Throughout America’s Heartland, epic outdoor experiences and inspiring natural wonders— sweeping vistas, stunning rock formations, and dazzling waterfalls cascading into sublime forests—are only a few hours’ drive away. Those lucky enough to live here are spoiled by such boundless beauty, not to mention proximity to state parks and national forests in Missouri and Illinois.
For more than 40 years, the Alpine Shop in Missouri has been encouraging and inspiring generations to explore this incredible outdoor wonderland that is the Midwest. The Alpine Shop has five stores in the area—one each in Illinois and Kansas, as well as Missouri locations in Kirkwood, Chesterfield, and Columbia. At each store, customers can expect top-notch service from passionate outdoor enthusiasts eager to recommend their favorite outdoor destinations and the perfect gear to explore it. Among their wide selection of products are Osprey backpacks, and staff that will make sure that no matter what the family adventure—toting your kid in the Osprey Poco AG or day hiking with an Osprey Kestrel/Kyte—customers are well-equipped and confident.
If your family loves hiking in stunning forests, complete with beautiful creeks and waterfalls, look no further than Hickory Canyons Natural Area for your next adventure. Located in Sainte Genevieve County, it’s one of the lesser-visited gems of Missouri. With 1,000 acres and two short trails that measure just over a mile, it delivers serious bang for the buck and is perfect for a day out with the kids. Sandstone and box canyons dominate the landscape, while red + white oak trees and sugar maples add shade and variety to the views. The trails offer up stunning views of the bluffs and cliffs, and because they’re on the shorter side, they’re perfect for all ages. An ideal piece of gear for this trek if you’re carrying the kids is the comfy Osprey Poco AG; a lightweight pack that keeps weight perfectly centered.
Those looking for a more ambitious exploration of the wilderness should consider Sam A. Baker State Park in Missouri’s southeast corner. Here, an incredible backpacking route sprawls the rugged countryside for 16.75 miles, rising and dropping in elevation through some of the wildest terrain in the state. The trail, which is well-suited to intermediate or advanced backpackers, starts in the valley of Big Creek and climbs up to the fantastic views from Mudlick Mountain. Along the way, backpackers and speedy day hikers will pass undisturbed groves of old growth trees, as well as rock and wood shelters built in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Full of great views, waterfalls along ravines, and incredible forests, it’s easy to see why this is an incredibly popular backpacking destination for active families.
But a day of exploring the Heartland doesn’t have to end when the sun sets. Savor the long summer days by making your adventure an overnight trip. One recommended and centrally located camping destination is Cave-in-Rock State Park. Here, you can enjoy miles of family-friendly hikes leading to stunning natural wonders, while campsites feature all the amenities you need to make this a family camping vacation worth repeating. Looking for an experience that’s a bit more backcountry? Head just a few miles away and enjoy being spoiled by natural wilderness in Shawnee National Forest, whose Pine Ridge Campground at Pounds Hollow Recreation Area is a great spot for families. Once you’ve set up camp, don’t miss exploring the Rim Rock region, just a half-mile hike along the Beaver Trail from Pounds Hollow. Along the Rim Rock Trail, you’ll see huge rocks, awesome caves, and gorgeous creeks weaving through open forests. Fill up your Osprey Kestrel/Kyte pack with snacks, water, and a few extra layers and spend the whole day roaming this fantastic area.
For another inspiring experience, the Garden of the Gods region of Shawnee National Forest offers excellent camping in the shadow of one of the Midwest’s most unique geological locations. Camping at the Pharaoh Campground in the National Forest costs just $10 and puts you right next to the stunning sandstone scenery at Garden of the Gods. Along the easy half-mile trail, stand in awe of the exquisite sandstone sculptures that show off rocks up to 320 million years old. If the half-mile trail whets your appetite for adventure, consider loading up an Osprey Atmos 50 with a few days’ worth of supplies and make the incredible backpacking trip from Garden of the Gods to Lusk Creek Canyon. The canyons, creeks, valleys, and cliffs on this 23.4-mile one-way trail are truly spectacular, showing off dozens of mind-blowing scenes along this geological wonderland—just one of many gems awaiting exploration in the outdoor playground of the Midwest.
– Via Roots Rated