago. For Britain, for most people, it’s the Pennine Way.
Despite the fact that it’s barely a tenth the size of the Appalachian, that’s it’s tallest peak is a piddling one third the height of Clingman’s Dome, and that you won’t find any deadly animals lurking in its environs (except perhaps for frustrating lyme-carrying ticks) it remains a tough and spectacular trek. This short article is meant as an introduction for people who aren’t from the UK to the country’s oldest long-distance trail. (more…)