Category Archives: Trail Summary

Backpacking Newport State Park

Newport State Park is a great place to camp in Door County without spending the night on top of your neighbors as you might at Peninsula  State Park, and without spending a fortune on ferry rides as you would when visiting Rock Island State Park. (Which I still highly recommend, by the way, despite the high cost of getting there. Read more here.) The frequently intersecting trail system can make a hike as long (or short) as you want it to be through a series of loops, and the terrain is flat enough for any hiker, including children. Rocky shorelines provide rugged hiking and scrambling for more adventurous hikers.

Backpacking Newport State Park, Backpacking Door County, Camping Door County, Hiking Door County, Lake Michigan, Paddling Door County, Backpacking Wisconsin, Midwest Backpacking Continue reading Backpacking Newport State Park

Backpacking Savage Gulf State Natural Area

Savage Gulf State Natural Area is one of nine properties that make up South Cumberland State Park in Southeastern Tennessee. Roughly an hour and a half from both Nashville and Chattanooga, TN, and 5-6 hours from Midwestern cities such as St. Louis, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati, the beautiful views and extensive trail system are enough to justify a multi-day trip for beginners or advanced hikers alike. A trail map is available here or at the trailhead, and here’s a helpful distance-finding map for planning your hike. See the notes below for more camping tips, costs, & hiking information.

View from Great Stone Door, Backpacking Savage Gulf, South Cumberland State Park, TN

“You won’t make it to Hobbs Cabin before dark,” snapped the ranger at the Stone Door Ranger station as we checked in around 3:00 on a Friday afternoon. “That’s eight miles from here.” Continue reading Backpacking Savage Gulf State Natural Area

Backpacking Forest Glen Preserve – River Ridge Backpack Trail

Three hours from St. Louis, two and a half from Chicago, one and a half from Indianapolis, and less than an hour from U of I in Urbana-Champaign, Forest Glen Preserve is close enough to be a great day hike and/or picnic destination, but challenging and remote enough to be an excellent one or two-night backpacking destination. Mix and match trails to make your hike as easy or difficult as you’d like, but following the River Ridge Backpack Trail as mapped may be physically challenging for unconditioned folks to accomplish on a one night trip. A .pdf of the trail map is available here or can be found at the trailhead.

Climbing a hill, Forest Glen Preserve, River Ridge Backpack Trail, Backpacking Illinois

Choosing a backpacking destination between Chicago and Indianapolis is pretty easy – there are two. And one of the two doesn’t permit camping between October 31st and April 1st*, so choosing a backpacking destination between Chicago and Indianapolis in December is even easier. Continue reading Backpacking Forest Glen Preserve – River Ridge Backpack Trail

Backpacking Bell Mountain Wilderness

Bell Mountain Wilderness provides a challenging (or beginner) Midwestern backpacking experience and beautiful views in an ancient mountain range. It’s well worth the six-hour drive from Chicago (don’t tell the fuzz that I made it in less than 5.5), five from Indianapolis, and an even shorter drive from Kansas City. The lucky residents of St. Louis have a big beautiful backyard in the Mark Twain National Forest. Camping at Bell Mountain Wilderness is free and undesignated. Parking is free, but designated.

Eastern view from the top of Bell Mountain, Bell Mountain Wilderness, Mark Twain National Forest, Missouri

Local destinations always seem most reasonable for a one night trip. It feels ridiculous to spend more time driving to and from my hiking destination than I actually spend hiking when I arrive. But staring down the barrel of another long Chicago winter made me desperate for something exotic, and I made the trip down to Ozark Country for what might be my last fair weather trip of the season. Continue reading Backpacking Bell Mountain Wilderness

Backpacking Rock Island Wisconsin

Between ferry rides and the camping reservation fee, Rock Island State Park may very well be one of the most expensive backpacking destinations in the Midwest (if not the most). But it offers history and beauty, with views like no other backpacking destination within six hours of Chicago. It’s four hours from Milwaukee, and 2.5 hours from Green Bay.  It’s also great for day hikes, family camping, paddling, beginner backpacking trips, or any nature lover spending time in the Door County area!

Boat House, Rock Island State Park Door County Wisconsin

Continue reading Backpacking Rock Island Wisconsin