Showing 1-88 of 88 items found in Outdoors & Play
Fox River Trail
Located in Algonquin only 30 short miles west of downtown Chicago is where you will find the Fox River Trail. This medium level trail hugs the Fox River between Aurora and Algonquin. The trail travels along the routes of historic railroad lines and crosses six bridges along the way while it changes surfaces between concrete, asphalt and crushed stone on its way through charming towns such as Carpentersville, Elgin and West Dundee.
Apple River Canyon State Park
Apple River Canyon State Park is in the hilly northwest corner of Illinois in Jo Daviess County near the Wisconsin border. Limestone bluffs, deep ravines, springs, streams and wildlife characterize this area. Once a part of a vast sea bottom that stretched from the Alleghenies to the Rockies, the scenic canyon area was formed by the action of the winding waters of the Apple River. The park offers hiking, day use, camping and fishing, plus Millville, a National Historic Register site.
CITY: Apple River
Cache River State Natural Area
Renowned for its ancient cypress-tupelo swamp, this natural area has been named one of America's 10 Most Beautiful Hidden Gems by Budget Travel. This sprawling area contains 100 threatened or endangered plant and animal species, and 11 state champion trees that have stood for centuries. Visitors enjoy birding, hunting, wildlife watching, canoeing and hiking. Bikers can access the Cache River via the Tunnel Hill State Trail.
The Constitution Trail is a 36.4 mile asphalt and crushed stone trail of moderate difficulty. It begins at Atwood Wayside trailhead in Bloomington. Lined with trees where a variety of birds call home, you'll also find a fishing pond as well as an expanse of native prairie grassland.
Perry Farm Park
Enthusiasts of all kinds find enjoyment in the wide array of activities the park offers including 4-miles of fully accessible paved paths that wind through natural prairie, woods and riverfront of the Perry Farm site.
Jubilee College State Park
Home to one of the earliest educational enterprises in Illinois, the park and its sister site, Jubilee College State Historic Site, are located 15 miles northwest of Peoria near Kickapoo. In addition, to the rich history of the college, the park offers hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and camping. Jubilee College State Park has more than 40 miles of multi-use trails that wind through woodland, hills, ravines and prairies. Mountain bikers are reminded that horses have the right-of-way on the trails.
Vertical Heartland Climbing School at Draper's Bluff
Vertical Heartland Climbing School offers you an amazing opportunity to see Illinois from new heights. Perfect for rock climbing novices and experienced enthusiasts, Vertical Heartland offers hand-on instruction that’s provided by experienced guides with climbs tailored to suit your needs. Climbing services are available year round, seven days a week. Personal and group outings are scheduled by reservation. Reservations are preferred at least two weeks in advance.
I & M Canal State Trail
The I&M Canal Trail offers 61 miles of picturesque hiking and biking trails that follow the historic route of the I&M Canal from Channahon to LaSalle. The Trail also boasts Illinois’ longest continuous snowmobile trail, and is a favored route for cross-country skiers.
The Chicago Riverwalk trail in downtown Chicago is an easy way to experience the vibrant city while exploring some of its more nature-oriented offerings. This trail is rated as easy, and will take you only 2.5 hours or 4.2 miles round-trip to complete.
North Branch Trail
The North Branch Trail stretches from Chicago to the northern suburbs. Starting at the Bunker Hill Forest Preserve it twists through 15 miles of small bluffs, ponds, prairie, open grassy parkways and quaint little streams that trickle into the Chicago River. Paved with asphalt, The North Branch Trail makes for an easy to medium level of difficulty.
Chicago Lakefront Trail
Take in the lake as you soak in one of Chicago’s most beautiful treasures. The Lakefront Trail is a runner’s paradise, spanning an impressive 17-miles of natural beauty and man-made inspirations. It runs north from Navy Pier to Foster Avenue and south to 31st beach. The trail’s smooth terrain makes it easy to traverse, while its hidden secrets make it fun to explore. And when you’re done with your run, bike, hike or whatever, you can cool down with spectacular lake views or breathtaking cityscapes.
The Millennium Reserve
The Millennium Reserve stretches from downtown Chicago to the Indiana border and suburban Park Forest. It encompasses numerous neighborhoods, the Southeast lakefront, and 37 South suburban municipalities. In aggregate, the Reserve includes a collection of over 15,000 acres of open space such as parks, trails, wetlands, and forest preserves; Making it ideal for runners, bikers and kayakers alike.
Argyle Lake State Park
Find serenity at this beautiful 1700-acre wooded park situated along an old stagecoach route between Galena and Beardstown. Featuring 95-acre Argyle Lake, the park is home to countless beaver dams and more than 200 bird species and 5 miles of hiking and biking trails.
American Discovery Trail
What a way to travel - about 75 miles, from one major river to another (the Illinois and the Mississippi), all on one newly built trail. The Hennepin Parkway State Trail (a linear state park) offers surcease from the flat, treeless Illinois prairie with a lock-strewn straight course of water and a green tunnel over the old tow path of a canal that was obsolete before it was completed. Quaint towns lie nearby, camping spaces (usually primitive) abound, and history is there for the dipping of your fingers in the water. At Sheffield, a comprehensive trail museum more than fills the gaps in your experience of a very unique way to travel through the heart of America.
Schurmeier Teaching Forest
Two miles of beginner and intermediate hiking trails, educational signage teaches about tree and forestry practices. This forest is the perfect place to spend the day. Horses welcome!
Tapley Woods State Natural Area
Located 5 miles west of Elizabeth, IL, this 260 timbered acres provides public hunting areas, hiking and nature viewing.
The Busse Woods Trail system is located within Ned Brown Forest Preserve, a 3,700-acre property in the western suburbs of Chicago. There are 11.2 miles of paved trails for cyclists, equestrians and pedestrians. The main loop is nearly 8 miles, circling some lakes and meadows, while a couple of much shorter side loops will take you to the north and south end of the forest preserve. The Busse Woods Trail connects with the Schaumburg Bikeway on the west, and on the north, Busse Woods links to the Rolling Meadows Bikeway system. Some key features of the forest preserve include fishing, boat rentals and a small herd of captive resident elk. The trails are open from sunrise to sunset.
CITY: Elk Grove
Illinois Prairie Path
The Illinois Prairie Path was the first successful "rail-to-trail" conversion in the United States and inspired a national rail-to-trail movement in the United States in the mid-1960s. The trail is named for its rare segments of original, thousand year-old prairies. With 62 miles of biking, hiking, jogging, equestrian, and nature trails, this is an amazing natural resource that encompasses 4 towns: Elgin, Aurora, Batavia and Geneva and 3 counties. The surface is both asphalt and crushed stone.
Eagle Creek State Park
A favorite of walkers and hikers, this park offers year-round camping and scenic hiking trails, many of them hugging Lake Shelbyville, Eagle Creek has 163 vehicular campsites, with 148 of those being Class A sites with electricity, picnic tables, and showers. There are 56 sites available by reservations made at least 2 weeks in advance by mail.
Jane Addams Recreation Trail
This multi-use 15 mile recreational trail offers beautiful scenery and is highlighted by 21 bridges passing wetlands, creeks, woods, prairies, geologic formations and farmland. The trail, named after Jane Addams, the humanitarian and public health pioneer born and raised in nearby Cedarville, is part of the Grand Illinois Trail which traverses northern Illinois from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River. Its crushed limestone surface may be used by hikers, bicyclists, snowmobilers, and cross-country skiers. Trail maps are available.
Fever River Outfitters
From kayaking and biking to scooter rentals, Fever River Outfitters has everything you need to add a little adventure to your Galena getaway. The staff here knows the area well and offers excursions that take care of every detail—whether you’re kayaking to an island picnic or taking a scooter to a vineyard for an afternoon wine tasting. Want to explore on your own? Simply rent or purchase outdoor gear and set off on your own adventure along the many biking paths, waterways and winding roads of this scenic part of northwest Illinois.
Casper Bluff Land & Water Reserve
Experience a commanding view of the Mississippi River and the only known intact thunderbird effigy mound in Illinois. Hiking, bird watching, sightseeing, Native American archaeology and much more on 85 acres of scenic Mississippi River bluffs.
Chestnut Mountain Resort
Ski along scenic slopes at Galena's Chestnut Mountain Resort, perched high above the Mississippi River. Rated by Ski Magazine as one of the top ski resorts in the Midwest, Chestnut Mountain goes all out with a snowboarding park and night skiing. Stay at the rustic 120-room lodge, which has three restaurants, including the fine-dining Sunset Grille. There are fun non-skiing activities in the summer as well, including boat cruises on the Mississippi Explorer and the exhilarating Alpine Slide, which speeds 2,000 feet down a hillside. Or try the new Segway Mountain Adventure Tours, a three-mile guided ride through rolling terrain.
Hike or bike into Buehler Preserve from Galena and experience the prairie life! Pets welcome. Fishing is allowed.
Keough Effigy Land & Water Reserve
Explore the past along Keough's hiking trails. Come and see its mining and Native American history.
Galena River Trail
Scenic biking and hiking along a six-mile trail featuring views of the Galena River and towering bluffs.
Chicago Botanic Garden Loop
The Chicago Botanic Garden Loop offers a moderate level of difficulty to those wanting to experience quiet beauty in far north Cook County. The 385-acre garden is home to 2.4 million plants and is one of the most visited gardens in the country. Hiking will take you 4.5 hours and with almost 7 miles of trails, mostly paved you will get to experience both the lagoons and the Botanic Garden.
Ferne Clyffe State Park
The lush vegetation of the 2,430-acre Ferne Clyffe State Park, located near the small town of Goreville, IL hides the fact that directly below the soil, a vast area of rock formations exists. The two main areas for rock climbing include Big Rocky Hollow and the Cedar Bluff areas. Cedar Bluff offers both traditional and sport climbing, including several short, but difficult, routes in the class 12 to 13 range that appeal to experienced climbers. Other routes include top-rope access and solid anchors that appeal to new climbers.
Pere Marquette State Park
At 8,000 acres, Pere Marquette State Park is the largest state park in Illinois. Go hiking on wooded trails, biking along scenic bluffs, fishing and boating on the Illinois River, or horseback riding through the forest. The park is also known for its guided fall color drives and eagle-watching tours in the winter. The rustic stone-and-timber Pere Marquette Lodge makes a great base for exploring the area.
Rollins Savanna Trails
Rollins Savanna Trails in beautiful Rollins Savanna Forest Preserve is a outdoor enthusiasts dream; with 5.7-miles of easy to moderate terrain and a thriving habitat to explore. The landscape is dotted with ponds and marshes. Take a walk through lush prairie and thriving wetlands and see why the National Audubon Society named it one of America’s most important bird sites in 2005.
Wildlife Prairie State Park
Wildlife Prairie State Park is home to over 150 animals that are native to Illinois, including wolves, bison, black bear, elk and cougars. Experience the Adventure Trek Tour, which includes a trip through the bison and elk pasture. Unique overnight lodging located in the park includes authentic train cabooses and a cabin nestled in the woods. The park also offers biking enthusiasts 5 miles of singletrack intermediate level terrain with good technical trails and rocky terrain it will feel like you’re biking in the mountains.
CITY: Hanna City
Hanover Bluff Natural Area
Sixteen-acre public lake located in southern Jo Daviess County. Largemouth bass, bluegill, channel catfish. No boating. Sign in/out at the visitor parking lot. 350 acres for public hunting.
Hanover Bluff Nature Preserve
This nature reserve is the perfect place to bring the family. Hike 450 natural acres, home of nine Illinois endangered or threatened plants and animals. Hanover Bluff Nature Preserve is The Prairie State's 150th nature preserve.
Iris and Jack Witkowsky State Wildlife Area
A part of the Apple River Canyon State Park Complex, the Iris and Jack Witkowsky State Wildlife Area is 1,100 acres for public hunting and nature viewing. Beginning of a transcontinental bluebird trail segment. Sign in/out at lots #1 or #4.
Wapello Land & Water Reserve
Experience Native American mounds, prairie and the Apple River. Hike beginner trails. Pets welcome. Fishing allowed.
Rall Woods State Natural Area
280 acres for public hunting, hiking, nature viewing. Area has native hilltop prairies and views of the Mississippi River.
Shawnee National Forest
The Shawnee National Forest is famed for its awesome Garden of the Gods, and is home to the Rim Rock Recreational Trail (the forest has a system of 403 miles of equestrian/hiking trails). Hikers are greeted by magnificent jutting walls of rock covered with emerald-green moss, and paths that meander through canyons under the forest canopy. Nestled between the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, the stunning Shawnee National Forest landscape features rolling hills, lakes, creeks and rugged bluffs. If you’re into climbing than a must-see is Jackson Falls, located near the town of Ozark in the Hidden Springs Ranger District in Shawnee National Forest. The climb takes place on 60 feet of sandstone cliffs and boulders that include numerous freestanding towers.
Little Grand Canyon Trail
The Little Grand Canyon trail is located within the Shawnee National Forest. Experience the easy 3.6 miles of beauty it offers as you ride your bike or hike these fun trails that meander past lush wooded canyons, riverside bluffs, songbirds, woodpeckers and deer; while hawks and vultures soar high above the cliffs. Explore towering rock walls, eroded sandstone canyons, craggy bluffs and moist bottom lands, too.
Located near the town of Ozark in the Shawnee National Forest, Jackson Falls offers arguably the best rock climbing in southern Illinois. There are roughly 60 climbing areas along the sandstone bluffs and freestanding boulders, each with multiple named routes on them. There are over 500 named routes in all. Most of the routes are 50-60 feet in height. The whole area sits in a very scenic glen. Most of the routes at Jackson Falls are sport routes, though there are a number of traditional routes, and a few areas suitable for setting up a top-rope. There are also many excellent bouldering opportunities here.
Beverly Lake Forest Preserve
Beverly Lake Forest Preserve Trail is perfect for hiking and biking. The five mile out and back trail located near Dundee that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
CITY: Hoffman Estates
Kankakee River State Park
The 4,000-acre park extends along both sides of the Kankakee River offering unspoiled settings that are surrounded by scenic bluffs and woods. The park includes hiking trails, biking trails, canoeing, fishing, camping, cross-country skiing, snowmobile trails, picnic areas, hunting, boat launches, and much more! In addition there are several shelters available for picnic events.
Willowhaven Interpretive Center
Whispering Willows Park at Willowhaven Interpretive Center features open prairies, wetlands, interpretive gardens and 1.5 miles of limestone trails surrounding two scenic ponds. All trails begin and end at the Willowhaven Interpretive Center scenic outlook.
River to River Trail
If you want to truly experience the Shawnee National Forest, and Southern Illinois, then the River-to-River Trail in Illinois is for you. The Trail spans 160 miles of Illinois from Battery Rock on the Ohio River to Devil’s Backbone Park in Grand Tower Illinois on the Mississippi River, and it can take up to 2-3 weeks to complete in its entirety. With a combination of plains, bayous, bluffs and upland forests, there’s something for everyone to feast their eyes on. And, with difficulty levels ranging from easy to hard there’s a path for everyone in your party to enjoy.
CITY: Karbers Ridge
Big River State Forest
Encompassing more than 3,000 acres along the Mississippi River, Big River State Forest is a remnant of woodland that once bordered the vast prairies. The 1-½ mile Lincoln Hiking Trail commemorates Abraham Lincoln's march through the area in 1832.
McDonald Woods Forest Preserve
The McDonald Woods Forest Preserve in Lindenhurst, offers gentle, rolling grassy terrain. It’s the perfect place to hike, bicycle and cross-country ski. Take the 3.8-mile loop around the woods and wetlands for some great exercise. A 0.3-mile wood-chip trail designed for hiking and cross-country skiing leads to a basswood and sugar maple forest, glowing yellow in autumn. A cooling ravine beckons below where migrant songbirds feast on insects, and water skimmers dart atop the clear water.
CITY: Lake Villa
Lake Le-Aqua-Na State Park
This beautiful 715-acre state park with a 40-acre lake derives its name from a combination of the town of Lena and the Latin work for water, aqua. Lake Le-Aqua-Na offers a variety of outdoor recreational activities including more than 10 miles of mult-use trails. The large tracts of wooded land include oak, hickory, walnut and pine trees. Woodland flowers are on display, especially in the spring and early summer, and wildlife is abundant. There is boating, fishing, a children's fishing pond, swimming, picnic and playground areas, shelters, trails for mountain biking, hiking and cross-country skiing, equestrian trails, sledding, hunting and camping.
Independence Grove Forest Preserve
This scenic 1,114-acre preserve offers a wide range of outdoor recreation and education opportunities centered around a 115-acre lake reclaimed from a gravel quarry. Visitors can enjoy swimming, fishing and boating, a Marina with boat rentals, a native garden and nearly seven miles of trails. The 19,000-square-foot Visitor Center features exhibits and a cafe. It can be rented for weddings and other private functions.
Kickapoo Creek Park
Kickapoo State Recreation Area in Oakwood, IL has 22 deep-water ponds, ranging in size from 0.2 to 57 acres, providing a total of 221 acres of water for boaters, canoeists and anglers. Lushly forested uplands and bottomlands along the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River is habitat for enough birds, wildlife and wildflowers to please any nature lover, while nature trails and running trails provide pathways to inspiration and physical fitness. If you want a less demanding excursion in the outdoors, there are facilities for camping and picnicking. With 22 lakes and access to the Middle Fork River, Kickapoo is known for the opportunities it provides for water-based outdoor activities. Anglers find excellent fishing for largemouth and smallmouth bass, channel catfish, bluegill, crappie and redear sunfish. Especially popular are the annual fall and spring stockings of rainbow trout, which provide an unusual opportunity for central Illinois anglers to fish for catch-able size trout. There are 12 launching ramps on nine of Kickapoo's lakes. Boat and canoe rental is available for Clear Pond.
Rock Cut State Park
With over 3,000 acres of rolling plains and two lakes, Rock Cut State Park is a hiker's paradise. It's also home to some of the best mountain biking in northeastern Illinois, offering 10 miles of dirt and sand terrain, doubletrack and singletrack trails. One of the loops is 4.25-miles, the Main Trail, which runs around Pierce Lake. Another loop snakes around the northeast corner of the park and leads through dense trees and hills.
CITY: Loves Park
Spring Lake Park
Spring Lake Park in Macomb, IL. has three different singletrack trails ranging in intermediate to difficult. At 10 miles in length this park has a nice smattering of everything an adrenaline junky would want. The trails here are tight in some spots with a few ladder bridges, log piles and even a teeter-totter, and the hills just keep coming with jumps that make you feel weightless.
Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve
Lake of the Woods County Park is a 900-acre preserve that features an 18-hole regulation golf course, a 9-hole par 3 course and practice range, fishing, boating, hiking, picnicking, cross-country skiing, sledding the Hi-Tower bell carillon and observation area, a 3.3 mile bicycle/pedestrian path, the Museum of the Grand Prairie, Mabery Gelvin Botanical Gardens, building rentals and various programs.
River Bend Forest Preserve
The 275-acre River Bend Forest Preserve south of Mahomet contains approximately 130 acres of clear water in two lakes, one of which is the largest public lake in Champaign County, and includes 2.5 miles of forest along the Sangamon River.
Giant City State Park
Spectacular woodlands and sheer sandstone walls create a challenge for rock climbing and rappelling, as well as hiking. Outdoor lovers will also find horseback riding, a lookout tower, cabins and a swimming pool. Dine at historic Giant City Lodge, known for its homemade fried chicken dinner. Two different locations in Giant City State Park near Carbondale give you climbing options. A trail behind the picnic shelter takes you to a set of steep bluffs known as Shelter #1 near the Makanda entrance; another climbing area of the park includes the steep sandstone cliffs in Devil's Standtable. Plan to bring all of your own equipment since no permanent anchors are allowed. Ropes are permitted in both areas. After rainstorms, the wet sandstone gets really slippery. Use caution when grabbing for ledges as copperhead snakes warm themselves on the rocks during sunny days.
Coral Woods - McHenry County Conservation District
This sugar maple forest provides the sweet sap necessary for annual maple sugar programs, and is also known for its magnificent display of spring wildflowers. Activities include hiking, x-country skiing, picnic shelters and scenic views.
Moraine Hills State Park
Moraine Hills State Park located in McHenry, Illinois, offers a tapestry of mosaic marshes, lakes, prairies, bogs, wooded hills and streams that are perfect for hikers, skiers and cyclists. The hike consists of two 8-mile loops of crushed gravel that takes approximately 2-3 hours to complete. With a rating of moderate to difficult, Moraine Hills State Park hike will surely make the top of every outdoor enthusiast’s list.
George Rogers Clark Discovery Trail
Enjoy a scenic ride or walk along this new concrete trail inside Fort Massac State Park. Use of the bicycle and pedestian path is free, and parking is located inside Fort Massac State Park. Upon its completion, the 9 mile trail will begin at Superman Square, continue through Fort Massac State Park, and end in the city of Brookport.
Wright Woods Forest Preserve
The Wright Woods Forest Preserve located in Mettawa offers 4 miles of scenic trails: a short loop for hikers, bicyclists and skiers that circles a pond, and a 3-mile loop for hikers, bicyclists, skiers and horses. This preserve also has footbridge spanning the Des Plaines River, which links Wright Woods to Half Day Forest Preserve.
Gebhard Woods State Park
Hikers, campers, picnickers, and canoeists frequent this 30-acre site, making it one of the state's most popular state parks. Fishing, boating and bird watching are also popular activities. This picturesque park is bordered on the south by the Illinois & Michigan Canal and to the north by Nettle Creek which gently flows along the perimeter and through the park adding to its natural beauty and abundance of wildlife. Stately old trees including walnut, oak, ash, maple, sycamore, hawthorn and cottonwood provide ample shade throughout the park. In the spring, trillium, bluebell, white trout lily, violets, wild ginger, phlox, toothwort and spring beauties are just a sample of the wildflowers that can be enjoyed by park visitors.
Waterfall Glen Hike
Waterfall Glen Hike in DuPage County is a nice, moderate hike. This trail wraps around Argonne National Laboratory and is 11.4 miles long. The main path consists of crushed limestone, but it is ok to take the side trails that are mowed grass or part of an abandoned railroad track. Most of the path is under a tree canopy. Marshes and swamps abound in this area so be sure to bring some insect repellent.
North Branch Bicycle Trail
Bicyclists and hikers can travel this trail that runs from Caldwell and Devon Avenues in Chicago, to the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe. The 20-mile trail winds along the Chicago River past the Skokie Lagoons and through forest preserves.
Fullersburg Woods Forest Preserve
Just 20 miles from downtown Chicago, located in Oak Brook, IL is the Fullersburg Woods Forest Preserve. It’s an easy hike consisting of a 3.2-mile loop. The trail is good for all skill levels and offers a number of activity options. Nearly all of the hike follows Salt Creek as it winds around the bluff and past a few islands on its way to the historic watermill at the south tip of the park.
CITY: Oak Brook
Starved Rock State Park - Ice Climbing
While rock climbing is prohibited, there are up to five canyons in which ice climbing is permitted when conditions allow. All ice climbers must sign in at the ranger station (Park Office) and must have a partner. Call ahead to check ice and other park conditions.
Lowden-Miller State Forest
Nestled in the Rock River Valley, just 3 miles south of the town of Oregon, lies a 2,291-acre wooded area that is one of Ogle County's most beautiful and historic sites. Its scenic qualities come from 120-foot bluffs along 3.5 miles of riverfront forested with hardwood and pine trees. The history stems from the individual who, in the early part of the 20th century, augmented the natural hardwood forest by planting pines. Frank O. Lowden (1861-1943), Illinois' governor from 1917-1921, ardently embraced proper land use and strongly believed in reforestation as a way to retard soil erosion. Over several decades, an estimated 500,000 trees were seeded directly by him or under his supervision.
Saw Wee Kee Park
Saw Wee Kee Park sits along the south shore of the Fox River. Located in Oswego this park has an abundance of fun, advanced mountain bike singletrack trails to conquer. These 5 miles of steep inclines and quick descents will give you plenty of stories to tell your friends. While you are there you can also fish, kayak and canoe along the Fox River.
Buffalo Rock State Park
On the bluffs of the Illinois River, this small but charming park is home to an enormous outdoor sculpture. Mounds representing five earthen sculptures molded from Illinois clay, known as Effigy Tumuli, invite visitors to walk around and explore. All five subjects, including a snake, turtle, catfish, frog and insect are native to the Illinois River area. This State Park offers the ideal terrain for the beginner hiker.
River Bluff-Effigy Tumuli Trails
River Bluff-Effigy Tumuli Trails in Buffalo Rock State Park offers a unique hiking experience high above the Illinois River and around the massive earthen sculptures of the Effigy Tumuli. Clocking in at 3-miles this easy to moderate hike will be a sight you’ll want to see. The River Bluff Trail is a great way to experience the Buffalo Rock landscape. Buffalo Rock sits like a sandstone island above the surrounding land and Illinois River. The park features oak and hickory woodlands and an expanse of restored grassland where the Effigy Tumuli rise.
Deer Grove Forest Preserve
Located in Palatine, IL, Deer Grove Forest Preserve has trails that offer a moderate level of difficulty. At almost 10 miles in length, the hiking trials make Deer Grove worth a visit. Split into two very individual sites connected by paved and unpaved trials, the east preserve features open wetlands surrounded by old fields and an in-progress savanna and prairie restoration. The west side is wilder, the forest denser and crisscrossed with footpaths along the rolling terrain. Quite woodlands, white-tailed deer and a completely different experience await the hiker on the west side. Both paths are equally enchanting.
Lake Katherine Trail
Lake Katherine Trail is a 3.2-mile trail of moderate difficulty, located near Palos Heights, Illinois. This 1.5-hour hike over wood chip, dirt and gravel roads is one of the best urban nature walk trails in the area. The Preserve features an attractive lake, an arboretum, a waterfall garden, an herb and conifer garden and expansive views from atop a ridge in the eastern section.
CITY: Palos Heights
Great River Trail
The Great River Trail is a breathtaking journey along 60 miles of the Mississippi River. The route is a mixture of paved rail-trail, small-town sidewalks, dedicated bike lanes on the street and a stretch of road shoulder along the Great River Road. The Great River Trail begins in Savanna and travels south through many small river towns with traditions still steeped in the quintessential culture of the Mississippi River.
CITY: Rock Island
Mississippi River Trail
Situated in Sunset Park in Rock Island is the Mississippi River Trail. Listed as a difficult trial, mainly due to its length and many portions not protected by shade, this asphalt trail hugs the bank of the river as you move through parks, industrial sections, downtown business districts and small river towns.
CITY: Rock Island
Mississippi Palisades State Park
The Mississippi Palisades State Park, located near the confluence of the Mississippi and Apple rivers in northwestern Illinois is known for its steep cliffs and interesting rock formations, as well as its beautiful trails that lead you to some of those awe-inspiring giant boulders. One such trail is the Sentinel, clocking at over 1.3 miles it’s the longest trail in the park and leads you smack dab into Sentinel Rock, where you can take a turn at trying to conquer this monolith.
Sentinel & Sunset Trails
The highest pint in Illinois is 1,257 feet located in the northwest corner of the state. That’s where you’ll find Mississippi Palisades State Park and the Sentinel and Sunset Trails. The park has 2,500 acres of wooded ravines and canyons. The Palisades are a line of vertical cliffs that rise up from the shore of Buffalo Lake. Hiking to the top provides tremendous views and an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. The two trails are strenuous due to the elevation change, but at approximately 3.7 miles, shouldn’t take too long for you to experience the sense of adventure in nature or burning in your legs.
Shabbona Lake State Park
Shabbona Lake State Park has 1,550 acres of rolling prairie and features a 318 acre man-made fishing lake. Shabbona Lake State Recreation Area provides a convenient, natural haven from the hustle and bustle of daily life. With facilities for picnicking, camping, hiking, fishing, hunting and winter sports, Shabbona Lake is a convenient and comfortable retreat where you can refresh and reinvigorate yourself in a rare, unspoiled environment.
Hennepin Feeder Canal Trail
The Hennepin Feeder Canal Trail located just south of Rock Falls is where you will pick up this medium to difficult trail. Cyclists, hikers and anglers come to enjoy the stocked waters, the peaceful wooded banks and the abundance of bird life. As the trail heads south toward the rural countryside the path frees itself from the throngs of people allowing you to enjoy the serene environment all to yourself.
Chain O' Lakes State Park
Located in the northeastern corner of Illinois in both McHenry and Lake counties, the Chain O'Lakes State Park is 60 miles northwest of Chicago. With nearly 6,500 acres of water and 488 miles of shoreline on the Chain, Chain O'Lakes State Park is the heart of a water wonderland. And, with six miles of relatively easy hiking and biking trails to navigate the scenery, Chain O’ Lakes State Park has become a treasure to behold.
CITY: Spring Grove
Lost Bridge Trail
This easy to traverse asphalt trail, starting in Sprigfield, winds you through wooded landscapes, over bridges and alongside a well-groomed community park.
Wards Grove Nature Preserve
Wards Grove is the best “mound forest” remaining in the Driftless Area. 335 protected acres of woodlands with populations of sensitive plant and animal species.
Apple River Canyon State Park - Thompson/Salem Units
This 1,150 acre area allows hunting, fishing; no boating/biking. See postings/fact sheets at registration. Sign in/out at lots #1 or #2. The vegetative cover at the site is a mixture of steep timbered slopes and bluffs with grassland, row crops and hay fields predominate on ridge tops. The topography can be severe especially bordering the Apple River.
Starved Rock State Park
Seasonal waterfalls, awe-inspiring bluffs and rugged canyons dominate the storied landscape at Starved Rock. Rich with history and beauty, Starved Rock’s hiking trails meander through towering trees and scenic overlooks along the Illinois River. Outdoor activities include hiking, canoeing, paddle boat cruises, cross-country skiing, trolley rides, fishing and picnicking. Visitors can stay at the historic Starved Rock Lodge or in one of its cozy cabins.
Starved Rock State Park East Hike
Starved Rock State Park has a beautiful East Hike that offers canyons galore, each with slightly different shapes, sizes and colorings. At 6.4 miles of dirt terrain, this hike is moderately difficult. Cool, shady and overgrown with ferns, the canyons offer a plethora of trees and flowering plants—a true delight to explore. You’ll also encounter scenic overlooks 100 feet above the Illinois River. The real crowd pleasers at Starved Rock are the numerous sandstone canyons that were carved deep into the bedrock as upland streams drained into the Illinois River. Some noted canyons of worth to explore are Kaskaskia Canyon, Ottawa Canyon and Hennepin Canyon Overlook.
Starved Rock State Park West Hike
Starved Rock State Park West Hike offers a decidedly different set of attractions than its eastern counterpart. On this hike you’ll encounter a series of overlooks from wooded bluffs and rocky cliffs high above the Illinois River. This 2.9-mile hike varies in difficulty due to the large amount of stairs that need climbing. The dominant feature of Starved Rock can be found on this hike, via a narrow bluff that runs 4-miles along the south branch of the Illinois River. The park’s namesake towers 125 feet above the river, offering commanding views of the nearby islands and river. Some notable excursions include, French Canyon, Wildcat Canyon and Pontiac Canyon with sweeping views of the Illinois River.
Half Day Forest Preserve
This quiet and clean preserve features a 1-mile trail for hikers, bicyclists and cross-country skiers, three beautiful picnic shelters, a 3-acre pond for fishing, open playfields and a playground. The Half Day Forest Preserve is also the starting point for the Des Plains River Trail which links this preserve to the Wright Woods Forest Preserve. The entrance and parking area are located on Route 21 (Milwaukee Avenue) at the light for Woodlands Parkway, south of Route 60 (Townline Road) and just north of Route 22 (Half Day Road).
CITY: Vernon Hills
Des Plaines River Trail
Located in southeast Lake County near Vernon Hills, this crushed gravel surface trail is perfect for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and cross country skiing. The trail offers a medium level of difficulty as it winds alongside tree-laden riverbanks, through dense bottom-land woods, adjacent to ponds and over footbridges. This trail links the Half Day Forest Preserve to the Wright Woods Forest Preserve spanning nearly the entire length of Lake County.
CITY: Vernon Hills
Tunnel Hill State Trail
Rolling agricultural fields, reclaimed strip mines, ravines, rocky streams and wooded bluffs dominate the northern half of the Tunnel Hill State Trail. With 47.8 miles (one-way) of crushed gravel surface, extended inclines and dark tunnels, this trail is a difficult one, but one not to pass up, as long as you’re up for the challenge. The southern half of the trail explodes with scenery that includes bottomland woods, ponds, streams and marshes. The trail, which winds through seven towns, even touches upon a handful of ghost towns that faded into the landscape after the trains here stopped running.
Blackwell Forest Preserve
Blackwell Forest Preserve in Warrenville, Illinois, has everything an outdoors fanatic could want. Hikers, bicyclers, horseback riders and cross-country skiers can enjoy more than 6 miles of turf and limestone trails, including a convenient route to the Illinois Prairie Path. Trails around the McKee Marsh area feature two observation decks, a bird blind, and signs that describe the history and ecological significance of the marsh.
An easy 30-minute drive from downtown Chicago places you squarely in this sprawling forest preserve. With 78 miles of wide and singletrack trails at an intermediate level of difficulty, you should expect the unexpected, starting with plenty of hills, fast descents, meandering paths and more.
CITY: Willow Springs
Rock Island Trail State Park
The Rock Island Trail provides 27 miles for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing. One of the premier rails-to-trails facilities in Illinois, this trail is a sure-fire winner for the entire family.
Bicentennial Riverfront Park
Bicentennial Riverfront Park is a five-acre community park on the south bank of the Fox River. Built by volunteers on Hydraulic Street, Bicentennial Riverfront Park makes optimum use of the river, with abundant fishing, plus canoe and kayak access to the white water chute. There is also a beautiful view of the Glenn Palmer Dam as you follow the trail along the river and the picnic area, playground and river-side pavilion are popular community gathering spots in the summertime.