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The Ultimate Outdoorsy Midwest Summer Bucket List

Updated: 5 days ago

You won't think the Midwest is flat after reading this!

Summer in the Midwest means road trips, hiking, camping, kayaking, and rock climbing. Despite assumptions that the Midwest is "flat" and boring, there are unique geographical features in every state that are worth visiting. If you want to pack your summer with road trips, beautiful hikes, and memorable camping trips, use the list below to plan your summer bucket list!

Camp and hike at Turkey Run State Park, Indiana. Trail 3 or the "ladder trail" at Turkey Run State Park was voted the best hike in the Midwest in 2023! The breathtaking sandstone ravines are unique to Indiana, and the forest floor there stays cool even in the summer heat. Complete the trip by camping at the state park and planning a kayaking trip down Sugar Creek!

Hike over sand dunes at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Do you have the endurance to hike the popular 3-mile trail that consists entirely of sand? The effort is rewarded with beautiful views of Lake Michigan, and there are miles of scenic drives, cabins, and restaurants nearby.

Kayak the Apostle Islands in Wisconsin. The Apostle Islands are one of the most beautiful places along Lake Superior and is well-worth the drive through Wisconsin. Kayaking alone the cliffs and through caves is a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Go rock-climbing in Red River Gorge, Kentucky. Red River Gorge is the climbing capital of the entire Eastern United States! Whether you are just starting out or ready for an advanced climb, there are experiences for everyone there. If climbing isn't your thing, Red River Gorge has miles of scenic hikes and kayaking as well!

See the Garden of the Gods in southern Illinois. Almost everyone has heard of the Garden of the Gods in Colorado, but did you know there is a similar rock formation in Illinois? At Garden of the Gods Recreation Area, there are even more trails with beautiful rock formations, horse-back riding, and a winery nearby!

Camp and hike at Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio. Similar to Indiana, Ohio is full of breath-taking gorges and ravines. Hocking Hills is a large enough area that you could plan a weekend of different hikes. If you plan a trip here, see if you can reserve one of the unique treehouse cabins!

Plan a week in Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains. Smoky Mountain National Park is the most visited national park every year, and for good reason. It's beautiful and less than a day's drive from most Midwestern states. Hike in the Smokies, visit the Aquarium, and shop and eat along the strip in downtown Gatlinburg!

Visit the North Shore in Minnesota. The "North Shore" is the section of Minnesota that sits north of Lake Superior. If you love the outdoors, there is no shortage of things to do here. Visit Black Sand Beach, do a lighthouse tour, visit breweries, and plan a canoe trip in the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes. If you want to escape the summer heat, northern Minnesota is the perfect spot!

Explore the Ozark Mountains in Missouri. The Ozark Mountains are the largest mountain range between Colorado and Appalachia, and there are enough places to see that you could plan an entire week here. There are forest trails, summit trails, whitewater paddling, and caves to explore.

Hike a section of the Appalachian Trail in West Virginia. The AT is a thru-hiking trail that extends from Maine to Georgia, with some of the most visited sections in West Virginia. McAfee Knob is one of the most popular lookouts on the entire 2,200 mile trail, so skip the months of hiking and plan a day hike in West Virginia!

Regardless of what Midwestern state you're in, there are limitless ways to spend time outside this Summer. I hope you enjoyed these 10 outdoorsy destinations in 10 different Midwestern States!


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