If the steep inclines and humid air of the Northeast left you exhausted, a trip to the open plains of the Midwest might be just what you need. While each trail is not completely flat (what fun would that be, after all?), they do offer a less demanding reprieve from those intimidating slopes on the coasts.
Banning State Park, MN
A former sandstone quarry, Banning State Park, has over 17 miles of hiking trails to explore. Though there are many paths to follow, the trail along the majestic Kettle River will take you past a beautiful sandstone gorge, hundreds of bird species and five wild rapids such as Blueberry Slide and Dragon’s Tooth. With names like those how could you not check this place out?
Backbone State Park, IA
Iowa is just cornfields, grazing cows and rolling land, right? Wrong! Backbone State Park’s home to 21 miles of tree-lined hiking trails, sloping bike paths, and rugged cliffs. Truly adventurous hikers can mount the rock staircases to one of the highest points in Iowa, cleverly deemed “The Devil’s Backbone.”
Black River Waterfalls, MI
The Black River Scenic Byway passes five major waterfalls along the Black River, ending at Lake Superior. You can visit each waterfall by a series of easy, short trails. If you’re up for a longer, more involved hike, the national North Country Trail runs along the Black River’s west bank and connects the different waterfall trails into a continuous path. As a reward for your hard work, take the North Country Trail across to the river’s east side where you can catch the view of Rainbow Falls from a whole new perspective.
Hocking Hills State Park, OH
With over 2,300 acres of natural beauty (gorges! waterfalls!) and numerous trails of varying lengths and difficulty, Hocking Hills State Park is the perfect hiking spot for beginners and hardcore trailblazers alike. As an added bonus, the park also has activities like archery, fishing, and swimming — a lil’ something for everyone.
Geneva Lake, WI
Geneva Lake boasts a different kind of scenery from most other hiking spots — instead of towering trees and sparkling lakes, this hiking path is lined with mansions of the Chicago elite of yesteryear. Along the 20 miles of shoreline, you can spot French Chateaus, Tudor Lodges and even a Buddhist Temple (leftover from the 1893 World Fair). This trail is more of a long walk than a hike — and since explorers can easily exit the shore path at any point, it’s a great jaunt for families who have little ones or grandparents in tow.