5 Midwest Destinations to Check Out in Your New Ford Bronco
Thus far, we’ve chronicled some very worthwhile Western U.S. destinations to point your Bronco towards, before moving on with a focus farther south. This time around, with the beginning of spring only weeks away and temperatures soon to rise, large swaths of the country will become more accessible for Bronco enthusiasts, so we’re now setting our sights on the great Midwest, where there’s no shortage of options once the weather lightens up.
Kimball Bottoms, North Dakota
Located right next to the Missouri River, Kimball Bottoms may not be among the best known destinations on this list, but for those seeking 4-wheel adventure, it has become a veritable mecca for off-roaders of all types, including dirt bikers, and ATV enthusiasts. Its rugged, wide-open land formations and, of course, that storied nearby river help provide about as scenic a backdrop as you could ever hope to find.
This area encompasses a surprising amount of land to traverse in your Bronco — just over 400 acres in all — and there’s a LOT of aesthetic variety. Depending on what part of the year you arrive, you may encounter sandbars just off the trails and even small islands that become accessible when water level is low.
Kimball Bottoms is more than just a “go-to” destination for those itching to conquer rough terrain. It’s favored by many recreation-minded individuals due to the sheer breadth of experiences it provides. Sure, there’s a ton of off-roading activity going on here, but there’s also solitude to be found with just a bit of effort and plenty of people journey here for the area’s boating and fishing.
Because of the Missouri River’s volatility, it’s always a good idea to check in with the Army Corp. of Engineers to see what the prevailing conditions are like before starting your trip.
Black Hills National Forest, South Dakota
There’s no shortage of scenic variety to be experienced here, ranging from nearly table-flat grassy plains to heavy woods and rugged trails. For the most part, Black Hills is more of an ultra-memorable wilderness destination than it is an adrenaline-pumping playground for off-roaders. Sure, there are opportunities to test your SUV skills here, but those areas comprise a fairly small part of the overall acreage, which is astoundingly large — there’s more than 13,000 acres of wilderness contained with the boundaries of this national forest.
Don’t get the impression you’ll be asphalt-bound here, though. Black Hills offers more than 3600 miles of roads and trails that are designated for motorized travel and just waiting to be explored from behind the wheel of your new Bronco. And in doing so, you’ll be able to experience its 11 reservoirs, 30+ campgrounds, 32 picnic areas, 353 miles of hiking trails and 1300 miles of streams. Yes, this place is an absolute Outdoors Paradise.
In addition to the designated campgrounds, dispersed camping is allowed just off many of the roads and trails, so the opportunities for solitude are plentiful. So are the opportunities to experience wildlife in its native habitat, in areas such as the nearby Norbeck Wildlife Preserve, which was created more than 80 years ago to stem the tide of a then-dwindling game animal population.
South Missouri Off-Road Ranch, Missouri
Specialization can certainly have its advantages and here’s a great example. This man-made facility was literally created from scratch for off-roaders — even to the point that the trails within its confines were cut, one by one.
There’s a great assortment of outdoor-centric amenities at The Ranch, including a number of cabins for those who prefer to sleep under a roof, no less than 45 RV hookups with electricity and a virtually endless array of more primitive camping options.
Special though it is, it’s not the place for everyone. No dirt bikes are permitted here, nor are ATVs and all vehicles that venture here must have either actual enclosed metal cabs or rollbar protection, working 4-wheel drive systems and a frame mounted tow hook that’s capable of handling its vehicle’s weight —just in case the need to extract oneself from unyielding ground occurs.
For those adventurers that do make the cut — and that leaves plenty of us — this place is an absolute blast! There’s a great variety of terrain to conquer and the seamless blending of camping and overlanding opportunities help contribute to the Ranch’s consistently high marks among review sites. Many loyalists return here time and time again. The fact that patrons are allowed to navigate the trails from 7am until midnight certainly helps, as well.
Silver Lake Sand Dunes, Michigan
Located about 4 hours outside of Chicago, Silver Lake Sand Dunes will be opening its proverbial doors in just a couple of weeks, as of this writing. Besides its obvious natural attraction — miles and miles of sand dunes adjacent to Lake Michigan is a pretty unbeatable asset in itself — Silver Lake offers quite an array of topography for SUV enthusiasts as well as ATV operators and more.
Geared largely toward families, you’ll also find an impressive assortment of amenities and activities conveniently located nearby, including the nearby Colonial Golf Course, canoe rentals at the Happy Mohawk Canoe Livery, horse rentals to explore the area from a different perspective, restaurants for a wide variety of tastes and even a couple of wineries.
Because of its family-centric sensibilities and to keep things pleasant for their patrons, Silver Lake does require a decibel check on ATVS and several other similar types of vehicles and, because there are surprisingly few recognized speed limits in the area save for the beaches, they ask for a modicum of common sense while putting your ride through its paces. This is another destination that gets consistently high marks from those fortunate enough to have ventured there.
Hot Springs ORV, Arkansas
This choice isn’t likely to cause much surprise among those residing anywhere near it — it’s been a destination of choice for outdoorsy Midwesterners for quite a while now. Hot Springs occupies a pretty sizable expanse of land — more than 1250 acres of trails, in fact — and offers a nice array of amenities, so it appeals to a wide variety of patrons. For those looking to put in some exhilarating off-roading time, there’s plenty of opportunity here, but for others seeking a more varied experience, you’ll also find plenty of camping spaces and cabins here — there’s even a convenience store nearby, so that you can stock up before or during your adventure here.
Unlike a few of the other choices on this list, Hot Springs doesn’t offer 4-wheel drive rentals as it seems to pride itself on catering to owners of this special breed of vehicle, so you will find yourself in the midst of plenty of like-minded enthusiasts, with Bronco owners no doubt well-represented.