Living smack in the middle of the Midwest (Illinois) has some challenges when planning a backpacking trip. However, there are some great places to hike in the Midwest. The criteria I used was “driving time”. How long does it take to get there. Next, what States makes up the Midwest?
Illinois: My first pick would be the River to River Trail in the Shawnee Nation Forest. This trail runs 176 miles across the entire State from the Mississippi River to the Ohio River. Southern Illinois has some spectacular rock formations, and landscapes. The Shawnee Natl Forest is a great trip for Kentucky, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, and Tennessee Residents. Within 5-8 hour drive. The trail is rated Moderate. (Panther Den Wilderness is my favorite place to camp)
A weekend in the Shawnee National Forest Video
Wisconsin:A trail that doesn’t get much attention is the Ice Age TrailThe Ice Age National Scenic Trail is a thousand-mile footpath — entirely within Wisconsin — that highlights these Ice Age landscape features while providing access to some of the state’s most beautiful natural areas. The trail is close to Minnesota, U.P of Michigan, Illinois, and Iowa. Within a 5-8 hour drive for any of these States. Just look at all the State Parks you hike through.
Indiana:The Charles Dean Wilderness which is part of the Hoosier National Forest has awesome backpacking opportunities. This area was designated a wilderness in 1982 and encompasses nearly 13,000 acres of the Hoosier NF. There are 37 miles of trails but the crown jewel is camping along Monroe Lake. (Which by the way is a awesome Kayak opportunity) They have plenty of campsites and it is remote. Illinois, Lower Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky are within 5-8 hours away.
Lower Michigan:The Mainstee National ForestThe Huron-Manistee National Forests comprise almost a million acres of public lands extending across the northern lower peninsula of Michigan. Over 330 miles of trails are available for hiking. The North Country Trail runs through (120 miles) the Mainstee National Forest. There is also some great loop hikes. Indiana, Ohio, the Upper Peninsula of MI is 5-8 hours away.
Missouri: The Mark Twain National ForestMark Twain National Forest offers a wide variety of trails covering some 742 miles including the 44-mile water trail that coincides with the Eleven Point Scenic River. Trails differ greatly in length and difficulty. A few are restricted to hikers only. The Current River Section of the Ozark Trail is a nice 30 mile hike. Illinois, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee are all 5-8 hours away. Great Video Here.
If you have other favorite hikes, let us know on our Community Page.