Hiking

  • Greatest hits of the Ice Age

    If you’ve ever walked in Wisconsin, chances are you’ve walked on the edge of a glacier. The ice is gone, but not the rubble it pushed across the landscape, or the rock its melting waters carved. As the last glacier retreated, it left a path that geologists can follow as easily as yellow lines on a highway. That path now is the 1,100-mile Ice Age National Scenic Trail, with 620 miles marked, usually by yellow rectangles tacked to trees. It’s easy to follow in the forest, but many of the most spectacular spots are right along highways.

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  • 20 great spring hikes

    What's so great about hiking in spring? That's easy – there's so much to see. Move your feet in any direction and you'll run across wildflowers, waterfalls and, best of all, sweeping views that last only until the trees leaf out. Head out before summer makes its brash appearance, with walls of greenery and fleets of bugs.

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  • 5 great hikes in Minneapolis

    want to get "off the beaten path.'' We visited Portland for the first time one Labor Day, and all we knew is that it's an outdoorsy town. So we were looking for a nice hike in Forest Park, one of the nation's largest municipal forests with 80 miles of hiking trails. Wow! Except we only needed four or five of those miles. Surely, we thought, there's a "best hike'' that all the locals know about. Nope — our guidebook, maps and the local hikers forum were useless.

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  • Walking in Duluth

    A few steps into the forest, and it hit. The tang of cedar bark and pine needles, moistened by droplets of mist from waterfalls. The loamy richness of earth carpeted by ferns. eau de outdoors that gladdened my heart and also made it sink with the realization that I'd stayed in the city far, far too long.

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  • Goin' on a treasure hunt

    If ever there was a game for our times, it's geocaching. Why worry about the lost billions on Wall Street when there's treasure everywhere, under fallen logs, in the crooks of trees, on the girders of bridges? Why think about the future when you can be out in the woods channeling Long John Silver, Indiana Jones and the Hardy Boys? Anyone who enjoyed childhood will like this modern-day party game, enabled by a Tom Swiftian gadget that flashes numbers beamed out of the sky.

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  • Hikes with benefits

    Out in the forest, solitude can be overrated. Occasionally, we all need silence. But you may have more fun if you play follow the leader. When I go on a hike, especially if I don't know the area well, I like to tag along with naturalists. Thanks to them, I've learned all kinds of interesting things.

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  • Peak experiences

    I parked, walked up an oak-lined path and, just like that, was atop the highest point in Illinois. Charles Mound, at 1,235 feet above sea level, was a nice place to be. Near the U.S. Geological Survey benchmark, its thoughtful owners had placed two lawn chairs, facing a golden, hazy countryside dotted with silos.

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  • Trekking the Superior Hiking Trail

    To a novice, Minnesota's Superior Hiking Trail presents a bewilderment of possibilities. There are 310 miles of trail between Jay Cooke State Park near Duluth and the Canadian border. Some are in the city, some deep in forest. Many stretches include spectacular views of Lake Superior, but others (gasp!) are a little boring. People come from all over the nation to hike this beloved trail, and some take three or four weeks and do the whole thing. But there are many ways to hike the trail.

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  • King of the hill

    When it comes to hiking, we all like to be on top. There's nothing like a great view, especially in fall. Climbing until we're eye level with birds and caressed by breezes, watching the land roll away into the horizon, we feel as if we're on top of the world. Even military officers and scientists turn into poets when faced with a beautiful view, such as those at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in the Upper Peninsula.

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  • Trying out the Border Route

    In Minnesota canoe country, hikers get serious bragging rights by backpacking the Border Route Trail. This 65-mile trail roughly parallels the Ontario border, mostly through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The volunteers who maintain it can't use mechanized tools there, and signs aren't allowed. Navigation isn't easy, and hikers frequently have to dodge blown-down trees.

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  • Hiking Minnesota's North Shore

    It took me nearly 20 years of hiking on the North Shore to tackle Eagle Mountain. It’s the highest point in Minnesota, but it’s not exactly on the shore; it’s 14 miles inland, as the crow flies. I was used to tramping along the rocky river gorges whose horehound-tinted waters rivers boil furiously down to Lake Superior; I was used to drama.

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  • In the shadow of the Giant

    On the northwest corner of Lake Superior, a 1,000-foot-high sleeping giant stretches across the horizon. It’s mesmerized onlookers for millennia. In 2007, Canadian Broadcasting Corp. listeners voted it No. 1 of Seven Wonders of Canada, far outpolling Niagara Falls.

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  • How to prevent Lyme disease

    In the woods, the first ticks appear as soon as snow starts to melt, and they're out en masse when warmer weather arrives in April and May. Regular ticks are bad enough, scuttling into hidden niches on the human body and gorging themselves on blood. But their ick factor pales next to the danger posed by black-legged ticks, which can transmit Lyme and other diseases. Black-legged ticks, also known as deer ticks, need to be attached to the skin for 24 to 36 hours to transmit the disease. Even then, it’s usually treated easily if caught promptly.

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  • Tracing the Ice Age Trail

    When the last glacier melted out of Wisconsin, it left a gift to future generations. But over time, the ice seeped away and created kettle lakes for fishermen. The raging meltwater stripped away softer rock, leaving walls of volcanic rock for climbers and scenic river gorges for canoeists.

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  • 30 classic fall hikes

    An autumn Saturday dawns, sunny and mild. It’s a perfect day for hiking — but where? But if you're looking for the kind of hike that makes you marvel at nature and feel glad to be alive, you'll probably have to look a little farther afield.

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  • Hiking in Duluth

    It's a city of 86,000, after all. But this hillside town, once called the San Francisco of the North, has spectacular terrain for trails, along glacial beach terraces high above Lake Superior and on creeks that tumble down rocky ravines. Many hikers blow through Duluth on their way to sections of the Superior Hiking Trail farther up the North Shore. But the 43 miles that cross Duluth provide the most concentrated scenery on the entire trail, lake views and waterfalls included.

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  • Don't be a dope in the woods

    In the pandemic year of 2020, everyone wants to spend time outside. Which is great, unless you're inexperienced and in a remote or unfamiliar place. In the northwestern corner of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park was packed with visitors all summer, and many weren't prepared — in the 10 weeks before Labor Day, rangers had to answer 30 search-and-rescue calls, as compared to only six in all of 2019.

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  • Trek to Timm's Hill

    Even if it weren’t official, Timm’s Hill would be the high point of any Wisconsin hiking trip. Timm’s Hill, a big pile of rock and gravel deposited by the last glacier, is Wisconsin’s highest point at 1,952 feet above sea level. I went hiking there expecting, well, a big pile with a nice view. Which it was. It also turned out to be in the middle of an intriguing pocket of forest, settled by Swedes, Finns and Germans stubborn enough to handle the rocks sprinkled over the hills like salt on a pretzel.

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