As the leaves begin to change and the crisp air of autumn sets in, what better way to embrace the seasonal shift than by venturing into the stunning landscapes of the Midwest? From rugged bluffs to tranquil lakes, we've rounded up some of our top fall camping and hiking destinations to make your autumn truly magical.
Starved Rock State Park
Perched in the quaint town of Utica, Starved Rock State Park turns into an oasis of color in the autumn months. Hike through 13 miles of trails that wind through canyons aglow with orange and yellow leaves. With each turn, you're greeted by the mesmerizing sight of waterfalls cascading down cliffs, all set against the backdrop of fall's fiery palette.
Garden of the Gods
Situated in Shawnee National Forest, Garden of the Gods offers massive sandstone rock formations that tower over you, creating a view that seems almost otherworldly. Perfect for hikers who crave adventure and photographers hunting for that epic shot.
Indiana Dunes National Park
Located along the shores of Lake Michigan, Indiana Dunes National Park combines coastal beauty with woodland charm. Camping here means waking up to the sound of crashing waves; hiking means traversing a variety of breathtaking landscapes—from sandy dunes to lush forests.
Turkey Run State Park
Get ready for an action-packed adventure in Marshall. As you navigate through labyrinthine canyons and scramble over sandstone gorges, you'll feel a rustic, almost primal connection to the earth beneath your feet. An adrenaline hit for those seeking a more strenuous outdoor experience.
Ledges State Park
Situated in Madrid, Iowa, Ledges State Park offers a wonderland of towering cliffs and verdant gorges for hikers and nature enthusiasts alike. The park even has a river running through it, making it an ideal location for waterfront camping and serene moments of reflection amidst a backdrop of crisp fall colors.
Clear Lake State Park
This Northern Iowa park is an idyllic spot for nature lovers. Whether you're an avid hiker or someone who just wants to relax by the water, it offers something for everyone. The trails meander through forested areas, but you're never far from the calming waters of Clear Lake. It's the perfect backdrop for switching between adventurous woodland treks and peaceful lakeside relaxation.
Cedar Bluff State Park & Reservoir
If you find yourself in Ellis, Kansas, this spot is an absolute must-visit, offering a unique blend of thrilling outdoor activities—think high-energy hiking trails and expansive lake views that make for picture-perfect moments. Whether you're kayaking on the reservoir or tackling a rugged trail, the park brings all your outdoor adventure dreams to life.
Clinton Lake State Park
The perfect blend of woodland charm and lakeside leisure near Lawrence. As you hike through dense forests filled with native flora and fauna, you might just find yourself emerging onto a tranquil lake view. Don't forget to bring your binoculars—birdwatching here is next-level.
Sleeping Bear Dunes (Lower Peninsula)
Satisfy your inner adventurer with Lake Michigan as your backdrop. This coastal playground not only offers the thrill of scaling immense dunes but also grants awe-inspiring vistas as your reward for reaching the top. If you're in the mood for an adrenaline-pumping hike, this is your spot.
Porcupine Mountains (Upper Peninsula)
In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the Porcupine Mountains present a kind of rugged solitude that's increasingly rare. It’s perfect for those who want to get lost in nature—complete with a landscape of ancient forests, rivers, and untamed wilderness. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into an earlier time, untouched by modern hustle and bustle of daily life.
Tettegouche State Park
A tour through Tettegouche State Park in Minnesota will make you a believer in the state's natural beauty. Home to six inland lakes, waterfalls, and a variety of terrains, it's a hiker's dream. Whether you're into challenging hikes or rock climbing, there’s something for every adventurer to explore.
Itasca State Park
A unique blend of natural beauty and historical significance. This park is home to the headwaters of the Mississippi River, a fact that provides not just fantastic hiking trails but also a brush with history. Where else can you walk across the mighty Mississippi and then lose yourself in a tapestry of trails?
Banning State Park
Located near Sandstone, this state park offers something for everyone—thrilling rapids, cascading waterfalls, and an array of hiking trails that are begging to be Instagrammed. A testament to nature's ability to both inspire and awe.
Lake of the Ozarks State Park
An outdoor enthusiast's paradise. From sailing and water sports by day to captivating hikes as the sun sets, there's no shortage of activities to make your time here unforgettable. Amidst all the action, don’t forget to take a stroll along trails that showcase Missouri's fall foliage.
Lake Wappapello State Park
Located in southeastern Missouri, Lake Wappapello State Park is an underrated gem. Whether you're looking for serene hiking trails or just a place to unwind, the park's wondrous forests offer both peace and a visually stunning landscape, particularly during the fall season.
Branched Oak State Recreational Area
Just a short drive from Malcolm, Nebraska, this area is a haven for those who love both land and water. Whether you're into boating, fishing, or hiking, it has plenty to keep you entertained, all set against the backdrop of autumnal beauty.
Buffalo Bill State Recreational Area
Near North Platte, Buffalo Bill State Recreational Area feels like a slice of the Old West, but with modern amenities for camping and outdoor adventures. The landscape begs you to explore, and the trails offer a varied hiking experience that would make Buffalo Bill himself proud.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Close to the quaint town of Medora, this wilderness haven serves as a living tribute to the 26th President and his commitment to conservation. Roam through distinct trails set amid dramatic badlands, and keep an eye out for the area's native bison as you hike.
Lake Sakakawea State Park
Situated near Riverdale, this tranquil retreat delivers the best of both aquatic and terrestrial adventures. Ideal fishing spots provide a peaceful morning activity, while hiking trails adorned with autumnal hues offer an afternoon sanctuary away from the everyday hustle.
Sheyenne National Grassland
Located near the small town of Lisbon, Sheyenne National Grassland offers a completely different hiking vibe. Instead of mountains or thick forests, expect wide-open fields that seem to go on forever. The landscape is flat and covered in golden grass, giving you an uninterrupted view of the sky and open horizon.
Cuyahoga State Park
Located between Akron and Cleveland, this natural gem invites you to discover its cascading waterfalls and lush forests. Whether you're a seasoned hiker or a beginner, there's a trail to suit everyone. It's a great getaway for anyone looking to immerse themselves in nature while enjoying a splash of seasonal color.
Nestled in the southeastern part of the state, this magical locale offers caves and rock formations that seem straight out of a fairy tale. It's a haven for anyone who enjoys hiking or photography, with a landscape so surreal that every moment becomes an instant keepsake. Walk through groves of towering trees, explore intricate caverns, and marvel at natural sculptures crafted by millennia of erosion.
Badlands National Park
Just outside the town of Interior, explore a dream-like landscape punctuated with jagged rock formations and sky-piercing spires. Each trail provides a fresh vantage point to savor the ethereal beauty that seems to glow even brighter in the autumn light.
Custer State Park
Tucked into the Black Hills, this destination is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts and hikers alike. One of the main attractions here is the iconic Needles Highway, a scenic byway that winds through magnificent granite spires known as ‘The Needles’. If you're more inclined to observe wildlife, the Wildlife Loop Road takes you on a safari-like experience, where you'll encounter a range of animals from bison to pronghorns in their natural habitat. Either way, adventure calls.
Devil's Lake State Park
Close to Baraboo, here you'll discover the Midwest's wilderness at its peak. Quartzite bluffs offer a dramatic frame to Devil's Lake, elevating every hike or camping trip to a grand outdoor spectacle.
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Situated along Lake Superior near Bayfield, this area is perfect for those who like their hikes with a splash of water adventure. Paddle between the islands and then lace up your boots for a hike amidst centuries-old forests—a double dose of nature's finest.
Wyalusing State Park
Perched at the intersection of the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers near Prairie du Chien, this state park serves up sweeping vistas that will take your breath away. Meander through trails that reveal hardwood forests, burbling streams, and ancient effigy mounds, making every hike a journey through rich history and natural splendor.
Whether you're a seasoned hiker or just looking to escape into nature, the Midwest has something for everyone when it comes to fall camping and hiking. Pack your gear, pick your destination, and get ready to fall in love with the Midwest all over again. Don’t forget to wear your Wellow compression socks for cushiony comfort and all-day energy.