5 Best Midwest Hikes Reviewed in 2017

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

View other years: 2016 2018

What's a better way to ring in the new year than to reminisce about the great places you went the previous year? There were certainly more hikes to choose from this year than there were last year with some great additions from states other than Minnesota where I live. The following were my favorite hikes I wrote about during 2017:

5. Middle Falls Loop, Grand Portage State Park, Minnesota
The reward for your adventure through the woods: Middle Falls

The reward for your adventure through the woods: Middle Falls

While the first part of this hike is the paved trail to the High Falls, don't let that easy beginning fool you! The rest of the hike is an adventurous journey through forest, up and down hills, and through overgrown vegetation. As soon as you step off the pavement, you'll escape the crowds of tourists and experience wild and wonderful nature. The rewards for this effort are immense, with stunning views of Lake Superior from the top of the bluffs and a picturesque waterfall at the end of the trail. On the return trip, you can stop by the High Falls viewing platform and see the tallest waterfall partially in Minnesota.

4. Kohler Dunes Cordwalk, Kohler-Andrae State Park, Wisconsin
The cordwalk extending across the dunes with Lake Michigan in the background

The cordwalk extending across the dunes with Lake Michigan in the background

The uniqueness of this environment is reason enough to visit Kohler-Andrae State Park. Now, you're probably asking, what's a cordwalk? It's essentially a boardwalk, but each plank is connected through a steel cable on either end, and that cable is staked deep within the sand -- a traditional boardwalk would not last in the constantly sinking and blowing sand here. These beautiful sand dunes are adjacent to the unbelievably blue waters of Lake Michigan only about an hour from Milwaukee. After working up a sweat on the mostly shadeless hike, you can spend your time cooling off in the lake at one of the park's sandy beaches.

3. Mystery Cave Geology Tour, Forestville-Mystery Cave State Park, Minnesota
The otherworldly geology found deep within Mystery Cave

The otherworldly geology found deep within Mystery Cave

One of the more interesting hikes of the year, this was a paid tour of Mystery Cave, a former tourist attraction acquired by the State of Minnesota to preserve the incredible geology contained within. You probably wouldn't expect to find such a vast cave in the middle of farm fields in Southeastern Minnesota, but the prevalence of limestone in the area makes it prone to many geologic anomalies like caves and sinkholes. This tour focuses on the variety of cave formations and the geologic processes that sculpt such otherworldly rocks. Beyond this tour, there are other tours offered for all ages and abilities.

2. East and West Bluffs Loop, Devil's Lake State Park, Wisconsin
Overlooking Devil's Lake from the West Bluff

Overlooking Devil's Lake from the West Bluff

When you see the beauty of the bluffs here, you will understand why this is one of the most popular parks in the entire state of Wisconsin. This hike takes you to the top of both bluffs flanking Devil's Lake via two strenuous climbs -- the uphill struggle is worth it for the many overlooks at the top. On the journey, you will pass Balancing Rock, a giant boulder on a much smaller pedestal, as well as two beaches. And since this is Wisconsin, you can enjoy a beer as a reward for your effort at the concession stand at the beach near the end of the hike.

1. Top of the Giant Trail, Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, Ontario
The Chimney on the Top of the Giant: the most iconic view in the entire park

The Chimney on the Top of the Giant: the most iconic view in the entire park

This could possibly be the longest hike in terms of mileage that I've ever completed at 15 miles roundtrip. It's also one of the most difficult day hikes you'll find in the Midwest (though technically Canada doesn't have a Midwest). The scenery here is unparalleled, with 1000 foot tall bluffs towering over the crystal clear waters of Lake Superior and a trail that follows the shoreline through the crossroads of eastern hardwood forest and northern boreal forest. The hike ends at the picture perfect Chimney, a notch between two sheer cliffs that overlooks Thunder Bay. Needless to say, you'll forget the pain in your legs, but the memory of these views will last forever.



If you haven't had a chance to visit these places, be sure to go in 2018! What were your favorite hikes this past year? Let me know by commenting below and be sure to use #nocoastbestcoast on Twitter and Instagram to share all your adventures!

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