Text by Paul Masiarchin of Minneapolis, Minnesota; Photograph of the Superior Hiking Trail by Rose Allen
Editor's Note: In response to our Best Trails package, which includes 30 hikes—none of which are in the Midwest—reader Paul Masiarchin pointed out our (unintentional) ommision and even offered up some of his favorite Midwestern hikes, presented below. Thanks, Paul, for your great suggestions!
Across the Upper Midwest, hikers can explore four seasons of beauty on trails along the region’s lakes and rivers. Here are four of my favorite water-edge trails in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Mississippi National River and Recreation Area
This 72-mile stretch of the Mississippi River includes surprising beauty hidden deep below the hustle of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Various stretches of the park offer majestic views of Minneapolis’s mill district and downtown skyline. My favorite hike is below the river bluffs, within Fort Snelling State Park (daily fee for cars; parking near the park headquarters), including Pike Island’s winding trails where bald eagles, coyotes, foxes, whitetail deer, wild turkeys, and other wildlife are abundant within minutes of downtown Minneapolis. An added attraction is the well-maintained historical military fort sitting high above the river.
Superior Hiking Trail
Near Grand Marais, MN
This 277-mile trail follows Lake Superior’s rocky ridges and wild shoreline. A good hike starts with a reserved campsite at Judge Magney State Park, where a hike to Devil’s Kettle Falls is well worth the walk. Following the Superior Hiking Trail south out of the state park leads (within less than 10 miles) to a beautiful stretch of trail that hugs Lake Superior’s shores. Camping is available outside the park along the Kadunce and Brule Rivers.
Ice Age Trail
A 1,000-mile trail entirely within Wisconsin, the Ice Age Trail follows the ridgelines of the state’s most recent glacial activity. The rolling eskers, drumlins, kettles, and moraines highlight some of Wisconsin’s most varied landscapes. A popular day hike can be made within Devil’s Lake State Park where 500-foot quartzite bluffs drape the lake’s shores. Camping is popular within the park, as is rock climbing and cross-country skiing.
Lake Superior + Big Carp River Trails
A hike along the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park's Lake Superior Trail, returning via the Big Carp River Trail, offers incredible views of Lake Superior (backcountry campsites are available; 20 miles roundtrip). This rugged trail traverses the rocky shoreline, enters the virgin forest, and leads to peaks, waterfalls, and many scenic overlooks.
- Nat Geo Expeditions