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National Park Service trails to travel in the north

Follow the trail blazed by Lewis & Clark or hike through beautiful northern wildernesses along these notable trails.

North Country National Scenic Trail
North Country Trail (Credit: Travel Wisconsin)

Hike through the breathtaking wilds of Minnesota and Wisconsin and discover historical routes that pass through Illinois and Missouri as you explore these National Park Service sites in northern Mississippi River Country.

North Country National Scenic Trail (Minnesota/Wisconsin)

The North Country National Scenic Trail—just call it the North Country Trail for short—starts in Vermont and passes through eight states on its way to North Dakota, including Wisconsin and Minnesota. It’s the longest of the country’s 11 National Scenic Trails, covering more than 3,100 miles (4,990km) so far (a total of 4,600 miles/7,400 km have been proposed). The North Country Trail is also one of the nation’s most scenic routes, passing glacial lakes and streams, traversing verdant old-growth forests and leading hikers to historic sites and museums along the way. In Minnesota and Wisconsin, the trail follows scenic routes like the Superior Hiking Trail and passes through wonderful wildernesses like the Chequamegon National Forest.

Ice Age National Scenic Trail (Wisconsin)

Follow the edge of an ancient glacier as you traverse this trail through Wisconsin, which covers 1,200 miles (1,930km) from Door County along Lake Michigan on Wisconsin’s eastern edge to the St. Croix River along the state’s border with Minnesota. Along the way, you’ll discover the evidence of the glacier that covered the state—and much of North America—some 15,000 years ago as you pass beautiful lakes, river valleys and rolling hills throughout the state. Wisconsin’s Ice Age Trail Alliance helps build and maintain trails and has good resources for those wishing to travel any section of the trail.

Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail (Illinois/Missouri)

This trail stretches for nearly 5,000 miles (8,000km) through 16 states and commemorates the route of the famed Lewis & Clark expedition of the early 1800s. The trail covers Lewis’ outbound and inbound routes, as well as their preparatory route from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Wood River, Illinois. In Illinois, visitors can see Camp Dubois, where the duo made their winter camp, as well as notable nearby structures like the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site (also a UNESCO World Heritage Site). There are several visitors centers and museums on the Missouri section of the route, which stretches from Cape Girardeau along the Mississippi River in the southeast to Kansas City in the west.

Trail of Tears National Historic Trail (Illinois/Missouri)

Traveling through nine states, this trail tells the story of a sad chapter in American history. The Cherokee people were forcefully removed from their ancestral lands in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee in 1838-39 and traveled on foot, by horse, by wagon and by steamboat to reservations in what’s now Oklahoma. The 2,200-mile (3,540km) route highlights the land and water routes used by the Cherokee, and there are several interpretive sites in each state where visitors can learn more about this tragic voyage.

Other trails to try: