5 Best Midwest Hikes Reviewed in 2016

Last Updated by Ricky Holzer on Wednesday, December 31st, 1969

View other years: 2017 2018

Most of the posts from this year reflect my time traveling throughout the great state of Minnesota where I live. While most people know Minnesota for its 10,000 lakes and northern forests, the state offers a surprising diversity of landscapes from prairies to bogs to oak savanna to boreal forest -- something this boy from the West was excited to discover. The following were my favorite hikes from 2016:

5. Glacial Potholes, Interstate State Park, Minnesota
Overlooking the St. Croix River

Overlooking the St. Croix River

A great hike for kids, this short trail leads you to the top of cliffs overlooking the scenic St. Croix River. Glaciers from the last ice age carved potholes into the solid rock, and a few are large enough for you to enter, such as the Bake Oven Pothole. This hike is open ended and allows the opportunity for safe adventuring by climbing up and down rocky stairs and into potholes. While this is the most popular spot in the park, the natural beauty and geologic anomalies make this a worthwhile trip.

4. Lakeshore Trail to Sea Caves, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin
The sea caves may not photograph well, but they are impressive in person.

The sea caves may not photograph well, but they are impressive in person

The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is a well-known kayaking destination, but its hiking is also excellent. This hike on the Lakeshore Trail takes you to the top of the cliffs overlooking the famous sea caves, which are best known for their fantastic colorful ice formations on years with especially cold winters. The trail is moderately strenuous, with several ups and downs as the trail winds through forest and over hills. At the end, you'll enjoy great views of Lake Superior in addition to the sea caves looming below. Beyond the sea caves, the trail continues for those hungry for more hiking. After working up a sweat hiking, you can spend the rest of your day at Meyers Beach and cool off in Lake Superior.

3. Carlton Peak, Superior National Forest, Minnesota
The endless blue of Lake Superior from the top of the Carlton Peak

The endless blue of Lake Superior from the top of the Carlton Peak

Strenuous uphill is hard to come by in the notoriously flat Midwest, but Carlton Peak provides a challenging yet not too difficult workout with astounding views of Lake Superior from the top. The trail starts with a flat jaunt through dense forest with planks to help cross wetlands and continuously muddy soil. This section of the Superior Hiking Trail is well-maintained with benches at strategic points for you to catch your breath during the climb. On the way back, you can take a short spur trail to the Ted Tofte Overlook for unobstructed views of Lake Superior and the adjacent Carlton Peak. This hike is a less crowded alternative to the nearby Oberg Mountain and LaVeaux Mountain yet offers nearly the same fantastic views.

2. Mound Trail to Burr Oak Trail and Lower Cliffline Trail, Blue Mounds State Park, Minnesota
The cliffs of Blue Mound from the Lower Cliffline Trail

The cliffs of Blue Mound from the Lower Cliffline Trail

In the far southwestern corner of Minnesota, Blue Mounds State Park is a prairie wonderland home to a herd of 100 bison, rentable teepees, and pink Sioux quartzite cliffs with countless things to see and do. The Mound Trail hike starts by following the bison enclosure for over a mile and a half, giving you many chances to observe the herd. Next, you'll reach a viewpoint atop Eagle Rock before descending to the visitor center where you can learn more about the prairie ecosystem. Afterward, you'll follow the Burr Oak Trail through an oak forest to a historic quarry site and end the hike on open grassland with views of the magnificent pink rock formations. This hike is the best way to see everything that Blue Mounds State Park has to offer.

1. Big Bog Boardwalk, Big Bog State Recreation Area, Minnesota
Looking east at the bog

Looking east at the bog

Big Bog State Park is home to the largest peat bog in the contiguous U.S. and is dubbed Minnesota's last true wilderness. This accessible mile long boardwalk takes you through the unique ecosystem while educational signs teach you about the specialized plants you encounter along the way, such as the carnivorous pitcher plant and sundew. At the end of the boardwalk there are several benches and viewing lenses where you can sit and enjoy birds singing in this untouched natural environment. This Northern Minnesota park is quite a drive from most places, but this special place is worth the journey.



What were your favorite hikes this past year? Use the comments section below to share and use #nocoastbestcoast on Twitter and Instagram after all your Midwest adventures!

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