11 Underrated Outdoor Vacation Spots in the Midwest

by Julie on November 13, 2018

When you think about outdoor recreation, most likely picture the towering ski slopes of Colorado and white-water rafting in the canyons of Arizona. You probably don’t think of the flat expanse of the Midwest.

Despite your reservations, the Midwest has a lot to offer in the way of outdoor recreation. Here are some must-visit destinations if you live in that region and can’t wait to get outdoors.

1. Broken Bow Area, Oklahoma

If you miss the mountains, Broken Bow Area is a must-see. Though most of Oklahoma is flat, Broken Bow Area is quite mountainous, surrounded as it is by the Ouachita National Forest.

You can visit lakes for fishing or canoeing as well as go hiking, horseback riding, hunting, and ATV riding. There’s no end to the adventure located in this hilly region.

2. Duluth, Minnesota

You haven’t seen beauty until you’ve visited Duluth in the summer or fall. Located on the western shores of Lake Superior, Duluth is host to incredible lake views, historic mansions, fun gift shops, and outdoor recreation.

It’s also home to the Great Lakes Aquarium, the only totally freshwater aquarium in the U.S.

3. Badlands National Park, South Dakota

The Badlands in South Dakota consist of a rocky, heavily eroded expanse of land and formations where seemingly nothing can grow. The state park preserves the area and makes The Badlands available for touring.

Apart from the unique landscape, there’s plenty of prairie wildlife, including bison, for you to see. The park is 244,000 acres and contains some of the richest beds of fossils in the world.

4. Chesterton, Illinois

Although the beach on the shore of Lake Michigan in Chesterton, Illinois isn’t Florida, it’s still a gorgeous place to vacation, especially if you crave time on a sandy beach. There are 15 miles of beach on the shore in Chesterton, and the sand dunes behind it are known as the Indiana Dunes.

They’re perfect for hiking and horseback riding when you’re not sunbathing. Once the sun has gone down and the water cooled, there’s still plenty to do, including visiting breweries and specialty restaurants that can only be found in Chesterton.

5. Bayfield, Wisconsin

In the north of Wisconsin, along the shore of Lake Superior, lies a breathtaking rural retreat. Along with water sports like kayaking and canoeing, visitors can enjoy fine dining, specialty bakeries, art galleries, sea caves, orchards, berry picking, and more.

6. Galena, Illinois

Galena, just over the northwestern border of Iowa, claims to be the premiere destination for the Midwest. It’s a gorgeous countryside town with neighboring farms, trees, and greenery. It also boasts rich historical landmarks like the Ulysses S. Grant Home.

Galena city officials expressly set out to make their town a Midwest luxury destination. The result of their efforts is an area full of golf courses, wineries, cultural activities, hiking, boating, biking, and more. It’s a lush region with rich history and recreation, which make it a fun weekend getaway.

7. Eugene T. Mahoney State Park, Nebraska

Rural Nebraska offers a beautiful setting for camping and exploring the great Midwestern outdoors. It’s a very family-friendly destination that boast an aquatic center, restaurants, lodges, and nature centers. There are plenty of opportunities for horseback riding, golfing, fishing, boating, hiking, biking, and other popular outdoor activities.

8. Wilderness State Park, Michigan

This park on the northeastern border of Michigan is right on the border with Canada as well as on the shore of Lake Michigan, where you can enjoy all the best water sports like paddle boating and fishing.

The park is stunning, with colorful trees and wildlife that fill it. There are also multiple lighthouses along the shore, which offer a gorgeous backdrop for your outdoor recreation.

9. Loudonville, Ohio

Mohican State Park in Loudonville, Ohio, is 1,110 acres of water and greenery located between Cleveland and Columbus. It has dozens of trails that weave in and out of the forest and follow the route of the Mohican River. If you walk or bike, be sure to take in the incredible waterfalls and historic structures.

10. Pikes Peak State Park, Iowa

Located in Mcgregor, Iowa, Pikes Peak State Park is one of the most beautiful spots in the state. It’s located on the Mississippi River, with gorgeous bluffs that make for great hiking and camping options. There’s a 6.5-mile trail that overlooks the river and waterfalls, and has plenty of hills and wildlife to keep things interesting.

11. Martinsville, Indiana

Hikers love Martinsville, Indiana for the Tecumseh Trail. It runs from the headquarters of Morgan-Monroe State Forest to Lake Monroe in the Yellowwood State Forest.

Along the trail, you’ll have a beautiful view of Lake Yellowwood, wild berries, deer, lizards, turtles, mushrooms, and even an old cemetery.

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