The Best Microadventures In Each Of The Midwestern States

For the next month, Uproxx GPS is zeroing in on “microadventures” — day trips, quick jaunts, and small-scale explorations that will notch neatly into your busy life. As part of this initiative, we’re counting off the best day trips in five different regions of the country. Today we’re in the Midwest, where surprising shorelines and expansive prairies abound!

Two weeks ago, we started this journey on the West Coast as enthusiastic adventurers, and our fervor to get the hell out of the office grows daily. The Southwest had us dreaming of rock climbing and hot, dry hikes. This week has us longing to kayak along the shore of some Great Lake.

That’s the beauty of microadventures — one or two day mini-trips with a night spent in the open air: You don’t have to hand in your notice. You can get out in nature for a night or two, get that itch scratched, and be back typing your little fingers raw the next day. And, you don’t have to spend that much to do it. A tank or two of gas, food, water, beer, and one campsite fee later and you’ve spent less than you would on a bar crawl. Those tiki drinks add up.

There isn’t a single adventure on this list that doesn’t make up passionately love the Midwest. Even if you never get to Nebraska or a Dakota, reading about these places will make you wish you could. And — if you have been to these places — tell us in the comments and we can bond over our shared experiences. Nothing connects people via the internet like a shared love of caving in the Ozarks.

North Dakota: Maah Daah Hey Trail

Maah Daah Hey Trail is often called North Dakota’s best-kept secret, but as it is also called the longest and most grueling single-track mountain biking route in the country. Point being: It may not be so much secrecy keeping the crowds at bay but fear. If you are new to microadventuring, you likely aren’t looking to mountain bike the 96-mile trail over a weekend, and believe me we totally empathize. That’s not what we are suggesting. We want you out along the trail just long enough to tell people you biked or hiked through the badlands. That’s class A bragging rights.

Unlike a lot of our suggestions, Maah Daah Hey Trail doesn’t date back to the early 1900s. It’s a relatively recent addition to North Dakota’s parks and recreation scene. Construction was instituted in 1995 and was completed in four years, thanks to help from the United States Forest Service, North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department, and Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The name comes from the Mandan Indian language for “grandfather.”

With a trail this long, there are bound to be multiple camping sites (there are eleven total), but we are partial to the Magpie Campground — and not just because of the fun name. It has a lot going for it. With only 11 sites, it’s not going to be overrun with tons of people. Plus, in addition to being only a single short, scenic walk away from Maah Daah Hey Trail, it’s also on the Ice Caves Trail, which takes you to a series of cliffs and caves that remain icy and snowy into July. So, should the biking not work out, you have a solid natural backup plan. The campground is only $6 a night.