Visiting the Midwest in an RV


Brennen Charles

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The Midwest is a region in-between. Not quite east, not quite west. Not completely prairie, not completely forest. It exists as an amalgamation—a blend of vibrant cities and untapped wilderness, of notable patriotic landmarks and the soothing sounds of rivers, ponds, and, of course, the Great Lakes. The Midwest has variety, and with that comes an assortment of reasons to visit in an RV.

The Midwest appears to fade into a never-ending landscape, smoothed out from ancient glacial drift and dense with trees and vegetation from the fauna of the western United States. It is anchored by the Great Lakes and defined by a sense of warmth and community, fun, and adventure.

There’s no single way to experience the Midwest as it’s always changing with the season and with the times. A frozen lake in January that’s home to ice fishing and snowshoeing turns into a summer paradise with boating and kayaking in June. Visit again and again and have a unique experience each time you explore this region with your RV.

Highlights of the Heartland

Lake Michigan, Superior, and Eerie all border states defined as Midwest. Chicago calls the “Heartland” home, as does St. Louis, Detroit, and other often-overlooked Midwest towns. Sharing in this ownership are dozens of national and state parks, hundreds of miles of protected lands and hiking trails, lakes and rivers, campgrounds, and RV Parks. In this way, the Midwest is your oyster, explore it your way, on your time. Plan an itinerary down to the minute, or let the Heartland inspire you to adventure spontaneously, letting the diversity of the land inspire curiosity and exploration.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

With its hundreds of miles of lakeshore, seeming endless pine forests, and incredible sand dunes, Michigan truly is the crown jewel of the Midwest. And, one of the most stunning attractions in Michigan is the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Pictured Rocks gets its name from the cliffs that border Lake Superior. Their vibrant colors formed from groundwater with hues ranging from red and orange to blue and green, brown, black, and white.

Visit and enjoy more than 100 miles of hiking trails packed with view after breathtaking view. Or, go on a boat tour to get a different perspective on the cliffs. You can also rent a kayak, visit a lighthouse, go on a guided tour, and, of course, take a dip in Lake Superior.

Colorful Mineral Stained Cliffs at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
Colorful Mineral Stained Cliffs at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Image: Shutterstock.

RV Campgrounds Near Pictured Rock National Lakeshore

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt vigorously promoted the conservation movement during his time as president. That effort is visible today through the many national parks formed during his administration and in his memory. One such place is Theodore Roosevelt National Park –  the most popular tourist location in North Dakota.

Located in the western part of the state—in the Badlands, the park is full of gorgeous scenery. American Bison are common, as are mule deer, pronghorn, elk, and wild horses. The park has three separate locations, including two of Roosevelt’s personal ranches. Visit and enjoy 100s of miles of hiking trails, scenic drives, and, if you visit during the right time, the annual Dakota Nights Astronomy Festival. Also, make sure to pack some binoculars to get some up-close looks at the wildlife without having to get close at all.

North Dakota Badlands
North Dakota Badlands / Getty Images

RV Campgrounds Near Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Door County, Wisconsin

A destination of destinations, Door County, Wisconsin truly is a door to adventure, food, fun, and discovery. The entire county consists of a peninsula bordered on all sides by Lake Michigan. As a result, the county has more than 300 miles of lakeshore. Watch the sunrise and sunset over the water without leaving the county. Enjoy thousands of acres of orchards, peruse art galleries, indulge in sweets like their famous cherry pie, and, take a splash in the lake.

The county is also home to 11 historic lighthouses that offer great views of Lake Michigan any time of year. You can go on plenty of scenic tours, or, if you’ve had your fill on outdoor fun, stick to the towns for a spa day or museum outing.

Door County, Wisconsin Midwest
Door County / Getty Images

RV Campgrounds Near Door County

Lake of the Ozarks State Park, Missouri

The Ozarks. It’s a sprawling area of mountains, forests, highlands, and waterways spanning four states and more than 47,000 miles. The Lake of the Ozarks Reservoir, in Missouri, is just one of many attractions within the Ozarks. The reservoir has two swimming beaches, several hiking trails along the bluffs, tours into the Ozark Caverns, top-notch largemouth bass fishing, ski boat rentals, and plenty of other water-related attractions and activities.

As a major summer destination, plenty of food options have popped up. Dine by the lake with plenty of seafood and fresh fish options and cool off with delicious frozen treats and ice cream. Relax at any of the local spas and pick up some souvenirs or just a new outfit or two at the boutiques, antique shops, and flea markets.

RV Campgrounds Near Lake of the Ozarks State Park

Black Hills National Forest, South Dakota

At the western-most edge of the Midwest is a 1.2 million-acre forest – The Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota. Described as an “island in the Plains,” the Black Hills jut up from surrounding grasslands with ponderosa pine trees as far as the eye can see. Activities are just as immense—from hiking and camping to mountain biking, horseback riding, rock climbing, wildlife viewing, and more.

You can also hit the water in the deep blue lakes and streams. Enjoy swimming, boating, and fishing. And, the Black Hills aren’t limited to the warmer months. Stop by in the winter and enjoy ice skating, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and ice fishing.

Black Hills, South Dakota
Black Elk Peak/Harney Peak, Custer County, Mount Rushmore UT, South Dakota, USA

RV Campgrounds Near Black Hills National Forest

Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota

One of the most iconic symbols of America along with the Gateway Arch and Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a destination worth visiting for anyone from history buffs to outdoor enthusiasts and everyone in-between. Aside from taking a picture standing in front of the sculpture of the four faces of pivotal U.S. presidents, visitors can also hike on the Blackberry Hiking Trail, hit up the visitor center for some historical exhibits, and go on a series of self-guided tours.

Naturally, the Memorial has several special activities and events that take place in and around Independence Day. So, if your RV road trip coincides, definitely consider stopping by Mount Rushmore for a presidential reenactment, dancing presentations, storytelling, and, of course, fireworks.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial
Mount Rushmore National Memorial / Getty Images

RV Campgrounds Near Mount Rushmore National Memorial

These are just a small portion of all the cities, parks, sites, and destinations to consider when planning an RV adventure through the Midwest. You’ll always be welcome back–by the people, by the landmarks, by the lakes, and by the overall sense of adventure and exploration the Midwest provides with every sunrise, sunset, warm summer night, and chilling winter morning. See you then.

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