Each year, the most popular national parks from Yellowstone to Acadia become flooded with hikers, campers, and nature enthusiasts and while there's usually plenty of room for everyone to spread out, it can be a bummer to show up with a crowd of people. For those who live in the Midwest or just enjoy traveling to the best parks in the country, the Midwest is home to many that have big reputations - and many that are lesser-known but are equally as beautiful and serene.
All of these parks, located in the upper Midwest part of the United States, hold a certain level of allure for everyone. Whether you're looking for a scenic hike, to observe wildlife in their natural habitats, or just want a change of scenery, look no further than these parks. They're sure to be less crowded and will offer the same payoff, so why not take the chance on a new destination with a summer season full of possibilities coming up?
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
The Apostle Islands sits at Wisconsin's northernmost point and while it is a bit out of the way for most people, it's well worth the trip for its scenery. this is also the home of the mainland ice caves which are open based on safety ratings during the winter, and that alone is an incredible sight.
During the warm weather months, it's a haven for kayakers who can paddle through the various caverns around the islands, observing nature's handiwork as the lake has carved out many interesting shapes throughout the years. Each arch is unique and different and it's a great way to get some exercise in while exploring a national park in a whole new way. During the winter, visitors can explore the islands on foot as well with a little help from snowshoes.
Grand Portage National Monument
For those seeking options, the Grand Portage National Monument has it all with an expansive landscape. At the northeastern end of Minnesota, this park can be found after 145 miles through some of the state's most densely-wooded roads. The drive up isn't the only breathtaking part of this trip, though; once visitors arrive at the park, they'll be met with two main hiking trails.
The first, the Mountain Rose Trail, leads hikers along a speedy 30-minute trek with great views of the French fur trading route, overlooking both the fort and the bay. The second route, Grand Portage Bay Overlook, is great for experienced hikers or those looking to get a solid workout and payoff from their efforts; featuring a 360-degree summit at the end with views of Lake Superior, Canada's Pigeon River Provincial Park, and Superior National Forest.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
This lakeshore in Michigan is arguably one of the most underrated scenic parks in the state. Just driving through this area alone is scenic on its own which will give visitors a pretty solid idea of what to expect once they actually enter the park. With massive sand dunes to walk (or slide) down lining the sandy beach, it's the perfect summer destination for anyone who enjoys spending time by the lake.
Dunes Trail offers expansive views of the shoreline but the park itself features miles of trails, many of which are unmarked with open lines of sight. For anyone adventurous enough to head to South Manitou Island, there's a shipwreck there that draws many intrigued by the wreck.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Not far from Akron or Cleveland in northeastern Ohio, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park can be found and within it, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad and the Erie Canal Towpath Trail. Both of these serve as a walkable tour of Ohio's history and are fascinating to see in real life, but that's not the only surprise this park holds. Those who enjoy hiking, biking, birdwatching, and camping are also welcome in its 50+ square miles of protected forestland.
Within the park, depending on the trail hikers take, you can see waterfalls, gorgeous meadow settings (perfect for picnics!), rivers, and streams. The main draw of the park is the Cuyahoga River, which runs through the length of the park and offers different landscapes as it winds its way through the area. Canoeing and fishing are also permitted in the park with the proper license for the latter, and it's a great destination to spend the day for those who are seeking a serene and tranquil setting.