Staycation: 5 Heartland Trips Under 2 Hours

The Heartland is full of great hotspots for a “staycation.”

So are you up for a road trip?

The only rule: it has to be less than two hours away.

Here’s what we found:

1. Tower Rock, Perry County, MO

Legend has it, this rock form has been the subject of much historical legend and lore. Some even say it’s haunted. The earliest mention of this island was by French explorer Jacques Marquette, he passed it in 1673. These days, the rock stands about 60 feet above the average river level. You can walk to it, if the water is low, otherwise it is only accessible by boat. It’s surrounded by forest.

A hiking trail leads you to a perfect place to snap a photo of Tower Rock.

CLICK HERE for the story of Tower Rock.

2. Little Grand Canyon, Pomona, IL


Tucked away in the hills of southern Illinois’ scenic wine trail, you’ll find the Little Grand Canyon. It’s a hidden gem for hikers, mainly because of the drastic changes in elevation. In some areas, you may climb through bluffs on the canyon floor, and then up 350 feet. Not to mention, the gorgeous scenic overlooks. The key, though, is to take the slightly overgrown side-trail. It’ll lead you to this sweeping view of the Big Muddy River and the Mississippi floodplain.

3. Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour, Makanda, IL

Experience the Shawnee National Forest like never before at the Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour in southern Illinois. That is where you can literally soar among the tree tops. Once you strap in and step off, you’ll zip across the bluffs and zig-zag through the valleys, reaching speeds up to 40 miles per hour. It’s a thrill like no other. “I like to say our course runs like kindergarten but it has a graduate school feel to it as far as adrenaline,” Marc Miles said, owner and developer of the canopy tour.

For a closer look, CLICK HERE.

4. Trail of Tears State Park, Cape Girardeau County, MO

Get a history lesson in one of the saddest chapters in American history, where nine of the 13 Cherokee Indian groups being relocated to Oklahoma crossed the Mississippi River during harsh winter conditions in 1838 and 1839. The park’s visitor center tells the tale of the thousands who died on the forced march. On a lighter note, you can also hike, swim, camp or fish at the park’s many natural features. It’s the best place to take a group of people.

5. Cave Vineyard, Ste. Genevieve, MO

In Ste. Genevieve, you’ll find a magical combination of caves and Missouri’s wine country. It’s all a part of Cave Vineyard. The tasting room literally sits on top of the cave. Once you have a glass of wine in hand, you’re invited for a picnic inside it. Back in the day, early French settlers mined there for saltpeter, which was used to make gunpowder. Today, you’ll mostly just find wine enthusiasts sipping on local vino.

At this winery, you’re even encouraged to dunk biscotti into your wine. CLICK HERE to learn about this Italian tradition.

Nichole Cartmell

Nichole Cartmell

Nichole Cartmell is the reporter and producer for Heartland Weekend.