Trail Mix: Central

Your region's go-now guide.
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Your region's go-now guide.

Explore: Des Moines Dayhikes

Escape into pine forest on a five-mile lollipop-loop along the Lake Shore Trail (Trip ID 5664). Scan the QR code to download
GPS Trails, our free smartphone navigation app, and check out more central Iowa trails.

Perfect Days

Indianapolis, IN Dubois Ridge


Look for 20-inch-tall, brown-and-white ruffed grouse hiding in the brush on this rolling 9.4-mile loop. No luck? We guarantee you’ll see plenty of red
and white pines, and likely whitetail deer. After the hike, head to Brown County’s quarter-mile zip-line (812-988-7750;
explorebrowncounty.com). Not scary enough? Drop it at night (six-person minimum). Trip ID 28003

Rapid City, SD Deerfield Lake


Hike through ponderosa forest to open prairie views on this 11.5-mile loop circling Deerfield Lake in South Dakota’s Black Hills National Forest.
Then pick a spot near the Deerfield dam to cast a damsel fly for rainbow and brook trout (the state record brookie–12 pounds–was caught here). Trip ID 1658249

Wichita, KS Wilson Purple Loop


In the Smoky Hills of central Kansas, take this 4.7-mile loop to the edge of 9,000-acre Wilson Lake. You’ll wander through prairie and past 40-foot
cliff bands to the Dakota Formation sandstone surrounding Wilson’s shoreline. Finish the trail and stop for a snack at Cain City Orchard
(call ahead, 620-562-3498; freewebs.com/caincity) where you can pick your own fruit (peaches in July; apples in
August). Trip ID 370885


See This Now: Fireflies

In the Midwest, nothing says summer like the soft phosphorescent glow of lightning bugs dotting the night sky with their luminous mating calls.
While the insects (beetles, not flies, to be precise) do frequent backyards, you’ll have the best chance of spotting them away from the light pollution
and pesticides of the city, says Connie O’Connor, an educator at the Cincinnati Nature Center who’s been leading firefly hikes for 16 years. For the
best concentration of the Midwest’s dozens of firefly species, aim for a field ringed by forest, near a pond or wetlands. Hot and humid nights, especially
after a rain, will bring out the most blinkers. Populations peak near early July, depending on the year. Visit cincynature.org for details about O’Connor’s
family-friendly hikes, or hit the Perimeter Trail at East Fork State Park (Trip ID 308403) for your own backcountry search.

Solitude Finder

Brule River State Forest, WI

Nab a heartbeat-quiet campsite on a little-used 8.9-mile (one-way) section of the North Country Trail. Overshadowed by the trail’s showcase Chequamegon
sections 30 miles east, this stretch is calm even in summer, and by back-to-school time, it’s virtually deserted (our scout has yet to see another soul
in five visits). From the Crowshaw Road trailhead three miles north of Solon Springs, descend to the Brule River Bog, an emerald green incubator of white
cedar, spongy mosses, and dozens of rare plants like the low-lying Lapland buttercup. Cross the bog on 3,500 feet of boardwalk to the headwaters of the
Bois Brule River. Ascend the ridge to views across the Brule Valley, a glacial shoehorn scoop shrouded in northern hardwood-pine forest. Camp at Jerseth
Creek near mile 6.7, with red-pine-scented breezes and the comforting noise of the creek’s mini rapids, then coast 2.2 rolling miles to the County S trailhead.
Trip ID 1678148