Many people, myself included sometimes, tend to think you have to get out of the midwest to have adventures. But that isn’t true! You can have some of the best adventures in the midwest!
This summer as I can’t go jet setting around the world, I’m making it a goal to stick closer to home and explore more within my midwest bubble. If that’s your goal too, here are a few ideas to get you started!
Wildflowers in Kansas
Sage Scott, Everyday Wanderer
From early March until at least mid-November, Kansas wildflowers replace the dreary grey of winter with an ever-changing palette of colors. When you’re exploring the great outdoors of eastern Kansas, keep an eye out for some of my favorite untamed blooms.
Spring Wildflowers in Eastern Kansas
- Black-Eyed Susan. These yellow flowers with a dark brown “eye” can be found in fields, on prairies, and along the roadside.
- Bluebell. Between March and May, watch for these bell-shaped, bluish or purplish native wildflowers along streams and river banks.
- Redbud. While not a wildflower, redbuds are a popular spring sight in Eastern Kansas. Look up to see these delicate pink tree blossoms that are the Kansas City version of cherry blossom season in Washington, DC.
Summer Wildflowers in Eastern Kansas
- Coneflower. With a consistently distinctive cone, look for the pinkish/purple petals of the purple coneflower on dry prairies and along roadsides throughout Eastern Kansas.
- Goldenrod. The tall, thin goldenrod, with its burst of mustard-yellow flowers, is part of the sunflower family. You can find goldenrod mixed in with native prairie grasses.
- Larkspur. This tall, thin Kansas wildflower is a member of the buttercup family. Look for the prairie larkspur’s white flowers or the dwarf larkspur’s deep purple blooms in rocky woods, along stream banks, and at the bottom of ravines.
Fall Wildflowers in Eastern Kansas
- Beggar-Tick. Found in wet areas along streams, riverbanks, and the edge of ponds, this native plant stands around eight to ten inches tall where it might be lost among the other greenery except for the pop of color from its small, orangish-yellow flowers.
- Sage. And of course, I love looking for my namesake bloom! From the blue flowers of the pitcher sage to the light fuzzy blooms of the white sage, this perennial is found in open prairies and open woods.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Zach and Julie Ruhl, Ruhls of the Road
Pictured Rock, located on north shore of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, is a beautiful place full of incredible sites and tons of fun adventure. You’ll be able to hike or bike to this wonderful site one day, then rent a kayak or pontoon boat and have an experience on the water the next day!
At Pictured Rock you’ll be on the southern shore of Lake Superior, the largest lake in North America. The lake itself is beautiful, but at Pictured Rock you’ll see the best part of the lake. Pictured Rock is an inconceivable natural bridge that somehow formed over years and years of waves crashing along the cliffs. Lucky for you, you’ll get the benefit, which is an awesome view!
After exploring on foot, rent a kayak, canoe, or pontoon boat in nearby Munising, and you can have an adventure on Lake Superior itself! You can even try and take your craft right under the rock for an awesome photo or video. Pictured Rock is an awesome destination that you will never forget!
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Margie DQ – DQ Family Travel
Theodore Roosevelt National Park is the only national park in North Dakota and is one of the hidden gems in the U.S. It is such a beautiful part of the country that not many people get to experience due to its remote location. Theodore Roosevelt National Park is located near the border of Montana and sits just outside of the charming western town of Medora.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park has a few hiking trails, but my favorite was the Painted Canyon Nature Trail that starts right at the Visitor’s Center and takes you on a gradual descent into the canyon. During this one-mile loop, you will see tall prairie grass, bushes, and desert-like rock formations while you are walking amidst the streaks of color “painted” on the canyon. We were lucky enough to spot bison in the distance, and I wish I would have brought my binoculars. The views from both the top and bottom of Painted Canyon are remarkable. A word of caution: the way back up is much more difficult than the way down.
One of my favorite things about this national park was that there were not many visitors. It’s extra special to be hiking amidst beautiful scenery and not have many people on the trail with you. While not as popular as other national parks out West, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is one of the best places to visit in the U.S. because you can take a quiet moment to appreciate just how grand this land of ours truly is and how small we are in comparison.
Hiking at Custer State Park
Kristen Czudak, Yonderlust Ramblings
There is a reason that Custer State Park in South Dakota is the most beloved park in the state! It is a haven for outdoor opportunists, and is brimming with adventurous hiking trails, including the hike to the highest point in South Dakota at Black Elk Peak!
So what makes a hike here truly stand out? The terrain, topography, and geology of this area found in the Black Hills Wilderness, are unlike anywhere else in the country. Ranges of craggy spires dot the landscape, reaching towards the sky like bony, twisted fingers! Hiking here allows you to see these unique spire filled ranges both from high elevation, and from the ground as you walk beneath and between them.
Some of the most adventurous hiking trails in Custer State Park are the stunning Cathedral Spires Trail, the state high point Black Elk Peak Trail, the rocky and challenging Sunday Gulch Trail, and the scramble filled Little Devil’s Tower Trail!
Paragliding in Montana
A lot of people dream of a life untied to a desk or job, one full of travel and adventure. They picture just hopping on a plane or bus and exploring the world. I have done that, for years I have seen amazing places and had some great adventures but something was still missing. It wasn’t until I discovered the sport of paragliding where I found the adventure and freedom I had been searching for. I was back home for a summer, looking for something to do when I came across Bozeman Paragliding out in Montana, the state just next to mine. Paragliding was completely new to me and looked like such an exhilarating experience, which it totally is, I immediately had the urge to book lessons and learn!
Montana itself is full of adventures, the western side has some stunning nature to hike but once you capture the sky you truly find adventure. There is nothing like soaring over an impossible expanse of land using no fuel or anything, just warm thermals from the earth itself flying however and wherever you feel.
Boundary Waters Canoe Trip
Leigh Wilson, Campfires and Concierges
One of the best adventure destinations in the Midwest is the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Northern Minnesota. A Boundary Waters canoe trip is a must for any outdoor adventure enthusiast! This federally protected region that encompasses one million acres of pristine north woods wilderness. There are nearly 1,200 lakes in the Boundary Waters, so it’s really a “choose your own adventure” destination for wilderness campers. All you need is a permit that specifies your entry date and location, as well as your exit date. Anything in between those two dates is totally up to you.
We spent five nights and six days exploring 19 different lakes. Each afternoon, we started to look for a suitable campsite, and once we selected a site, happy hour and afternoon swimming sessions commenced. We slept on islands each evening, enjoying campfires, dark skies, and utter solitude.
If you prefer, you can hire a guide for your Boundary Waters trip. They will handle all of the logistics, including your canoeing gear, camping gear, and food for your trip. This is a great option for your first time in the Boundary Waters!
Hiking in Estherville
Nikki, She Saves She Travels
There’s a little town in Northwest Iowa that just might surprise you. It’s quaint, small-town feel is balanced by its variety of adventure activities. It’s all located in and around Estherville, Iowa.
One of my favorite surprises in Estherville was the hiking trails! Northwest Iowa certainly isn’t known for its hills, however there’s a perfect spot right outside of town that’s worth grabbing your hiking shoes. It’s Fort Defiance State Park, home to 191 acres of green space and miles of hiking trails.
Get lost in nature as you hike across streams of water, one bridge at a time. Or hike up thigh-awakening hills that will remind you what you’re made of. You may catch some fellow equestrian hikers too, as horseback riding on the trails is common. And be sure to stop and smell the flowers – fields of them are likely nearby.
It’s a great day trip from Lake Okoboji. Or better yet, make it part of a getaway to Estherville – hiking is just one of the many things to do in Estherville. As for planning your adventure, the best time of year for hiking in Fort Defiance State Park is May – October. In the winter months, grab your gear and try cross-country skiing in Fort Defiance State Park.
Canoe or Kayaking in Missouri
Jessica, Unearth the Voyage
One of the best adventurous things to do in the Midwest is to go kayaking or canoeing down the rivers in Missouri. Missouri is a midwestern state known for float trips. Every summer people from all over the state enjoy floating down the many rivers to choose from in Missouri. Depending on your skill level and what kind of adventure you are looking for, you can choose to either go on a relaxing float trip, or a more difficult float trip with rapids. For the more adventurous people out there, you can go on a multiple-day float trip where you bring camping gear along and sleep on the banks of the river. If you aren’t so adventurous, there are plenty of campgrounds, AirBnBs, or hotels to choose from in the different river towns located across the state. There are many different rivers to choose from for your float trip in Missouri, so make sure you choose the right river for you!
White Water Kayaking in Minnesota
Niki Gordon, Chasing Departures
White water is one of those things that gets the adrenaline pumping for me. I’m terrified of wiping out and drowning, but at the same time, I’ll get back in the boat and go for another round of rapids. In fact, I did just that on my last white water adventure.
We launched our kayaks on the Kettle River about an hour north of the Twin Cities on a cold June morning. I was terrified when I came to the first set of rapids and my fear took over as I wiped out and clung to a rock for dear life, I wanted the adventure to be over. The bus that dropped us off was still visible at the bend in the river and I knew I had to find a way to get back to it.
But the guide convinced me to get back in my kayak and try again, so I did.
And I wiped out again. And Again. The last time I almost lost my glasses to the river.
Finally the guide and I ended up in a tandem kayak and I stopped wiping out thanks to him.
Don’t let the cold water or your fears keep you from having adventures in the northern midwest. Go for it and you might surprise yourself.
What are some of your favorite adventures in the Midwest?
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