Trail Mix: Great November Hikes in the Central U.S.

Your region's go-now guide: Perfect days in Indianapolis, Minneapolis, and Tulsa.
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Your region's go-now guide: Perfect days in Indianapolis, Minneapolis, and Tulsa.

Perfect Days

Indianapolis, IN

Pine Hills Nature Preserve

Traverse a six-foot-wide ridge flanked by 100-foot dropoffs on this 3.6-mile out-and-back through a little-known preserve bordering Shades State Park. Then pick your treat for the way home: the donuts from Hilligoss Bakery (317-852-7451), or the gourmet chocolate at Donaldson’s (donaldsonschocolates.com). Trip ID1231437

Minneapolis, MN

Wolf Creek Falls

This 7.8-mile loop stars the trail’s namesake 12-foot cascade, but also passes pink sandstone boulders and potholes. Before returning, get an early taste of Halloween at the Dead End Hayride in Wyoming, MN ($15; thedeadendhayrides.com). Trip ID250708

Tulsa, OK

Robbers Cave State Park

Visit Jesse James’ hideout and wind through sandstone gorges on this 10-mile lollipop through the San Bois Mountains. On your way back to Tulsa, pull off at the Brooken Cove campground on Eufaula Lake to fish for blue catfish on this reservoir famous for its huge catches (bit.ly/eufaulalake). Trip ID21248

Explore: Dallas Hikes

Greenbelt, Ray Roberts State Park 

Enjoy a segment (7.4 miles round-trip) of this multiuse trail connecting two lakes along the banks of the Trinity River. Keep an eye out for deer, armadillos, and songbirds through the hardwoods (Trip ID 12342). Download GPS Trails, our free smartphone navigation app, to check out more great Dallas-area hikes:backpacker.com/gpstrails.

Local Expert

Beat autumn crowds at Devil’s Lake, WI.

Wisconsin becomes a veritable color wheel when October hits, as maples, poplars, and oaks paint the countryside red, yellow, and burnt orange. The leaves hold on longest in the south, and Wisconsinites know it—the trails in gorge-filled Devil’s Lake State Park, one hour north of Madison, are often packed during leaf-peeping season. Here’s one way to get privacy: According to Todd Persche, a 15-year volunteer with the park, hikers can find sanctuary on a routefinding adventure to the top of the south bluffs in a 3,480-acre, trail-free expanse called Devil’s Nose Natural Area. From the east park entrance, follow South Lake Road to park at the boat launch on the west shore of Devil’s Lake. Begin the hike by tracing your way south, scrambling over quartzite rock jumbles to the top of the bluff—a climb of about 400 feet. “When you reach the rim, there’s an old path that looks like a deer trail,” Persche says. “It heads east for about a mile, leading to views of Devil’s Lake from rock outcroppings.” Use your map and compass to venture farther south into groves of yellow birch and cedar. Contact 608-356-8301; bit.ly/devilslakesp

Pack Your: Ghost Stories

Take a night hike around a wildlife-haunted lake in Sleepy Hollow State Park, MI

You’re not likely to find headless horsemen riding the trails of this 2,678-acre park two hours from Detroit, but it’s still the perfect setting for a spine-tingling autumn outing. According to Greg Tasker, author of Five-Star Trails Ann Arbor and Detroit, the park is named after an I.B. Crane who lived nearby—a loose association with the hero in Washington Irving’s classic tale. “This wooded oasis was once farmland, so you can see remnants of old homesteads along the trails,” he says. But the adventure isn’t all in the name: This is one of the region’s best areas to see wildlife, including deer, coyote, wild turkeys, migrating waterfowl, bald eagles, and even black bear. Hike an 8.8-mile loop around wooded Lake Ovid, starting from the parking area just outside the campground, which closes for the season on October 20. Leave an hour before sunset to catch wildlife at their crepuscular peak, and so you can finish in the dark. Then gather at the fire ring in the (sure-to-be-empty) East Picnic Area for s’mores and your best creepy tales, made extra eerie by the abandoned campground. Need a boost to your storytelling prowess? See our scary-tale tips at backpacker.com/ghoststory. Trip ID 1509233