15 Great Places to Hike in Illinois

Illinois River

Illinois River

It’s the climb.  Fifteen great places in Illinois to hike hills, climb mountains, explore caves and see amazing bluffs, cliffs and waterfalls.  Whether you are in Carbondale, Chicago, Peoria, Rockford or Springfield; here are scenic parks and forests that offer elevation and beautiful vistas.

sunlight canyon

sunlight canyon

There are wheel-friendly trails at some of the parks and forests.  Parks and forests allow pets so look for signs at the park, because they may need to be on a leash.  Sometimes bad weather occurs and trails are closed, so check before you travel.

canyon trail

canyon trail

Grab your gear and get ready to hit the trail.  Here is a list of places to visit:

1.       Apple River Canyon State Park

Activities:  camping, fishing, hiking (five trails), sledding, stargazing

Location:  Apple River, Ill.

Lodging: campsites in Canyon Ridge camping area

What to see:  canyon, limestone bluffs, River, historic Galena, and the park is a popular location for astronomers

  2.     Buffalo Rock State Park

Activities:  camping, hiking (two trails), fishing

Location:  Ottawa, Ill.

Lodging:  campsites at the park

What to see:  Illinois River; Effigy Tumuli mound sculptures; sandstone bluffs, and nearby Illinois Waterway Visitors Center for information great waterfowl photographs.  Pecumsaugan Creek-Blackball Mines is located near it, with dolomite cliffs; there are tours of the mine with a large bat colony.

3.  Castle Rock State Park

Activities:  boating, camping, fishing, hiking (six trails), hunting

Location: Oregon, Ill.

Lodging:  campsites at park

What to see:  Castle Rock, Rock River, St. Peter sandstone cliffs, Rock River, and a 50-foot statute dedicated to Chief Black Hawk statue in nearby Lowden Memorial State Park

4.       Cave in the Rock State Park

Activities:  boating, camping, fishing, hiking (two trails)

Location:  Cave-in-Rock, Ill.

Lodging:  cabins, camp and RV sites

What to see:  fifty-five foot cave, bluffs, and ferry boat rides on the Ohio River

5.       Dixon Springs State Park

Activities:  camping, hiking (two trails), swimming

Location:  Golconda, Ill.

Lodging: camp and RV sites

What to see:  Illinois Ozark Mountains, mineral springs, Album Rock, Alligator Rock, Lover’s Leap, Pluto’s Cave, and Glen Lake

6.       Ferne Clyffe State Park

Activities:  camping, fishing, hiking (ten trails), hunting, rock climbing

Location:  Goreville, Ill.

Lodging:  camp sites

What to see:  Hawk’s Cave, Rocky Hollow, waterfalls, Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge, and Little Grassy Lake

7.       Giant City State Park

Activities:  boating, camping, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, hunting, rock climbing

Location:  Makanda, Ill.

Lodging: cabins, camp sites, horse camping, lodge, RV sites

What to see:  giant sandstone cliffs that it was named for, Devil’s Kitchen, Little Grassy Lake and Crab Orchard Lake

8.       Hidden Springs State Forests

Activities: camping, fishing, hiking (three trails), hunting

Location:  Strasburg, Ill.

Lodging: camp sites

What to see:  Lake Shelbyville, Park Pond, Richland Creek, Chautauqua Auditorium, General Dacey Trail and Memorial Sunken Garden

9.       Matthiessen State Park

Activities:  boating, fishing, hiking horseback riding, model airplane flying

Location:  Utica, Ill.

Lodging:  none at park

What to see:  Upper and Lower Dells, waterfalls, Vermillion River and a golf course

10.   Mississippi Palisades State Park

Activities:  boating, camping, fishing, hiking (five trails), hunting, rock climbing

Location:  Savanna, Ill.

Lodging: camp and RV sites

What to see:  Mississippi River, Ozzies Point, Louis Point, and Mt. Carroll Historic District

11.   Pere Marquette State Park

Activities:  biking, boating, camping, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, hunting

Location:  Grafton, Ill.

Lodging: cabins, camp and RV sites, lodge

What to see:  Illinois River, bald eagles, River Road

12.   Red Hills State Park

Activities:  boating, camping, fishing, hiking (four trails), horseback riding, hunting

Location:  Summer, Ill.

Lodging:  camp and RV sites

What to see:  Chauncey Marsh, Red Hill, and Red Hills Lake

13.   Shawnee National Forest

Activities:  biking, boating, camping, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, hunting, rock climbing, and swimming

Location:  Harrisburg, Ill.

Lodging: camp sites

What to see:  Just a few include the Illinois Ozarks Mountains, Little Grand Canyon, Burden Falls Wilderness, Pounds Hollow Lake, Ox-Lot Cave and Garden of the Gods.

14.   Starved Rock State Park

Activities:  boating, camping, fishing, hiking (twelve trails), horseback riding, hunting

Location: Utica, Ill.

Lodging:  cabins, camp and RV sites, lodge

What to see:  Starved Rock, Illinois River, waterfalls, and six canyons

15.   Trail of Tears State Forest

Activities:  camping, hiking, horseback riding, hunting

Location:  Jonesboro, Ill.

Lodging: camp and RV sites

What to see:  Ozark Hills Nature Preserve and Southern Illinois Wine Trail

There are many other places that have hills and cliffs in Illinois.  If you have a favorite Illinois hill country place that is not on this list, feel free to send me a link to in the comments section.

Happy Trails!

Related posts on parks and trails:

Buffalo Rock State Park

Fullersburg Woods and Salt Creek Trail

Illinois Beach State Park

Illinois & Michigan Canal and Trail

Indiana Dunes Lakeshore National and State Parks

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center and Trail

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20 responses to “15 Great Places to Hike in Illinois

  1. Pingback: Indoor Rock Climbing Georgia·

  2. My husband and I have stayed at Pere-Marquette State Park several times and love the area. We travel the Great River Road on our motorcycle usually once or twice a month. Great area!

  3. I particularly loved overlooking the Illinois/Mississippi river near Alton, IL. If you climb up that hill, there is college overlooking the bluffs. I also once had the chance to ride a boat down the river in the fall…. it was pure bliss!

  4. I am close to Illinois, but not close enough.. I now wish I was even closer. Love to hike and wander trails. Thanks for visiting my blog and love this information.

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