You would think that the Midwest wouldn’t have much in the way of hiking and backpacking opportunities worth mentioning. Geographically speaking, it is a relatively flat region compared to what you would find along the Atlantic seaboard or in the Rocky Mountain regions.
With the exception of some rolling hills here and there, there is not much in the way of real mountains to see, but don’t let this fool you. There are numerous forested areas with some excellent trails that meander through them. The following is a listing of our picks for the best hiking and backpacking trails in the Midwest:
The top pick in the state of Illinois would be the River-to-River Trail which is situated in the Shawnee National Forest. For people living in Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee, they are only a 5 to 8 hour drive from the forest and this 176-mile long trail that runs from the Mississippi River to the Ohio River. Located in southern Illinois, the trail takes in some spectacular landscapes and rock formations.
Located within the boundaries of the Hoover National Forest is the Charles Dean Wilderness area, home to some of the best hiking/backpacking opportunities in the Midwest. Despite the 40 miles of hiking trails, the top pick is the Lake Monroe trail which is also a favorite of campers and kayakers. It is a remote location with plenty of overnight camping available to the visitor.
Carhartt Crowley Jacket
The Carhartt Crowley Jacket is wind resistant and breathable, serving as an extremely durable soft-shell jacket stretches. Featuring water resistant, wind resistant, and flexible technology, this jacket will keep you comfortable in any conditions. MSRP $119.99.
Columbia Turbodown Jacket
Every serious outdoors enthusiast who ventures into cold weather needs a down jacket. The award winning Platinum 860 Turbodown by Columbia Sportswear is filled with a combination of synthetic insulation and goose down for the ultimate in lightweight warmth and heat retention even when it’s wet. Because of its stylish design, this jacket can be worn from the mountain to the city streets. MSRP $180
Be an Instagram sensation by unlocking the full potential of your iphone with the Ollo Clip. The 4-in-1 lens clips onto your smartphone delivering four different types of angles. With modes for fisheye, wide-angle, 10x macro and 15x macro, you will always get the perfect shot. The Ollo Clip works on iphones, ipads and Samsung Galaxy. MSRP $80
Evernew Appalachia Set
There are lots of camp stoves on the market but one that we especially like builds off an old-fashion design and light-weight construction. The Evernew Appalachia Set combines a traditional Swiss Army alcohol stove with a titanium design that’s completely self-contained within a coffee mug. This super light weight camp stove and a small amount of fuel is all you need for a hot meal on the trail. MSRP $150
Casio Digital Watch
One of the oldest names in digital watches continues to deliver state-of-the-art designs with its Casio’s PRG300-1A2. Incorporating enhanced solar powered technology and power reduction sensors, this watch delivers better accuracy while using less energy than previous models. Included is an altitude sensor up to a single meter along with a compass, thermometer and barometer among other features. MSRP $250
Secur Waterproof Bluetooth Flashlight
Whether fishing at a nearby lake, sailing the sunset, or relaxing on the family yacht, keeping gadgets handy in the storage box is a must. The SP-5005 Waterproof Bluetooth Flashlight & Powerbank from Secur Products takes care of several of those items with one single device. The SP-5005 functions as flashlight, Bluetooth speaker, and a power bank. Charge a phone in the middle of the ocean, relax while listening to your favorite tunes, and illuminate dark areas with this single gadget. The best part? The SP-5005 is waterproof, so you never have to worry about it getting damaged around water. MSRP $100
The Hillsound Trail Crampon is a necessity for added traction when out hiking on the local trails or deep in the backcountry. Tested on the trails of the Himalayas, the Hillsound Trail Crampon is guaranteed to handle diverse winter terrain and weather conditions. Utilizing an ergonomic plate system, this crampon provides excellent traction and reduces muscular fatigue for your winter wilderness pursuits. MSRP $60
Presto Food Dehydrator
To make your dehydrated meals and snacks at home, the Preso Dehydro is a great option. This four-tray system has a bottom-mounted fan and heating element for consistent air flow and optimal drying. You get commercial grade results for a fraction of the price. MSRP $34
Light My Fire Firestarter
The Swedish company Light My Fire centers all their products around the campfire. One of their most unique is the Swedish Fire Steel. This easy-to-use fire-starter produces a spark that can light a tinder bundle. Great for survival kits or as a general backup, and embedded in the steel is a whistle, so it saves space in your survival kit. MSRP $25
Princeton Tec Helix Backcountry
The Princeton Tec Helix Backcountry is a great camp light for several reasons. Its design allows the lamp to compress. There were no buttons to accidently turn on and drain the battery. It can hang easily or be raised off the ground. And the honey comb feature easily disperses the light throughout your tent. Overall, this light is a winner. MRSP $109
Mountainsmith Mayhem 35
For an all-around backpack ideal for long-distance camping trips and other adventures, the Mountainsmith Mayhem 35 is a perfect choice. Enjoy backcountry ski days, alpine climbs and overnight adventures with this super sturdy and reliable pack. MSRP: $130
Oakley Ski Goggles
The iconic Oakley ski goggles have been at the top of the sporting game for some time. So why mess with a good thing? That’s exactly the attitude over at Oakley when it comes to the A Frame 2.0. Having modernized the iconic frame by enhancing the fit and performance, the style is much the same as it has been for decades. MSRP $140
LED LENSER SEO 7R
There are lots of headlamps on the market to choose from, and they always make good presents. One that stands out for its sheer power and versatility is the LED LENSER SEO 7R. We found it to be more than sufficient for most needs. MSRP $100
Goal Zero Sherpa 50
Goal Zero offers a range of portable solar panels and battery packs, but the one we found most useful for someone who uses camera or video equipment in the field is the Sherpa 50 with Nomad 13 solar panel. Equipped with a built-in converter to accept AC power adapters, this is the prefect device to recharge cameras and laptops in the for from available power. MSRP $439
Under Armour Coldgear Evo Crew
This Under Armour pair of long underwear is not your normal undergarment. Equipped with soft, thermo-conductive inner coating, this undershirt and pants absorbs and retains your body temperature. MSRP $110
Cairn Mystery Box
If you're still stumped on what to get the outdoors enthusiast in your life, consider a monthly subscription to the Cairn, a mystery box that arrives in your mailbox. From maps and information to gadgets and gear, each collection is targeted to particular seasons and you can cancel anytime. $22-25 per month
Extending across the northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan is the Huron and Mainstee National Forests with its 1 million acres of public lands and 330 miles of hiking/backpacking trails. The 120-mile long North Country Trail runs through the Mainstee National Forest but there are also some excellent loop hikes in the area.
With 742 miles of hiking/backpacking trails, the Mark Twain National Forest offers an abundance of excellent trekking opportunities. Coinciding with the Eleven Point Scenic River is the 44-mile long water trail. You can find every difficulty classification here, ranging from easy to strenuous as well as a wide variety of landscapes. One of the better backpacking adventures is the 30-mile long is the Ozark Trail’s Current River Section.
The Ice Age National Scenic Trail is one of the 11 hikes that are denoted as National Scenic Trails. It doesn’t get a lot of attention which is surprising where this 1,000-mile long path is concerned because of the accessibility it provides the hiker to see some exceptionally scenic areas. The trail runs close to Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.