National Forest, hiking, ziplining, horseback riding, state parks and animal parks.
Begin your adventure on the southern tip of Illinois at the Garden of the Gods in Shawnee National Forest. At Garden of the Gods, you'll hike through dramatic rock formations, perched atop large rolling hills with spectacular views of the forest. These natural wonders don’t just offer great views of the forest below, they also make for great photo opportunities. This Midwest treasure is absolutely one of a kind.
If you’re looking to do some rock climbing, take a short trip to Drapers Bluff. This private climbing park offers several fantastic climbs, including the Ant Hill and the Bloody Nose.
An extra day in the forest gives you just enough time to catch a glimpse of this beauty from above with the Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour. This adrenaline filled adventure takes you high up into the forest canopy with eight ziplines zigging and zagging through bluffs and valleys. The tour also includes 11 platforms high in the trees, three aerial suspension bridges – the longest stretching 180 feet – and two short ground hikes. This is undoubtedly the most exhilarating way to enjoy the varied flora, fauna and geological drama of the Midwest's best national forest.
Situated on the Mississippi River, Pere Marquette State Park offers a diverse experience for your southern Illinois adventure. At 8,000 gorgeous acres, Pere Marquette is the largest state park in Illinois. Hike miles of wooded trail, bicycle along river bluffs, take a boat out for fishing or horseback ride through the serene forest. As a frequent nesting spot for migrating bald eagles, this is also the perfect spot to catch a glimpse of the legendary national bird.
Bison, black bears, cougars—they all once made their home in Illinois, and still do at Wildlife Prairie State Park near Hanna City. As you begin your trek north, experience the Illinois Prairie as it once was. Explore more than 2,000 acres of natural habitat by train, or hike winding trails that overlook prairie and wetlands dotted with 150 animals native to Illinois, from elk and otters to wolves.
If you're looking for the perfect hike in northern Illinois, this is it. Starved Rock’s hiking trails meander through towering trees, scenic overlooks and beautiful rock formations. Choose from the moderately difficult East Hike for dramatic views of the park’s many gorges. Or take the West Hike for a series of overlooks from the wooded bluffs and rocky cliffs above the Illinois River. You can also canoe, paddle-boat or cross-country ski during the snowy months. If you're spending the night, the classic stone-and-log park lodge is packed with history and makes for a comfortable, ultra-convenient night's rest.
Wherever there are spectacular views and water, you’re bound to see kayaks. And Chicago is no exception. Paddle down the Chicago River while taking in top-to-bottom views of one of America’s best skylines. Head out at sunset for a tour capped off with fireworks at Navy Pier – a fitting end to any Illinois adventure.