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Nachusa Grasslands, IL | Aurora Borealis – Isle Royale NP, MI |Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, OK | Effigy Mounds National Monument, IA | Ice Age Trail, WI | Garden of the Gods to Lusk Creek Canyon – Shawnee NF, IL
Looking to clear your mind? Like really clear it? Head to the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge near Indiahoma. Only 10 overnight campers are allowed in the 5,000-acre backcountry at a time ($2 permit, up to three months in advance). Reserve a midweek permit for April, says Dustin Hughes, and you’re likely to be the only hiker in the entire woods. From the park office, follow a faint trail three miles west along Headquarters Creek to join the Bison Trail.
Take this four miles to the Charon Gardens Wilderness Area, where timber transitions to prairie. “You’ll struggle through blackjack oaks and other scrubby trees grabbing at your clothes,” Hughes says. “Then you’ll emerge onto open hills of waving grass with the wind whispering through.” Camp right there and wake to the sun rising over the eastern prairie.
Driving From Oklahoma City, take I-44 west 80 miles to US 62, then turn right at NW Post Oak Rd.
Map USGS quads: Quanah, Mt. Scott, Odetta, Meers, and Saddle Mountain ($9 each, store.usgs.gov)
Contact (580) 429-3222, wichitamountains.fws.gov