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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.
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.
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.
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.
Galena River Trail
Scenic biking and hiking along a six-mile trail featuring views of the Galena River and towering bluffs.
Arrowhead Lake and Campground
Located on the northeast corner of Johnston City, this 35-acre lake includes a paved boat ramp for fishing, walking path, and campground. Only electric motors and canoes are permitted. You will find largemouth bass, bluegill, redear sunfish, black and white crappie, and channel catfish in this small reservoir. Pedal boat rentals are available from July-September.
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.
Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge
Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge is located primarily in Williamson County, with small extensions into eastern Jackson and northeastern Union counties of southern Illinois. At almost 44,000 acres and with three lakes (Crab Orchard, Little Grassy, and Devils Kitchen,) endless opportunities abound for watching wildlife, hiking nature trails, photography, swimming, fishing from the bank or by boat, and hunting. Four seasonally operational campgrounds are open from April-October and offer full hook-up, water, electric, or non-electric sites. Refuge staff and volunteers at the visitor center welcome visitors and sightseers 7 days a week from 8am-4:30pm. Visitor activities such as guided hikes, bald eagle tours, and monthly F.U.N. programs help connect families with the diversity of flora and fauna that southern Illinois has to offer. The Refuge provides many opportunities for wildlife-dependent outdoor recreation for the nature lover in us all.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Located on over 325 acres including a 28-acre fishing lake with a one-mile multiple use trail and a restored prairie grass development. The remains of the extinct elephant-like mastodon were found in this lake in the 1930s. Attractions include a life-size sculpture of a mastodon at the Mastodon Gallery, the gorgeous Sunken Garden, an 18-hole golf course and driving range, a zoo, war memorials, a winter recreation area and a 8,000-square-foot BMX & Skate Park.
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.
Hennepin Canal Parkway State Park
The Hennepin Canal State Park, a 104-mile linear park, is a rustic, historic, educational, and recreational jewel spanning five counties and includes the entire width of Henry County with access points in Annawan, Atkinson, Geneseo, and Colona. It offers an up-close look at a fascinating piece of transportation history. It is popular with bicyclists who ride from town to town exploring the history, dining, lodging, and entertainment possibilities as they travel. The canal multi-purpose recreational trail is a portion of the American Discovery Trail, a 6,800-mile coast-to-coast trail devoted to non-motorized use. It is also part of the Grand Illinois Trail, a 535-mile loop through northern Illinois. The tree-lined park is a refuge with prairie restorations and wetlands slicing through corn and soybean farmland. Home to diverse flora and fauna, it has become a favorite for bird watchers and prairie enthusiasts. It offers numerous year-round opportunities to boat, hike, bike, fish, ride horseback, snowmobile, ice skate, and cross-country ski. Explore Henry County’s jewel – the Hennepin Canal. In wintertime experience the longest snowmobile trail in the state -- 91 miles on the tow path. You can use the ice at your own risk, but pay heed to the locks, bridges and culverts where the ice likely is thinner than the rest of the canal. Bring your blades, skating along the canal is free! Keep in mind the rule is there must be 4" of snow and 6" of frost on canal for route to be open. Call the Visitor Center for automated message.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jane Addams Recreation Trail
This multi-use 17 mile recreational trail offers beautiful scenery and 21 decked bridges, including a covered bridge in Orangeville, passing wetlands, creeks, woods, prairies, geologic formations and farmland. The trail, named after Jane Addams, 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. The The tow miles of trail between the Wes Block Trail Access and Illinois 26 is an asphalt paved surface. The final two mile asphalt paved segment from Highway 26 to the Tutty's Crossing Trailhead on the riverfront in historic downtown Freeport will open in summer 2015. This segment crosses the 1885 Van Buren Street Bridge to the Old River School Historic District, the original north entryway into the City, and through historic downtown Freeport offering specialty shops, restaurants, a bicycle shop offering repairs, and more. At Tutty's Crossing, the Jane Addams Trail connects with the Pecatonica Prairie Trail currently under development between Freeport and Rockford. The Jane Addams Trail connects the Wisconsin state line to the Badger Trail which extends to Madison. Access to the trail is available at the West Block Access, 2636 W. Fairview Road, Freeport, at the Richland Creek Trailhead, 101 N. Ewing Street, Orangeville, at Cedarville Road, at Red Oak off of Beaver Road, and by mid-summer at Turry's Crossing in downtown Freeport. Trail Maps are available.
Devil's Kitchen Lake
This 810 acre lake with a maximum depth of 90 feet and a 24-mile shoreline is part of the Crab Orchard Refuge. It is stocked with rainbow and brown trout and provides largemouth bass, bluegill, sunfish, crappie, channel catfish, bullheads, and carp. Boat ramps are available. Boats have a 10-horsepower limit. Camping is available.
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.
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.