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Backpacker Magazine – May 2009

America's Best Day Hikes: Midwest

Beaches, wildlife, and prairies in Minnesota, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa, Ohio, North Dakota, Kansas, and Illinois make the Midwest a hiker's paradise.

by: Steve Johnson

Indiana Dunes State Park (Paul McMahon)
Indiana Dunes State Park (Paul McMahon)
Custer State Park (Catherine Brooks)
Custer State Park (Catherine Brooks)
Sheyenne Natl. Grasslands (Tom Bean)
Sheyenne Natl. Grasslands (Tom Bean)



Konza Prairie, KS

Hike through upland prairie of big bluestem, Indiangrass, and switchgrass, with views of the distant Flint Hills. Yes, a covered wagon would look right at home–as does the herd of bison that roams here. Info

Conkles Hollow, OH
This 200-foot-deep gorge conceals an unexpected wilderness of ferns, mosses, and 50 species of wildflowers like violets, trillium, and orchids. The 3.5-mile loop requires sure footing along the cliff tops. Info

Glacial Park Loop, IL
You'll feel like you just missed the last glacier on this six-mile loop north of Richmond. Follow the Deerpath Trail to Camelback Kame, and drop to Nippersink Creek. Info
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Dunes Trail, MI
This strenuous, all-sand, 3.5-mile out-and-back meanders up and over wildflower-strewn hills at Sleeping Bear Dunes to the Lake Michigan shore. Info

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Star Star Star
Jul 08, 2013

Hiked part of Cathedral Canyon over the Fourth Holiday. Creek area was beautiful. Previous hikers left cairns in some areas...but the trail completely disappeared after about 3 miles. Would love to see the rest, but bushwacking became too difficult with my beagle along side. Very nice hike...but not sure how it became rated as one of "America's best dayhikes."

Star Star Star Star Star
Apr 18, 2013

Conkle's Hollow is part of Hocking Hills State Park. You might have trouble finding it without that info.

Mike Hubert
Jan 07, 2012

Just got back from Yellow River State Forest near Harpers Ferry, Iowa on a winter hike. Amazing time. Hills are much steeper than I had anticipated but it was worth it. We had the whole park to ourselves and the campsites were pretty nice. Saw a few deer and bald eagles and fell asleep to the sound of coyote howling. Highly recommend a trip to YRSF, only 3 hours from the Quad cities and far less crowded then other trails I've been on

Nov 07, 2011

A few more nice spots for shorter hikes would be Turkey Run/Shades SPs in IN and Whitewater SP in MN. Eagle Mountain trail in MN. One I really want to do in WI is Devil's Lake SP.

Feb 17, 2011

Please change your link for the Konza Prairie to one that works:

Jan 29, 2011

I hiked the French Creek Trail and it was very much bushwacking. My girlfriend didn't tell me she only had tennis shoes and flip flops till we already started the hike. Very amazing place. Check out all the details at

Ryan Romanowski
Jun 06, 2010

Just hiked the 9 mile loop at Itasca this weekend. The number of lakes in a small area is amazing! We broke for lunch along Lake Mary and saw some loons on the lake. I would recommend a LOT of mosquito repellent. The hike is great for beginners as well, with very little elevation change and well-maintained trails.

Dec 12, 2009

The Hawk Ridge trail is listed in the section of the article that's wildlife-focused, genius, not just for great hikes on the North Shore. And you see the raptors from the ridge, not along the trail. But if you know the area so well, you already know this. I've seen more raptors from here than anywhere else in the country.

Dec 10, 2009

Wow, no mention of the Ice Age Trail, NCT; and, of the great forests in northern MN, WI & MI, etc. There are so many great places to hike in the Midwest and none are mentioned here.

Andrew Slade
Oct 22, 2009

The listing for the Hawk Ridge trail in Duluth is very misleading and a poor choice. There is so much great hiking on the Minnesota North Shore of Lake Superior. This trail is two miles of trail and two miles of road. There are no spots on the trail where you'd see congregations of hawks. Next time, ask someone who actually knows the area for their recommendation.

Sep 04, 2009

I hiked part of the canyon today. There were several trees blown down over the road leading to the gate where you park to begin the hike. Also, several trees were blown down onto the trail that you will need to hike around. Ran into two water moccasins today (9-3-09). Beautiful place.


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