Spring Recreation in the Eastern Region

9 Must-See Spring Destinations

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie BisonRim Rock National Recreation TrailHemlock Cliffs Hoosier National ForestNordhouse Dunes Wilderness AreaGreer Spring Trail Mark Twain National ForestWildcat Hollow Trail Wayne National ForestHapgood Pond Recreation AreaSeneca Rocks National Recreation AreaQuartz Hill Trail Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest


Spring is a time of renewal, awakening and adventure. As parts of the Eastern Region are beginning to thaw, other areas are fully embracing spring. They provide the perfect spot for a spring recreation adventure for all ages, all types of outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers!




Midewin Bison

An hour from the hustle and bustle of Chicago is a place of quiet sunrises, showcasing fields of wildflowers, chatting birds and Bison! Step back through time with a visit to the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie for a chance to catch a glimpse of their conservation Bison herd. Some 200 years ago, bison prominently roamed this landscape, and in November 2015, a long-term shared vision of returning them was realized thanks to the work and support of the National Forest Foundation, partners and volunteers. The herd was introduced as a 20-year experiment in restoring the landscape to native tallgrass prairie. Because of the herd’s location, binoculars are recommended. Once on-site, make the Midewin Welcome Center (open 8a.m.-4:30p.m.) your first stop. You can speak to Midewin staff and volunteers about the best viewing spots and pick up maps for your adventure.


Rim Rock National Recreation Trail

Pack your picnic basket and grab your hiking boots for a visit to the Shawnee National Forest’s Rim Rock National Recreation Trail. Tucked away in the rolling Shawnee Hills, the trail meanders around the rim of a rock escarpment, hence the name. It features vistas of a canyon below, remnants of prehistoric Native American life and diverse habitats. It’s known for a spectacular show of spring woodland flowers along both its upper and lower trails. Along the lower trail you will find impressive sandstone rock formations, massive bottomland hardwood trees and Ox-lot cave. The upper trail features interpretive signs and leads past remnants of a stone wall built by prehistoric Native Americans, a Civilian Conservation Corps plantation and an observation platform.



Hemlock Cliffs

Discover a valley of special beauty on a hike through the Hoosier National Forest’s Hemlock Cliffs. A one-mile hiking trail leads you down into the canyon under a lush canopy of large trees, through sandstone rock outcrop, rock shelters and past high seasonal waterfalls. Much of the sandstone is “honeycombed” by weathering of iron ores. You’ll also see lush vegetation such as Hemlock, a tall evergreen with short needles and small cones, rare wintergreen, French’s shooting star and Mountain laurel. Plan two hours for this adventure in tranquility and discovery.



Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area

For some tranquility and wonder, check out the Huron-Manistee National Forest’s Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area. In addition to viewing dunes that stand up to 140 feet high, you can also hike, camp, study nature and view wildlife. The dunes were formed 3, 0000 to 4,000 years ago and are interspersed with juniper, jack pine and hemlock. There are approximately 10 miles of trail that can accessed from two developed trailheads. Make sure to take a stroll along the sand beach, and keep an eye out for the federally endangered Piping Plover.



Greer spring Trail

Hiking along the peaceful Greer Spring Trail in the Mark Twain National Forest, your pathway is decorated with abundant wildflowers in bloom, vibrant yellow trout lily, Jacob’s ladder and harbinger of spring. Look up and you may see Indian pipe, bird’s-foot violet, and firepink scattered along the ridgetops. The reward for your 0.9 mile hike is a specular view of Greer Spring, Missouri’s second largest spring. Through the mist you will find beautiful smooth water cascading over rocks and plentiful ferns and mosses. Bishop’s cap, Ebony spleenwort, and wild columbine are scattered along the dolomite cliffs that surround the spring. Following the spring’s path you will find horned pondweed, elodea and waterthread pondweed. The best part is that you can view this splendor right now as peak wildflower viewing in this area is March through mid-June.

For a cool glimpse of history, continue your adventure with a quarter mile walk from the trailhead to the historic Greer Roller Mill.



Wildcat Hollow Trail

Miles of scenic trail wind along ridgetops and stream bottoms venturing through pine plantations, open meadows, and deciduous forests in a hike through the Wayne National Forest’s Wildcat Hollow trail. This popular trail offers five and 15 mile loop trails overlooking a beautiful landscape. It’s a perfect spring destination for wildflower enthusiasts as the Trail is a recommended wildflower viewing area. Bring your binoculars and a tent as dispersed camping is allowed at the Trail and Trailhead. Wildflowers are at their peak in late April/early May, and April 15 is the official opening of trail season, so plan your trip today!

Click here for a printable map of the trail route.



Hapgood Pond Recreation Area

This area is the site of the first land acquired by the Green Mountain National Forest and has something for everyone. Dust off your tent and camp in a wooded setting, hike the 0.8 mile nature trail, and relax and refresh at two day-use areas. Remember to pack your grill favorites and take advantage of the picnic areas, grill included. If you’re really feeling adventurous, take a dip in the pond, or try your hand at fishing on the wheelchair accessible pier.


West Virginia

Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area

Thousands of acres of spectacular views and a plethora of recreation opportunities await you at Monongahela National Forest’s Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area. Plan to hike to Spruce Knob Tower, which sits atop the highest peak in West Virginia. While the picturesque Seneca Rocks rise nearly 900 feet above North Fork River. Plan a picnic and pack your tent to enjoy the view at the Seneca Rocks picnic area and Seneca shadows campground. And, remember to stop in at the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center, which opens April 1.



Quartz Hill Trail

This trail, located in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, has two sections – with history on one side and very cool rocks on the other. The east section leads across a boardwalk to the top of McCaslin Mountain. It has moderately steep sections, but the view from the top of this quartz rock outcrop is worth it. Along the trail to the top you’ll find a quartz crystal deposit with a sign describing how early Native Americans came to the exact spot to quarry quartz to create tools. To the West, you’ll find the remnants of the Carter Fire Lookout Tower. Once used to spot forest fires, all that remains are the tower footings and roadway.


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