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Hidden treasures in the Midwest to add to your next road trip

Just because these lesser-known attractions have fewer crowds, doesn’t mean they aren’t worthy of a detour—check out some of the Midwest’s best-kept secrets

Looking for a trip that isn’t on everybody else’s radar? While the Midwest is filled with popular attractions—ranging from national parks to museums, art installations, and more—that doesn’t mean you should skip on some of its least-talked-about destinations. These locations offer everything a roadtripper looks for, minus the long lines and crowds found at trendier attractions. 

From remote islands and cavernous landmarks to national and state parks, here are a few of the Midwest’s top hidden gems.

Midwest Midas locations

Midas wants to help you get ready for your road trip, starting with your vehicle. Our techs can run a completely free Closer Look Vehicle Check. This in-depth visual inspection lets you know what needs fixing now and what can wait, so you can hit the road with confidence. 

Map showing all Midwest Midas locations

Comet shooting through the dark night sky
Photo: Stephanie Vermillion

Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota  

As a certified Dark Sky Park, Voyageurs is the perfect place to plan a stargazing adventure, especially if you’re trying to catch the northern lights. This waterway-based park is also an ideal location for canoeing, kayaking, and even house boating on its many freshwater lakes and streams. Located near the Canadian border, Voyageurs features wild forests, rugged rock formations, waterfalls, islands, and plenty of hiking and camping opportunities. The views alone make this park worthy of a trek north.

Winding river cutting through high plains of rock and tall grass

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota 

Wild landscapes, roaming bison, a petrified forest, and stunning geologic views are just a few of the things you can expect during a visit to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The park is divided into three units: the North Unit, South Unit, and Elkhorn Ranch Unit (where a young Roosevelt once lived). While the South Unit is the most popular area of the park, don’t miss out on the rugged beauty of the other sections. The best way to tour the park is by hiking, biking, or driving one of the park’s scenic roadways in both the North and South units. This is also a great place for primitive and backcountry camping.

Large toadstool-shaped rock formation sticking out of the ground

Toadstool Geologic Park, Nebraska

Unlike other areas of Nebraska known for flat, prairie landscapes and farming communities, Toadstool Geologic Park offers visitors a different side of this Midwestern state. The park features whimsical, toadstool-like rock formations, fossil deposits, and wild badlands. Located in the Oglala National Grassland, Toadstool is operated by the U.S. Forest Service and features a small campground with sites for dry camping. Researchers have unearthed many fossils in this area; some large mammal fossils even date all the way back to prehistoric times. The park’s trail system makes it easy to get a closer look at all of the unique terrain on display, and you can take a self-guided tour by picking up an interpretive brochure at the park’s kiosk.

Interior of a cave with long jagged rocks hanging down and a small pool of water

Cave of the Mounds, Wisconsin

This Midwest attraction is quite literally hidden underground. Located less than 30 miles outside of Madison, Wisconsin, kids and adults alike will love exploring Cave of the Mounds. This beautiful, natural limestone cave system was accidentally unearthed by quarry workers back in the 1930s. Today, it’s designated as a National Natural Landmark, and guests can take guided or self-guided tours through the cave, which is open year round, rain or shine. Above ground, there are several hiking trails—plus, Blue Mound State Park is located nearby for even more outdoor adventure and camping. 

Colorful northern lights above a big lake against a night sky
Photo: Stephanie Vermillion

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

Ditch the crowds (and your car) for a wild adventure unlike any other. Sitting in the middle of Lake Superior, Isle Royale (open seasonally) is one of the most isolated national parks in the U.S.—accessible by ferry, seaplane, or private boat from Michigan or Minnesota. However, the pristine, rugged beauty of this park makes it well worth the travel effort, even if you’re just visiting for a day. While backpacking is the most popular way to see the park, you can also navigate the area by boat or bikepack the island’s permitted trailways. There are also two lodging facilities located on Isle Royale at Rock Harbor and Windigo, for those not looking to pitch a tent.

Quaint town resting on the shores of a blue body of water

Mackinac Island, Michigan

Resting on another Great Lake between Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas, Lake Huron’s Mackinac Island is perfect for day trips and weekend stays. The quaint island is car-free and accessible by ferry or plane. While most of the island is open from May through October, summer tends to be the busiest time of year, so if you’re looking to avoid the crowds, you’ll want to visit in the spring or fall months. On the island, there’s plenty of lodging, shops, dining options, and, of course, the area’s famous Mackinac Island Fudge. The most common way to see the island’s unforgettable scenery is via bicycle, but visitors can also take walking tours and horse-drawn carriage rides.

Small waterfall dumping into a pool of water with ice and snow surrounding the outside of the water
Photo: Samantha Lechlitner-Lewis

Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio

Although growing in popularity, Hocking Hills is still an overlooked public park, especially for those residing outside of the Midwest region. Tucked away in the southeastern corner of Ohio, the state park features an incredible trail system that winds hikers through a myriad of beautiful scenery. From towering bluffs and shaded forests to waterfalls and caves, visitors can explore a variety of landscapes that are spectacular all year round. Stay on-site at the park’s campground, rent a cabin, or book a room at the new Hocking Hills State Park Lodge.