Exploring the unknown is the key to adventure.
As Memorial Day Weekend looms near, we are fielding questions about places to go and some have asked about adventure routes. It is good to remember that adventure and exploration are closely related because both involve stepping outside of one’s comfort zone and embarking on a journey into the unknown. Whether it’s exploring new locations, trying new things, or facing new challenges, adventure and exploration are essential components of personal growth and fulfillment. So why not set out to discover on your own instead of following someone else’s adventure? We usually pick a place that we want to go, and explore the best (worst?) way to get there. Here are some places to put on your list and some fun roads in the area. Put them together and chart your own path!
- Hoosier National Forest– The Charles C. Deam Wilderness has amazing hiking and equestrian trails. Search Gaia GPS for possible dispersed spots or stay at Blackwell. Horse Camp. Use the MVUM to find routes that look interesting. Tower Ridge Rd is a great starting point and offshoots lead to campsites, caves, fire lookout towers and more.
- Turkey Run State Park– Camping, hiking, canoeing and scenic lookouts are just a few highlights of this park, and Parke County boasts 31 covered bridges.
- Shawnee National Forest lies between the Mississippi and Ohio rivers and its terrain spans woodlands, hills and lakes. The Garden of the Gods wilderness area features hiking among ancient sandstone cliffs and formations. Bike the River to River Trail or visit Jackson Falls, Millstone Bluff, Bell Smith Springs or Ferne Clyffe State Park (you can drive over the top of a waterfall on Regent Land in the West unit.)
- Galena sits in the Driftless Region and there are many gravel roads to explore in the area. Check out Hanover Bluff State Natural Area and drive gravel roads through Welsh Hollow, Long Hollow and Irish Hollow as you wind around the Apple River.
- Lower Peninsula -The Huron-Manistee National Forest covers over 978,000 acres of land in Northern Michigan, and offers a variety of off-road trails and scenic routes. One suggested route to incorporate in your travel plans is the Little Manistee Trail, which is a 46-mile loop that features a mix of terrain, including dirt roads, sand, and mud.
- Upper Peninsula- If you are coming from Wisconsin, make True North Outpost your first stop (spend the afternoon rafting with them!) and then check out the Norway Truck Trail. The Hiawatha and Ottawa National Forests offer unending two track and dispersed camping as well as small, rustic campgrounds (our favorite is Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness Campground.) Challenge- plot an adventure from Sidnaw north starting on Forest Route 2200 and find your way up to L’Anse – possible stops could include the Bear Den Overlook, Silver Mountain, Baraga Plains and find some waterfalls to chase on the way. We also love wandering north from Kitch-iti-kippi to Munising taking Thunder Lake Rd or Forest Highway 13. We can’t leave out the Keweenaw- take Gay-Lake Linden-Lac La Belle Rd and then find a way to cut north across the peninsula on Iron Gate to Lake Gratiot Rd. (NOTE: The popular Bill Nicholls Route has many closures and is probably not a good destination until the washouts and issues are repaired.)
- Lake Superior’s north shore offers stunning views of the lake and surrounding forests. The Superior National Forest includes several off-road trails and forest roads that are accessible by 4×4, such as the Superior National Forest Road 343.
- Spider Lake Recreation Area offers over 70 miles of off-road trails through the forest and around the lakes. The area features steep hills, water crossings, and rocky terrain, making it a challenging but rewarding destination for 4×4 enthusiasts to include on a trip.
The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest offers endless dispersed, free camping and two track routes that wander along meadows, forests, lakes and rivers. Many county forests also allow dispersed camping. Wisconsin Explorer has a nice list of resources for finding dispersed sites. Get a paper MVUM or download Gaia (25% off a Premium membership here) and use the Overlander layer that has the MVUM and a few other useful layers. Marinette County is Wisconsin’s waterfall capital, dispersed camping is allowed (buy permit here) and you can setup basecamp to explore the many waterfalls and hiking trails.
Exploration is a key aspect of adventure. Exploration allows you to expand your horizons, learn new things, and discover new opportunities. Through exploration, you can push your boundaries and test your limits, which can lead to personal growth and give you a huge sense of satisfaction that you did it your way.