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Good 1-3 night destinations in the Midwest?
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Mat Tallman
(wehtaM) - F

Locale: Midwest
Good 1-3 night destinations in the Midwest? on 01/15/2011 16:54:06 MST Print View

Ok, so in the past 9 months, I've moved from Nashville, TN, shouting distance from a plethora of excellent trail opportunities, back to central Illinois (Springfield) where I grew up. Unfortunately, hiking opportunities around here are meager at best, and I'm having trouble finding legitimate trail destinations within reasonable driving distance.

I foresee most of my trips this year being weekenders, or extended weekends, 1-3 nights, and I'd prefer to keep it to within a reasonable day's drive of home. I've found a few spots in Southern MO that seem promising for overnights (<30 mile loops), but have really found little else unless I drive upwards of 10-11 hours.

So seasoned BPLers, help me out here, any midwestern honey-hole spots you feel like sharing?

Cory Whitesell
(Coryw) - F

Locale: Midwest
midwest spots on 01/15/2011 17:56:15 MST Print View

I'm from western indiana, and have never seen much in Illinois worth venturing that direction. Shawnee NF intrigued me, but I can get to what I perceived to be better KY destinations just as quick (red river gorge, etc.)

There are also several destinations in southern Indiana (Obannon Woods State Park 24mile loop, 56 mile knobstone trail, etc.) - but those are 5-6 hours away from you and only "okay".

Mat Tallman
(wehtaM) - F

Locale: Midwest
midwest spots on 01/15/2011 18:02:18 MST Print View

5-6 hours seems to be about as good as it gets from what I've found so far.

The spots I've found in MO are about that distance too, which I'm willing to drive, but for a weekend trip, I'd put that at my max for drive time.

Any other IN options, Hoosier NF?

Scott S
(sschloss1) - F

Locale: New England
Southern Indiana on 01/15/2011 20:15:27 MST Print View

There's a lot of good hiking in southern Indiana.

The Knobstone Trail is 58 miles long and supposedly quite scenic (I haven't done it).

A bit closer to you, in the Morgan-Monroe State Forest, the Low Gap Trail and the Three Lakes Trail are both 10-13ish mile loops through nice forests. The Tecumseh Trail is 42 miles long and runs from the Morgan-Monroe SF down to the Hoosier National Forest southeast of Bloomington.

Ken K
(TheFatBoy) - F

Locale: St. Louis
Southern MO on 01/15/2011 20:43:32 MST Print View

I think you're on the right track with the Southern MO stuff. I live just east of St. Louis and find myself doing all my backpacking on the other side of the river.

They have nice 10-mile loops at Hawn and Washington State Parks. Cuivre River is nice, but dry. If you're up for an out-and-back (or securing a return ride), you can do a section of the River-to-River trail ( There's also the Ozark Trail (

Cory Whitesell
(Coryw) - F

Locale: Midwest
Hoosier NF & more on indiana backpacking on 01/16/2011 07:04:46 MST Print View

We spent a few nights at Hoosier NF - Deam Wilderness this year. Trails are nice and well maintained - but are multi-use trails. We spent most of our time dodging trail fudge left over from the horses. That said, we found a backcountry cave to explore and camped right on Lake Monroe.

we spend a few nights a year on the Knobstone trail. It is more rugged than you would expect, but there are few views. We've enjoyed our trips in shoulder seasons the most because there are no leaves to block views. In the summer, you usually have to cache water as the streams dry up quickly after it rains. KT is hiking only.

Obannon Woods State park has the 24+ mile Adventure Hiking trail. It is also hiking only and has a set of horse trails that parallel the backpacking loop. It is probably our favorite backpacking place in the state. The highlight for us was camping on a ridge right on the Ohio River. My son loved watching the barges go by from high above (warning - you also get to watch and hear a quarry operation on the KY side of the river, so it's not exactly quiet until later in the evening). Trails are not well marked in places - and we backtracked a few times.

Morgan Monroe SF is okay. Three lakes loop is day hike only - no overnight. Low Gap has 1-2 miles that are nice, but too much of the trail is hiking on a gravel roads for my taste. Backcountry camping is alowed - but it is a bit overrun. (these trails help form the Tecumseh Trail)

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Hoosier NF & more on indiana backpacking on 01/25/2012 20:53:19 MST Print View

I'm thinking of taking my sons on the Adventure Hiking Trail. Any cool sites to see? I'm thinking it will be 3 days as I don't think my youngest can do 11 mile days. This loop would be be twice the distance of what I took him on last year, which was 11 miles total.

For the OP (very late - missed this thread). See this map I made for a Scouting project.

Cory Whitesell
(Coryw) - F

Locale: Midwest
ADT on 01/26/2012 20:10:55 MST Print View

The highlight is the campsite on a bluff overlooking overlooking the Ohio river. You are several hundred feet above the river My son really enjoyed watching the tugs and barges go by. The site is at the first shelter southeast of the pioneer cabin shelter. (of course the downside is that there is a gravel quarry on the KY side so you get to hear constant beeping of trucks until the end of their workday). There is plenty of room for several tents up there, but the shelter had burned to the ground when we were there in spring 2010.

The other highlight was there are several shelters along the route. There are just few places in indiana that have legitimate backcountry campsites, much less shelters. That was my sons first experience with seeing a shelter - so he thought he was on the AT.

We parked our car at the intersection of 462 and the old forest road to cordon and hiked it clockwise. The first two shelters we encountered were small, but in good condition. There were picnic tables and tent sites around them. Realize that there is a parallel horse trail to the AHT, and the trails merge at the shelters.

My son was 9 when we hiked it and we did most of it over 3 days/2 nights without problem. We ended up getting a very cold rain last day, and ended up hiking the road back part of the way - skipping the western 1/3 of the trail.

The trail was poorly marked in places. You will have to pay a lot of attention at times. We took a couple wrong turns, but got back on track pretty quick.

Even in the spring, we found water to be hard to come by since there is a fair amount of ridge hiking If you find some, make sure to fill up.

All in all, it was a good trail. Good views of the Ohio, and several other streams.


Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Adventure Hiking Trail on 01/26/2012 20:40:55 MST Print View

Do you need to camp near shelter sites? Or are there really no decent spots along the trail to stop for the day? I figure we'll stop whenever the youngest (or his older brother!) has clearly had enough.

Sounds like I better cache water, too, just in case.

I might save this one for next year and go back to the Deam since it's much closer. I already have what I think would be a good route in mind. That would give me a chance to overnight the AHT to check it out.

Where do you go to keep your son interested?

Sara C
(Jon) - MLife

Locale: SE Missouri and NW Arkansas
Re: Good 1-3 night destinations in the Midwest? on 01/27/2012 08:57:14 MST Print View

The Buffalo River in Arkansas is about a 7 hour drive from Springfield. The section of the Buffalo River Trail near Ponca is about 35 miles and there are other trails connecting to it in the area. Definitely worth the drive.

Cory Whitesell
(Coryw) - F

Locale: Midwest
AHT on 01/27/2012 14:33:23 MST Print View

A good bit of the trail is in the state park, so I assume they want you to camp just at the shelter sites. The shelter sites are pretty good, so I'll stay there if we go again. I only saw 1 day hiker when we were there and a couple horses - so don't worry about crowds. It is much better than deam- and you don't have the crowds or horse trails to deal with.

My son enjoys hiking - and does not require a lot of scenery to keep his interest. We both like to get out and explore - and just try to check out most of the longer trails in the area.

The other local trip we did last year that was interesting was the Tecumseh trail. The trail is a bit overgrown in places and has some road walks. Its pretty reasonable terrain for kids - we did 35 miles over 2.5 days The highlight of that was camping at yellowwood lake - at the campground. When other campers found that my son had hiked in, they were amazed and loaded him up with candy and other junk food. He loved it.

Still, his favorite is the red river gorge. You can get there in 4 hours from Indy (vs over 3 hours to get to the AHT).

Another option to consider is brookville lake- Adena trace trail. It is a 24 mile loop around the south half of the lake. I did a day hike there a few weeks back to scope it out and we will try to do the loop in the spring before the boaters fill the lake. The only place they allow camping is at the campground, but it is right off the trail - so I think it would work. It really is a pretty area.

A couple other things have popped up on my list too. I found some info on the twin valley trail just outside Dayton, Ohio. The trail links two metro parks in the area, and passes close to downtown Germantown. It is around 2 hours away so we will probably try it out this year.

I also hear that the backcountry at mammoth cave is nice. I've hiked the front country trails there, and am interested in venturing into the backcountry there. They are multi use (ie horse) trails, but at only 3+ hours from Indy it is reasonably close.

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Adena Trace on 01/27/2012 16:32:35 MST Print View

I did a lot of research on that one today in fact. I know officially, you can't camp on the trail but it seems that everyone (including boaters) does so they apparently turn a blind eye to it. There aren't a whole lot of decent flat places apparently though. Seems the same group of people have been going several times a year for quite some time (2005). I'll definitely be checking it out, too, but it's on the other side of the state from us.

I've heard Mammoth is not too bad. Good things about Big South Fork Nat'l Rec Area also - similar to Smokies but much less crowded.