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Best of The Midwest: Most Adventurous Destinations In The Midwest

Updated: Jan 11

The Midwest region of the United States may be known for its sprawling farmlands and vibrant cities, but hidden within its borders are some of the most captivating outdoor adventure destinations. From breathtaking national parks to picturesque lakeshores, the Midwest offers a wealth of opportunities for nature enthusiasts seeking thrilling experiences. In this blog post, we will unveil the top adventure destinations in the Midwest, where you can unleash your inner explorer and create unforgettable memories.

Marquette, Michigan

Nestled on the shores of Lake Superior, the city of Marquette in Michigan's Upper Peninsula offers a captivating outdoor adventure destination. With its pristine forests, stunning cliffs, and sandy beaches, Marquette is a paradise for nature enthusiasts. Lace up your hiking boots and explore the picturesque trails of Sugarloaf Mountain or the rugged beauty of the Presque Isle Park. For a thrilling experience, embark on a kayaking or paddleboarding adventure on Lake Superior's crystal-clear waters. In the winter, Marquette transforms into a winter wonderland, providing opportunities for skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. With its breathtaking landscapes and abundance of outdoor activities, Marquette is a must-visit destination for adventure seekers in the Midwest.

Hiking Haven

Marquette's vast trail network caters to hikers of all levels, promising awe-inspiring views and diverse terrains.

Top Trails:

  • Sugarloaf Mountain Trail: Ascend to panoramic views of Lake Superior.

  • Noquemanon Trail Network: Explore an extensive network of interconnected trails, suitable for various skill levels.

Mountain Biking Paradise

Marquette has earned its reputation as a premier destination for mountain biking, with trails that cater to both beginners and seasoned riders.

Trail Highlights:

  • South Trails: Navigate through dense forests and rugged terrains for an exhilarating ride.

  • IMBA Silver-Level Ride Center: Immerse yourself in a biking culture recognized for its excellence.

Climbing Thrills

Challenge yourself with Marquette's unique rock formations, providing an ideal setting for climbing enthusiasts.

Rock Climbing Spots:

  • Hogsback Mountain: Scale the cliffs for a rewarding climb with stunning views.

  • Little Presque Isle: Combine climbing with breathtaking coastal scenery.

Water Adventures on Lake Superior

Discover the crystal-clear waters of Lake Superior, a playground for water enthusiasts seeking adventure.

Water Activities:

  • Kayaking: Paddle along the shoreline, exploring hidden coves and impressive rock formations.

  • Paddleboarding: Glide over calm waters, taking in the beauty of the lakeshore.

Marvel at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore:

Just a short drive from Marquette, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a must-visit destination. Marvel at the towering cliffs, vibrant sandstone formations, and pristine beaches along the Lake Superior shoreline.

Recommended Activities at Pictured Rocks:

  • Boat Tours: Take a scenic cruise to witness the breathtaking rock formations from the water.

  • Hiking Trails: Explore trails like Chapel Loop for stunning views of cliffs, waterfalls, and dense forests.

Marquette, Michigan, promises an unforgettable outdoor experience. Whether you're conquering trails, scaling cliffs, or exploring Pictured Rocks, let nature be the backdrop for your next adventure. Gear up, embrace the challenge, and immerse yourself in the beauty of Michigan's stunning landscapes.

Duluth, Minnesota

Situated on the shores of Lake Superior, Duluth is a vibrant city that serves as a gateway to outdoor adventure in the Midwest. Explore the iconic Duluth Lakewalk, a scenic trail that winds along the lakefront, offering breathtaking views and access to numerous parks and beaches. For adrenaline junkies seeking an exhilarating experience, Duluth is also home to thrilling whitewater trips. The St. Louis River, flowing through the city, provides an exciting opportunity for whitewater rafting and kayaking. Several professional outfitters offer guided trips, ensuring a safe and exciting experience for all skill levels. Alongside whitewater thrills, Duluth also offers a wealth of other outdoor activities, including hiking, mountain biking, surfing, and rock climbing in the nearby Superior National Forest and Jay Cooke State Park. Duluth truly combines urban charm with the excitement of outdoor exploration, making it a must-visit destination for adventure seekers in the Midwest.

Kayaking Bliss:

Duluth's waterways beckon kayakers to explore the stunning coastline and tranquil lakes.

Top Kayaking Spots:

  • Lake Superior: Glide along the world's largest freshwater lake, discovering hidden coves and impressive rock formations.

  • St. Louis River Estuary: Navigate the scenic estuary, a haven for wildlife enthusiasts and paddlers alike.

Biking Adventures:

Discover Duluth's diverse landscapes on two wheels, whether cruising city trails or tackling mountain biking trails.

Biking Highlights:

  • Munger Trail: Explore this scenic trail, offering picturesque views of the St. Louis River and lush forests.

  • Spirit Mountain Bike Park: Embrace the thrill of downhill biking with panoramic views of Lake Superior.

Surfing the Great Lakes:

Experience the unique thrill of surfing on the mighty Lake Superior, especially during the winter months.

Surfing Highlights:

  • Park Point: Catch winter waves along this sandy peninsula for an adrenaline-pumping cold-water surfing experience.

  • Local Surf Shops: Connect with the local surf community and gear up at the surf shops that cater to Lake Superior's surfing culture.

Rock Climbing Challenges:

Duluth's rugged terrain offers exciting opportunities for rock climbing enthusiasts.

Rock Climbing Spots:

  • Ely's Peak: Conquer challenging routes with stunning views of the surrounding landscape.

  • Kingsbury Creek: Explore various climbing routes suitable for different skill levels.

Superior National Forest:

Escape into the pristine wilderness of Superior National Forest, just a short drive from Duluth.

Forest Exploration:

  • Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness: Immerse yourself in a serene world of lakes, forests, and wildlife.

  • Backcountry Camping: Set up camp under the stars and embrace the tranquility of the forest.

Nordic Sauna Serenity:

Indulge in the relaxation of Nordic saunas, a perfect contrast to Duluth's adrenaline-pumping activities.

Sauna Escapes:

  • Local Sauna Spots: Experience authentic Nordic saunas in Duluth, rejuvenating both body and mind.

Duluth, MN, invites you to explore its dynamic landscape, where the thrill of kayaking, biking, surfing, and climbing meets the serenity of Superior National Forest and Nordic saunas. Embrace the variety of experiences, and let Duluth be the canvas for your next outdoor adventure.

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

Located along the stunning shores of Lake Superior, the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is a true paradise for water adventurers. With 21 picturesque islands to explore, visitors can kayak through crystal-clear waters, paddle past enchanting sea caves, and even embark on a camping expedition on the secluded islands. The area is also known for its diverse wildlife, including bald eagles, black bears, and white-tailed deer, providing ample opportunities for wildlife spotting.

Cruising the Apostle Islands Sea Caves:

Begin your adventure with a scenic boating cruise along the Apostle Islands' shoreline, where the elements have sculpted magnificent sea caves into the sandstone cliffs. Traverse the crystal-clear waters and witness the mesmerizing interplay of light and shadow within these geological wonders.

Diving into Lake Superior's Depths:

For those seeking underwater exploration, the depths of Lake Superior around the Apostle Islands offer captivating diving opportunities. Discover submerged shipwrecks, underwater formations, and the unique ecosystem thriving beneath the surface.

Exploring Raspberry and Devils Island:

Anchor at Raspberry Island to explore the historic Raspberry Island Light Station. Experience the life of a lighthouse keeper and marvel at the picturesque landscapes surrounding this timeless beacon. Next, set sail to Devils Island, home to sea caves, old-growth forests, and the iconic Devils Island sea caves.

Meyers Beach and the Lakeshore Trail:

Visit Meyers Beach, a gateway to the Lakeshore Trail. Lace up your hiking boots and traverse this scenic trail, offering panoramic views of Lake Superior, pristine beaches, and a chance to witness the famous sea caves from a different perspective.

Kayaking and Paddle Adventures:

Embark on a kayaking or paddleboarding expedition around the Apostle Islands for a more intimate exploration. Paddle through sea caves, discover hidden coves, and experience the serenity of Lake Superior up close.

Winter Wonderland:

In winter, the Apostle Islands transform into a magical snow-covered landscape. Venture out on guided ice cave tours (conditions permitting) and witness the surreal beauty of frozen waterfalls and icicles hanging from the sea caves.

Unique Flora and Fauna:

The Apostle Islands are not just about landscapes; they also harbor diverse flora and fauna. Keep an eye out for bald eagles soaring overhead, black bears foraging in the forests, and the vibrant wildflowers that add color to the islands.

The Apostle Islands beckon with their natural splendor and promise an escape into the heart of Lake Superior. Whether you're cruising past sea caves, diving into the lake's depths, or experiencing the winter enchantment, these islands offer a serene retreat for those seeking the beauty of the Great Lakes both above and below the surface.

Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Nestled in the heart of Ohio, Hocking Hills State Park stands as a testament to the state's diverse and breathtaking landscapes. A haven for nature enthusiasts, this park boasts a rich tapestry of geological formations, lush forests, and scenic trails. Join us on a virtual journey as we explore the natural wonders and outdoor adventures that await in Hocking Hills.

The Iconic Rock Formations:

Hocking Hills is renowned for its captivating rock formations that tell a geological story spanning millions of years. Marvel at the iconic Old Man's Cave, a recess cave carved by the forces of nature. Witness the sheer walls of Ash Cave and the intriguing Rock House, a natural sandstone tunnel.

Scenic Hiking Trails:

Embark on a hiking adventure through a network of picturesque trails that wind through the park's diverse landscapes. Each trail offers a unique perspective, from the lush greenery of Cedar Falls to the enchanting Whispering Cave. The Grandma Gatewood Trail is a favorite, named after the legendary hiker who found solace in these woodlands.

Waterfalls and Gorges:

Experience the magic of cascading waterfalls and dramatic gorges as you explore Hocking Hills. From the stunning Cedar Falls, where water plunges into a serene pool, to the seasonal beauty of Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve, these natural wonders add a touch of tranquility to your adventure.

Cantwell Cliffs:

Venture into the rugged terrain of Cantwell Cliffs, known for its towering cliffs, deep valleys, and unique rock formations. The rim trail offers panoramic views of the surrounding forest, providing a sense of awe and appreciation for the park's geological marvels.

Rock Climbing and Rappelling:

For those seeking an adrenaline rush, Hocking Hills provides opportunities for rock climbing and rappelling. Conquer the sandstone cliffs under the guidance of experienced instructors, offering a thrilling perspective of the park's vertical landscapes.

Canoeing in the Hocking River:

Explore the park from a different angle by canoeing along the Hocking River. The serene waters offer a peaceful journey surrounded by the lush greenery of the park, providing a different yet equally enchanting perspective.

Stargazing Opportunities:

As night falls, Hocking Hills transforms into a stargazer's paradise. Away from city lights, the park offers clear night skies, perfect for observing constellations and celestial wonders. Bring a telescope or simply lay back and enjoy the cosmic display.

Comfort in Cabins and Lodges:

Extend your stay in Hocking Hills by enjoying the park's comfortable cabins and lodges. Nestled in the midst of nature, these accommodations offer a cozy retreat after a day of exploration.

Hocking Hills State Park is a nature lover's paradise, offering a perfect blend of geological wonders, scenic trails, and outdoor activities. Whether you're chasing waterfalls, exploring caves, or simply enjoying the serenity of the forest, Hocking Hills invites you to immerse yourself in the beauty of Ohio's natural landscapes.

Mark Twain National Forest, Missouri

Nestled in the rugged beauty of the Ozark Plateau, Mark Twain National Forest unfolds as a vast and enchanting expanse of woodlands, hills, and waterways. This natural haven, named after the legendary American author, invites adventurers to discover its hidden treasures. Join us on a virtual journey as we explore the wonders of Mark Twain National Forest.

Hiking Trails that Unravel the Ozark Charm:

Mark Twain National Forest boasts an extensive network of hiking trails that wind through diverse landscapes. From the tranquility of the Eleven Point National Scenic River Trail to the panoramic views along the Bell Mountain Wilderness Trail, hikers can choose their own path through this captivating wilderness.

Camping Beneath the Ozark Canopy:

Immerse yourself in the serenity of nature by camping beneath the sprawling canopy of Mark Twain National Forest. With campgrounds nestled among the trees, this forest provides the perfect setting for a night under the stars. Whether you prefer developed sites with amenities or more primitive options, there's a spot for every camper.

Water Adventures Along Clear Ozark Streams:

The forest is crisscrossed by pristine Ozark streams, offering opportunities for water adventures. Canoeists and kayakers can paddle along the crystal-clear waters, exploring the scenic beauty and abundant wildlife that call these streams home.

Wildlife Watching in the Ozark Wilderness:

Nature enthusiasts will delight in the diverse array of wildlife that inhabits Mark Twain National Forest. Birdwatchers can spot migratory birds, while the forest provides a habitat for white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, and even the elusive bobcat.

Mountain Biking Trails for the Adventure Seeker:

Feel the thrill of the Ozark hills as you navigate the forested trails on a mountain bike. Mark Twain National Forest offers a variety of trails suitable for all skill levels, providing an exhilarating ride through the heart of the Ozarks.

Fishing by in Ozark Streams and Lakes:

Anglers can cast their lines into the forest-set streams and lakes, seeking the thrill of catching a variety of fish species. Mark Twain National Forest offers a peaceful setting for a day of fishing surrounded by the beauty of the Ozarks.

8. Photography Opportunities at Every Turn:

With its ever-changing landscapes and unique Ozark features, Mark Twain National Forest is a haven for photographers. Capture the play of light through the trees, the vibrant colors of wildflowers, and the serene beauty of this Ozark wilderness.

Mark Twain National Forest beckons adventurers to explore its diverse landscapes, whether hiking through wooded trails, camping beneath the stars, or embarking on water adventures. This Ozark wilderness, named in honor of a literary legend, promises an unforgettable journey into the heart of America's natural beauty.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan

Encompassing miles of sandy beaches, towering dunes, and vibrant forests, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a Midwest gem. Climb the towering dunes for breathtaking views of Lake Michigan, or explore the park's numerous hiking and biking trails. Don't miss the opportunity to swim in the crystal-clear waters, embark on a scenic drive along the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, or enjoy a peaceful picnic along the shores of the lake.

The Majestic Dunes:

Embark on a journey through the park's signature sand dunes. Ascend the heights of Empire Bluff or tackle the thrilling dune climb, where panoramic vistas unfold, showcasing the awe-inspiring beauty of Lake Michigan and the surrounding landscapes.

Biking Trails and Overlooks:

Cycle through the picturesque trails, immersing yourself in the beauty of Sleeping Bear Dunes. Pedal to scenic overlooks that provide sweeping views of the Manitou Islands, inviting you to soak in the grandeur of the lakeshore.

Hiking Trails:

Lace up your hiking boots and explore the diverse network of trails. Whether meandering through the tranquility of Alligator Hill or embracing the vistas from Pyramid Point, each trail offers a unique adventure amidst the park's natural beauty.

Beach Bliss:

Surrender to the soothing rhythm of Lake Michigan at the park's pristine beaches. Engage in beachcombing, picnicking, or simply relish the sun's warmth. As day turns to dusk, the beaches transform into front-row seats for a mesmerizing sunset spectacle.

Water Adventures: Kayaking and Beyond:

Dive into aquatic adventures with kayaking, canoeing, or paddleboarding. Navigate the crystal-clear waters of inland lakes, providing a unique perspective of the dunes and surrounding forests, creating memories that ripple with every paddle.

Stargazing Delight:

Immerse yourself in the park's designation as a Dark Sky Park. As night falls, witness a celestial dance overhead, with constellations and planets taking center stage. Grab your telescope or simply lie back and marvel at the wonders of the cosmos.

Conclusion: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a tapestry of outdoor wonders, inviting you to hike, bike, climb, paddle, and camp amidst its breathtaking landscapes. This destination transcends the ordinary, offering an immersive experience where each activity becomes a chapter in the story of nature's grandeur.Cycle through the picturesque trails, immersing yourself in the beauty of Sleeping Bear Dunes. Pedal to scenic overlooks that provide sweeping views of the Manitou Islands, inviting you to soak in the grandeur of the lakeshore.

Driftless Region, Iowa

Tucked away in the northeastern corner of Iowa lies the enchanting Driftless Region, a hidden gem for outdoor enthusiasts. Unlike much of the Midwest, the Driftless Region was spared from the flattening effects of glaciation, resulting in a unique topography of rolling hills, steep bluffs, and winding river valleys.

This picturesque landscape offers a plethora of outdoor adventures. Explore the scenic trails of Effigy Mounds National Monument, where you can hike among ancient Native American burial mounds and enjoy panoramic views of the Mississippi River. Cast a line in the cold-water trout streams that meander through the region, providing excellent fishing opportunities. For a thrilling experience, paddle down the picturesque rivers like the Upper Iowa or the Turkey River, where you can navigate through gentle rapids and soak in the beauty of the untouched wilderness.

The Driftless Region of Iowa offers a peaceful and unspoiled outdoor retreat, perfect for those seeking a connection with nature and a sense of serenity amidst the Midwest's adventure destinations


The Midwest region of the United States may surprise you with its abundance of outdoor adventure destinations. From the rugged wilderness of Isle Royale National Park to the serene beauty of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, there is no shortage of thrilling experiences waiting to be discovered. So, pack your gear, embrace the spirit of adventure, and explore the Midwest's hidden natural treasures. The great outdoors are calling, and unforgettable memories await those who answer.

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