From the Field: Central

Looking to relax this summer? These central hikes offer beautiful lakes, great views, and a breath of fresh air.

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Platte River SP, Louisville, NE

Gregg Galbraith Louisville, NE

If the warm spring was any indication—temps hit 90 in March—this shady, rolling 3.3-mile figure eight will offer welcome respite come summer. “The (burr oak) canopy is so nice,” Galbraith says. “You’ll get a little breeze off the river, too.” Score panoramic Platte River views atop the 85-foot park tower, then visit Stone and Decker Creeks and pass a five-foot cascade. Mountain bikers love the singletrack here, so hike before 4:30 p.m. Or stay to join them. “In June, look for newborn fawns and turkey chicks.”

Ly-co-ki-we Trail, Indiana Dunes NL, IN

Bruce Rowe Chesterton, IN

Leave the beach crowds behind and follow what was Lake Michigan’s shoreline 10,000 years ago on this 9.7-mile loop through cattail marshes, woodland swamps, oak-forested dunes, and pocket prairies. “You can see pretty much every habitat in the park except the beach,” Rowe says. At mile 2.5, connect to the Dunewood Trace Trail to the park campground for a rare overnight opportunity in this area. “It’s really one of the few places where you can truly backpack to a campsite,” says Rowe. Trip ID 459628 “Search for Karner blue butterflies in sunny, dry areas.”

Auxier Ridge Trail, Daniel Boone NF, KY

Sheila Kelly Louisville, KY

Nature is mounting a comeback on this 3.6-mile out-and-back in the spectacular Red River Gorge, two hours from Cincinnati, after a wildfire scorched 1,665 acres in October 2010. “Tulip poplars and oaks are rebounding,” Kelly says. “I saw some mountain laurels that were only about six to 10 inches tall.” The other upshot? The fire made good views even better along the half of the trail that it burned. You’ll spy sheer-faced Raven Rock throughout the route, and glimpse the twin 25- and 30-foot-long sandstone expanses of Double Arch at the rock bridge turnaround point. Trip ID 12798 “There is little shade and water here. Pack accordingly.”

Clifton Gorge Trail, John Bryan SP, OH

Ken Rosenzweig Dayton, OH

This 5.2-mile out-and-back begins along the sedate Little Miami River in John Bryan State Park, on a rocky path peppered with spring-fed streams and cascades. The scenery ramps up heading east, where the route traces the edge of a 30-foot-wide limestone and dolomite gorge, whose narrow walls transform the river into a whitewater torrent. “It’s like our own little slot canyon,” Rosenzweig says. Trip ID 21251 “Ohio’s best breakfast: Clifton Mill, on the Little Miami.”

Eagle Mountain, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, MN

Martin Kubik Twin Cities, MN

June is a good time for wildflowers on this 6.6-mile out-and-back to the 2,301-foot Minnesota highpoint, Kubik says. Look for frilly wild sarsaparilla, yellow bluebead lily, and prolific white bunchberry blossoms en route to views of Shrike, Zoo, and Eagle Lakes from an overlook 80 yards below the summit. For a 10.7-mile shuttle hike, follow the narrow, mossy path to the Brule Lake trailhead from the Whale Lake intersection at mile 2.6. “Brule Lake is a little bit of a fairytale trail,” Kubik says. “This one is as pristine as it gets. Only about 50 or 100 people hike it each year.” Trip ID 20730 “I camp at Whale Lake and climb the mountain at sunrise.”

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