Shawnee National Forest – Illinois

Water pool with rock cliffs and heavily forested area surrounding it

Clear, rocky streams and scenic canyons bordered by high sandstone cliffs and plants unique to Illinois. The trail consists of seven miles of interconnected trails, featuring strange and wonderful rock formations, such as Devil’s Backbone, Boulder Falls and a natural rock bridge.

Aerial view of river with rock cliffs and shrubs surrounding it

Looking for solitude?  Wilderness areas are some of the largest contiguous forested lands within the Shawnee, and together they make up about 10 percent of the national forest.

Rocky waterfall

This place has it all – majestic bluffs, a lush bottomland habitat, colorful cliffs and expansive views of the Big Muddy and Mississippi rivers. If you like to watch birds, this spot is haven for neotropical migratory songbirds during the spring and fall.

Scenic view from trail looking out at meadow and trees from a rock pinnacle

Majestic views await you at Inspiration Point, a National Recreation Trail, located at LaRue Pine Hills. With more than 170 bird species, it is a birders’ paradise. In the spring, the trail is bordered with wildflowers — blazing star, bellwort, bluets and spiderwort.

Natural bridge

Check out this rocky bridge, which spans 90 feet, while you’re visiting the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail. Located just minutes off Highway 127, it takes less than an hour to hike.

 

https://www.fs.usda.gov/attmain/shawnee

Hocking Hills State Park – Ohio

Discover the 7 different amazing hiking areas of Hocking Hills State Park 

Ash Cave – Hocking Hills State Park – 27291 Ohio 56, South

Cedar Falls – Hocking Hills State Park – 21724 Ohio 374 Scenic, Logan, OH 43138

Conkle’s Hollow- Hocking Hills State Park – 24132 Big Pine Road

Cantwell Cliffs – Hocking Hills State Park – Ohio 374, Rockbridge, OH 43149

Rock House – Hocking Hills State Park – 16526 Ohio 374, Laurelville, OH 43135

Hemlock Bridge Trail/Whispering Cave

 

https://www.thehockinghills.org/

Brown County State Park – Indiana

The Smokies of the Midwest

Nicknamed the “Little Smokies” because of the area’s resemblance to the Great Smoky Mountains, Brown County encompasses nearly 16,000 acres of rugged hills, ridges and fog-shrouded ravines. Glaciers from the most recent ice ages stopped short of the “hills o’ Brown,” but their meltwaters helped create the narrow ridges, steep slopes and deep gullies of Brown County State Park. Indiana’s largest park is a traditional fall color hot spot, with nearly 20 miles of tree-lined roads and many scenic vistas overlooking miles of uninterrupted forestland.

The park’s rustic Abe Martin Lodge offers accommodations that include motel rooms, cabins, dining and conference facilities and an indoor water park. Large campgrounds, hiking and mountain biking trails, interpretive services, a saddle barn for guided horse rides and a separate horseman campground with 70 miles of horse trails are some of the things that make Brown County State Park popular year-round.

 

 

https://www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/2988.htm

Black Hills, South Dakota

South Dakota's Black Hills.The Black Hills, in western South Dakota and northeastern Wyoming, consists of 1.2 million acres of forested hills and mountains, approximately 110 miles long and 70 miles wide, a hikers and naturalist paradise.

The Black Hills rise from the adjacent grasslands into a ponderosa pine forest. Described as an “Island in the Plains,” the Forest has diverse wildlife and plants reaching from the eastern forests to the western plains. The Forest is a multiple-use Forest with activities ranging from timber production, grazing, to hiking, camping, mountain biking, horseback riding, rock climbing, mining, wildlife viewing and many others.

The four seasons offer amazing opportunities to view and enjoy nature on the Black Hills National Forest. In the springtime, flowers abound on the forest floor. Fall colors  brighten the hills and white winter snow illuminates the surroundings. Forest lakes glisten bright blue on summer days, and summer nights offer magnificent opportunities for star gazing.

Enjoy yourself while viewing the many rugged rock formations, canyons and gulches, open grassland parks, tumbling streams, and deep blue lakes.

 

Rock Climbing

 

 

 

https://www.fs.usda.gov/blackhills

Flint Hills Nature Trail – Kansas

Kk-2014-01-05_mini

This 117-mile crown jewel is the seventh-longest rail-trail in the U.S. and the longest trail in Kansas. It follows the general route of the Santa Fe National Historic Trail and is a component of the coast-to-coast American Discovery Trail.

The trail crosses the Flint Hills, one of the last remaining tallgrass prairie ecosystems in the world. It is home to abundant prairie plant and wildlife species, spectacular views, national historic sites, and a diverse set of recreational areas. On eastern portions of the trail, hikers and bikers travel along the Marais Des Cygnes River, between rushing waters and towering bluffs, through rolling farmland and riparian woodlands. Trail-goers can enjoy the sites and hospitality of more than 12 rural communities across five counties.

 

Flint Hills Nature Trail History

The Flint Hills Nature Trail is built on an old railroad corridor. The route was originally developed in the late 1880s, as the Council Grove, Osage City & Ottawa Railway. It later became the Missouri Pacific Railroad.

MoPac discontinued railway service on the line in the 1980s, and subsequently abandoned. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy acquired and railbanked the corridor in 1995 and later transferred ownership to the Kanza Rail-Trails Conservancy.

The KRTC has been developing the trail in sections, where volunteers have been available, and where grant funding and donations have permitted the old corridor to be refurbished.

The Flint Hills Nature Trail was the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s “Trail of the Month” in March 2010. The RTC also features the Flint Hills Nature Trail on their TrailLink site.

Visit Flint Hills Nature Trailfor more information.

Lake of the Ozarks – Missouri

Lake of the Ozarks State Park

 

It’s a  17,441 acre playground lying just to the south of Osage Beach. Lake of the Ozarks State Park is Missouri’s largest and can provide a pleasant diversion while vacationing in the Lake area. The park has 85 miles of shoreline and two public beaches, plus boat launching areas.  The Grand Glaize Arm of the lake dissects the park with over 85 miles of shoreline.

 

Wildlife at Lake of the Ozarks State ParkDiscover unusual natural features along the park’s lake shore on Lake of the Ozarks Aquatic Trail . This unique “trail” designed for boaters has stops marked by buoys. A free booklet keyed to these buoys explains the significance of each of the 14 marked shoreline highlights. It is available at the park office.

Naturalists present programs in an open air amphitheater from May until mid October, featuring slide shows or movies about natural features found in Missouri¹s state parks. Guided hikes and a variety of other programs are provided as well.

Many lake visitors escape the summer¹s heat by exploring 56° Ozark Caverns. Follow Highway A (between Osage Beach and Camdenton) for eight miles and follow the signs. After paying a small fee, hand held lanterns are provided which enhance the sense of discovering a whole new world of underground beauty. The spectacular Angel’s Shower, a never-ending flow of water which seems to fall from the solid ceiling of rock into two massive bowl shaped stone basins on the cave floor, is one of the many features pointed out by your guide. Unusual animals, adapted to this world of darkness, can be seen as well.

Ozark Caverns Visitor Center opened in 1987 and helps visitors understand the cave environment. The one mile Coakley Hollow Self-Guided Trail near the Visitor Center takes visitors through one of the most scenic and naturally diverse parts of the park. This is one of ten trails in the park.

More info:

https://www.funlake.com/state-parks 

Love of the Lens – On Location

Badlands – South Dakota 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

A must see destination

By far my favorite, the Badlands National Park is located in the midst of the Northern Great Plains and named Mako Sica by the Lokata people. Here you can get lost….with of 244,000 acres of spectacular landscapes, native mixed grass prairie, a large variety of native wildlife, amazing fossils, wonderful skyscapes and compelling human and geological history.

The Badlands were formed by the geologic forces of deposition and erosion over 69 million years ago when an ancient sea stretched across what is now the Great Plains. After the sea retreated, successive land environments, including rivers and flood plains, continued to deposit sediments. Although the major period of deposition ended 28 million years ago, significant erosion of the Badlands did not begin until a mere half a million years ago. Erosion continues to carve the Badlands buttes today. Eventually, the Badlands will completely erode away.