13 Places to Visit in the Midwest if You Love the Outdoors

Looking to explore the great outdoors in the heart of the USA? Look no further! We’ve decided to share our 13 favorite places to visit in the Midwest.

Sure, it’s known for its down-to-earth charm and miles of farmland, but the Midwest is home to some incredible back country. Who knew that even the corn capitol of the world, Iowa, was home to 63 State Parks? Yup you read that right, there are 63 State Parks in Iowa.

Lucky for you, that’s just the start. All told our guide includes: 9 states, 2 National Parks, and countless reasons to go explore. So, if you’re up for a long weekend or a nice road trip, be sure to check out our 13 favorite places to visit in the Midwest!

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Custer State Park, SD

Custer State Park spreads over 71,000 acres in South Dakota’s Black Hills. Granite peaks scrape the piercing blue sky and wildlife abounds within the park’s borders. Black Elk Peak, the highest point in the state, also resides within Custer.

If you decide to visit, be sure to set aside some time for a dip in Sylvan Lake. The Needles and Black Elk Peak are great options for steady hikers. Have a younger crowd? Enjoy a cruise around Wildlife Loop Road and keep an eye out for bison, bighorn sheep, and boroughs. If you live for beautiful hikes, crystal clear mountain lakes, and the chance to see a wild donkey or two, Custer State Park is for you.

Gooseberry Falls State Park, MN

Gooseberry Falls State Park is known as the gateway to Minnesota’s North Shore. This is a bit of a misnomer as it deserves credit all its own. Massive waterfalls, river gorges, and expansive lakeshore all call Gooseberry home.

Any visit to Gooseberry would be incomplete without a visit to the Middle and Lower Falls. Adventurous explorers can work upstream to see the elusive Fifth Falls. More content to stay close to the visitor’s center? Paved trails branch towards the lakeshore, over the gorge, or towards a lookout over the Falls. If you have extra time, try going from park to park along the shoreline. With dozens of beautiful parks along MN 61 you won’t be disappointed!

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, MI

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is as beautiful as any place we’ve ever been. Towering cliffs, windswept dunes, wild beaches, and endless sea caves wait to be explored. If you visit late in the summer, and Superior is warm, you can even swim into the caves. Some tunnel hundreds of feet deep into the sandstone and open to a secret cove.

With over 100-miles of trail, there’s always room to escape the crowds. If you’re seaworthy, take a boat tour to view the colorful cliffs from water. Mineral deposits ‘bleed’ out of the cliffs and vibrant hues of colors trail down the cliff face. These minerals also lead to the beautiful chalky blue water color, much like the Iceland’s Blue Lagoon. Take time to explore the shore, you won’t regret it!

Starved Rock State Park, IL

Starved Rock State Park is in a class of its own. It boasts over 13 miles of trails, 18 slots canyons, and countless waterfalls. Large sandstone bluffs stretch over 125 feet high and lookout over the Illinois River.

We were lucky enough to visit at the tail end of fall. The trees were shedding the last of their colors and the park was near empty. The gorgeous canyons and waterfalls waited to be explored and begged us to come back. Over 2 million visitors annually agree, Starved Rock is one of the best places to visit in the Midwest.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is as rugged as any landscape. Located off of I94 the two park Units offer a look into the eyes of America’s history. As a young man Teddy Roosevelt came to hunt bison and left with a newfound appreciation for the wild spaces. We still benefit from Teddy’s conservation policy today.

Both the North and South Units afford visitors the chance to see truly wild wildlife. The Little Missouri River cuts through each Unit and the Badlands-esque landscape. Those brave enough can enjoy the limitless camping, paddling down the Little Missouri, and otherworldly sunsets. Though certainly a long and tedious drive away, visitors never forget their time at Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Monument Rocks, KS

Monument Rocks are simply an enigma. The large chalk formations stand up against the low-lying grasslands and stick out like a sore thumb. The strange uniqueness is all part of the draw. The National Natural Landmark is more or less Kansas’s answer to Utah’s Monument Valley.

Its important to note the Monument is actually on private land. The current landowners have been very happy to allow guests to tour the large formations. That being said, please respect the no camping and no climbing rules. If you have the opportunity, stay for the stars. That’s when the magic of Monument Rocks truly reveals itself.

Maquoketa Caves State Park, IA

Back to the corn capitol! Iowa’s Maquoketa Caves State Park is truly an All-American gem. This small park houses more caves than any other park in Iowa. Long tunnels, towering bluffs, and stone arches are linked by a beautiful trail system.

The in-park campground is a mix of reservations and first-come, first-serve spots. It’s nestled cozily among the mature pine trees and connects directly to the parks trail system. The caves our one of our favorite places to visit in the Midwest simply because they’re so different from any other parks in the area.

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, MI

The Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. They are home to large stands of old growth hardwoods, waterfalls, and of course mountains. Nestled among the wild landscape are black bear, moose, wolves, and otters.

The Porkies are equally as wild as their cousins the Rockies. Tucked in between the stony peaks lies the Lake of the Clouds. If you’re up for the hike, enjoy the Escarpment Trail and follow the lakes northern shore from above. Alternatively, you can voyage south and take in the spectacular Bond Falls. If you love rugged mountain living and hope to taste it in the Midwest, visit the Porcupine Mountains.

Indiana Dunes State Park, IN

Indiana Dunes State Park tower over 200 feet above Lake Michigan’s southern shore. The park also includes a 3 mile stretch of shoreline and 16.5 miles of trail. Vegetation helps stabilize the ever-shifting topography and limits blowing sand.

The park is only a few hours east of Chicago, so if you’re Visiting the Windy City (LINK HERE) it’s easy to make it for a day trip. Hiking, swimming, and fishing are the norm and, in the winter, you can enjoy cross country skiing. Whether you come for a dip in the lake or a chance to explore a local legend, a day at the dunes is well spent!

Badlands National Park, SD

While the Badlands didn’t make our Top 5 Family-Friendly National Parks list, it did earn its spot on our 13 Favorite Places to Visit in the Midwest. It wasn’t that we had anything against the Badlands before, its just the car ride would be a little tough for most youngsters.

Compared to the 100-acre parks on our list the Badlands look massive. At 244,000 acres it’s impossible to explore every nook and cranny. You can spend all day and enjoy the Badland’s offerings, or make way to the surrounding Black Hills and Custer State Park. It’s also extremely close to another one of our favorite places to visit in the Midwest: Mount Rushmore.

If you’ve never heard of the Badlands, think of it as the scene for every Western movie. Large pinnacles of clay and soil have piled and eroded away to form the unique landscape. Some tower hundreds of feet high and others deep. It’s a spectacular place to get away, roast a marshmallow, and enjoy the best of the Midwest!

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, WI

Northern Wisconsin and the Apostle Islands are some of our favorite places in the world. Obviously, they made our list of favorite places to visit in the Midwest. Located on the northeast tip of the Bayfield Peninsula, these 21 islands are as beautiful as they come.

The park also includes a 12-mile coast along the mainland. From sand castle contests, flies the size of bats (kidding… sort of), to starry nights spent alone in the wilderness. The islands are a beautiful mix of history, local culture, and true wild Wisconsin beauty. If you want a cheap, outdoor oriented summer vacation the Apostles are for you.

Turkey Run State Park, IN

Turkey Run State Park is located just southwest of Crawfordsville, IN. We love the parks beautiful sandstone ravines and wooden bridges. It also sports large stands of aged forests, a rarity in many parts of the world.

Visitors are lucky enough to enjoy 14 miles of rugged trails through the famed gullies. If the trails are a little too rough, try the guided horseback tour or hay ride. The saddle barn is open April through October. Call ahead for a reservation!

Tettegouche State Park, MN

Tettegouche State Park is perfect as can be. Stark cliffs look over Lake Superior. Waterfalls and inland lakes dot the 9,300 acres. It sports more than 23 miles of hiking trails, an additional 12 for skiing and 12 for snowmobiles. It’s an outdoorsmen’s paradise.

Care to try your hand at rock climbing? Go ahead and rappel down the cliff faces. Only have an hour? Check out the world class Visitor Center and short hikes surrounding it. Want to stay for the night? Rent a cabin or grab a campsite, there are plenty. There are few better places to visit in the Midwest than good ole’ Tettegouche.

The Best Places to Visit in the Midwest

Turns out, even Iowa isn’t all corn and soy beans. These 13 spots just scrape the surface. The Midwest is chalked full of wild landscapes waiting to be explored. We encourage you to give one of them a try. Pack your tents, some comfy hiking boots, and lots bug spray because adventure is calling!

So please let us know in the comments below… Where are your favorite places to visit in the Midwest? Have you ever been to any of ours? Still have questions or comments, let us know in the comments! Please remember to like and share😊 God Bless, K+J!

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The Midwest USA gets a rep for being pretty boring and tame. It's actually as wild as they come. From the plethora of epic State Parks in the Midwest and National Parks in the Midwest, we've compiled our list of favorite places to visit in the Midwest USA. Check out these awesome outdoor adventures in the USA! www.theagapecompany.com #USA #Midwest #MidwestUSA #USAtravel #outdoortravel #adventuuretravel

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Verse of the Week: Joshua 1:9

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Often, we are called to be uncomfortable. Sometimes the most rewarding moments in life require discomfort, fear, or confusion. It can be as simple as the “pain” from working out or the nerves before a roller coaster ride. It can be as complex as the dread before a big presentation or before speaking to a non-believer about your faith. In either moment, big or small, the Lord is standing with you. This week, be confident in his plans and embrace the moment.

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Family Friendly National Parks in America – Our Top Five!

America has 60 National Parks for wanderers from across the globe to enjoy. Some receive over 9 million visitors every year, and some as few as 105,000. We’ve been lucky enough to visit almost half of them and can’t wait to see the remaining 30. Today we’re going to share our Top 5 Family Friendly National Parks in America. Start packing those bags because adventure is calling!

From Acadia to Zion, each park affords its visitors something unique and inspiring. While we can’t quantify the beauty of each individual park, we can express their individual caterings towards families. Our family friendly National Parks rankings are based off of facilities within the parks, proximity to accommodations, and of course the park itself. Be sure to let us know in the comments which of the family friendly National Parks sounds the best to you! Do you know of any other parks that should be in our top 5?

If you’re feeling extra generous, please shoot this post a like and a share and, as always, enjoy! One last thing before you get too far, remember to…

Pin our picks for the Best Family Friendly National Parks in America!

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite is one of America’s most famous National Parks. It was established as a park in October of 1890 and has been inspiring visitors ever since. Its sheer granite cliffs rise thousands of feet above the valley floor. Shimmering waterfalls fall crisply off the caps of the monumental domes cooling the valley air with their mist. Giant sequoia groves stand proudly against the stark granite backdrops. It truly is God’s Country.

In the valley several museums, hotels, and well paved trails greet visitors. The park is well staffed with knowledgeable individuals around almost every corner. The splendor of the park, its well-maintained facilities, and its proximity to several large cities all make Yosemite a must for any family looking to explore America’s National Parks.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Just a few hours outside of Denver lies a sparkling jewel. The crystalline lakes reflect the endless alpine views,  well-marked trails dot the surrounding hillsides, and wildlife inhabitants outnumber the daily guests. You’re likely to see any number of bighorn sheep, elk, moose, or even bear in Rocky Mountain National Park’s borders.

Families who love to hike should look no further, from short out and backs, to whole day trips, the parks varying ecosystems offer endless trail options. It also has numerous shelters and facilities for visitors to enjoy and learn more about the park and its various biomes. The unparalleled diversity of the park, its network of trails, and its accessibility make Rocky Mountain National Park one of the best family friendly National Parks in America. If you’re planning a winter trip to Colorado be sure to check out the numerous ski resorts. You can read more about them here: Skiing in Colorado – Everything You Need to Know.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

On America’s most populated coast lies a park of incredible historical and natural significance. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was on the forefront of the action for most of the civil war. The nearby town of Gatlinburg was commonly raided by Confederate soldiers until the end of the war. Nearby Pigeon Forge also boasted a converted mill used to make Union uniforms. Pairing this with several small battles and skirmishes the Great Smoky Mountains were a hotbed long before they became a National Park.

The parks also boasts over 5000 types of plants, 800 miles of trails and 100’s of different animals. It is melting pot of history and natural splendor unmatched across the United States. Given its unrivaled history and beauty, it extensive trail system, and its closeness to numerous towns, Great Smoky Mountains is in our top 5 family friendly National Parks.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone’s fabled geysers, wildlife, and terrain speak for themselves. With prismatic springs dotting the countryside, awe-inspiring canyons and waterfalls, and even moose, wolves, and bison roaming freely it is hard to imagine a more unspoiled landscape. For any family looking to be inspired by pure beauty look no further than Yellowstone.

Yellowstone is actually America’s first national park. It was inducted in March of 1872, and has had plenty of time to build an inclusive experience for its visitors. From board walked trails, to historic hotels, the park offers everything any visitor could need. Yellowstone’s incredible wildlife alone should be more than enough of a reason for every family to visit, but if you need more convincing Grand Teton is only an hour south! Check out our One Day Guide to Grand Teton National Park.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

Rounding out our top 5 family friendly National Parks is a personal favorite, Bryce Canyon. Bryce is spectacularly unique. Hundreds of sandstone hoodoos climb towards the sky out of the natural amphitheater. Trees litter the valley and trails between the formations. While certainly not as massive as the other parks (Bryce sits around 35,000 acres) it is plenty large for a family trip out west!

What the park lacks in size, it certainly makes up for in beauty. The famed hoodoos in the valley are revered around the world for the rarity. Few places sport the sheer number and size of the formations as Bryce Canyon National Park does. The parks quaint size and general tidiness, its proximity to several large cities and 5 other National Parks, and its unfiltered beauty make Bryce Canyon a must visit for any National Park fan! Check out our post 12 Photos to Inspire You to Visit Utah for more magnificent photos of Utah!

Well folks, that’s a wrap for us. Our Top 5 Family Friendly National Parks are perfect for explorers of all sizes. We are certain no matter which park you choose you will be blown away by its splendor. So have fun, adventure safely, and enjoy God’s Creation personally! Have you been to any National Parks? If so, which ones? Alternatively, let us know if you think we missed one of your favorite family friendly National Parks. Until next time, K+J!