Take your Illinois summer to the incredible hiking trails our state parks and forests have to offer. Along with some fun campgrounds and water parks, these outdoor escapes in Illinois are sure to keep you and your family out and about this summer.
Drawing from a list of top-rated hiking trails in Illinois by EveryTrail.com as well as a list by Canoe Communications, here are 11 of 17 breathtaking Illinois hiking trails, in no particular order, you can traverse. Do you know of ones that didn't make the list? Share your recommendations in the comments below.
17. Trail of Tears State Forest (Jonesboro)
The fire trails are open all year for hiking. There are hiking trails at the Forest, including one designed for cross country running. Other trails pass through hills and valleys where one can appreciate the lush vegetation and abundant wildlife.
16. Starved Rock State Park (Utica)
Exploring the majestic bluffs and canyons is the park's primary attraction, and there are 13 miles of well-marked trails to help you enjoy them. The trails are open all year, but hikers are urged to exercise extreme caution and to stay on official trails. To keep you oriented, trail maps are located at all trail access points, intersections and points of interest. There are colored posts along the trails, corresponding to colors on the maps, and letter symbols on the trail brochure to further assist you. Finally, yellow dots on posts indicate that you are moving away from the lodge or visitor center, and white dots mean you are returning.
15. Shawnee National Forest
Totaling about 286,400 acres the Shawnee National Forest is located in the southern tip of Illinois and offers a variety of outdoor opportunities and diverse landscapes. In contrast with the remainder of Illinois, the Shawnee boasts rolling landscape and rugged bluffs that are home to diverse of plant and animal life. Covered in deciduous forests and cradled between two major riverways (the Ohio and Mississippi), there's never a shortage of things to do in the Shawnee National Forest.
14. Red Hills State Park (Sumner)
For the intermediate hiker, Indian Treaty, Robin, Valley Springs and Tulip trail loops overlap each other on the hilly north side of U.S. Rt. 50 for about 3 miles. There also is a 5-mile trail for horseback riding and bicycling when soil conditions permit.
13. Pere Marquette State Park (Grafton)
Approximately 12 miles of marked trails provide scenic hiking to beginners and experienced hikers alike. Lush forests, towering bluffs and an abundance of wildlife provide the perfect backdrop for your outing. Trail maps are available at the Visitor Center.
12. Mississippi Palisades State Park (Savanna)
The North System includes High Point Trail at 3.5 miles and Aspen at 1.9 miles. Sentinel Trail the 1.2 miles, including spurs, is the South System's longest hike, but it and other southern loops are not for the tenderfoot. Ozzie's Point, Louis' Point and Lookout Point, three developed overlooks accessible by short walks, offer a surfaced trail leading to an overlook. Oak Point offers a trail surface suitable for the physically challenged.
11. Matthiessen State Park (Utica)
The park has 5 miles of well-marked, well-surfaced hiking trails for a relaxing walk or a vigorous hike. Large trail maps are located at all major trail intersections so visitors can choose a variety of routes. The upper area and bluff tops are easy hiking paths for the novice, but the trails into the interiors of the two dells may be difficult to negotiate, particularly during spring and early summer. Hikers must stay on marked trails, as steep cliffs and deep canyons can be dangerous. Hikers will marvel at the plant and animal life along the trails, and have an unparalleled view of geological wonders as they travel through the park.
10. Hidden Springs State Forests (Strasburg)
Possum Hollow Nature Trail, 3/4 mile in length, provides access to Park Pond and the pine seed orchard. Trail guides, available at the headquarters, campground and picnic area, guide the visitor to the 35 interpretive stations. The Big Tree Trail, 1 mile in length, features a sycamore 78 inches in diameter, one of the largest in Illinois. Rocky Spring Trail, 3 miles in length, includes Rocky Spring, a forest improvement area, walnut production areas and varied land and vegetation types.
9. Giant City State Park (Makanda)
Exploration of the picturesque natural wonders of Giant City State Park can be enjoyed along the Post Oak, Devil's Standtable, Giant City, Stonefort, Indian Creek, Trillium and Arrowwood trails. The Post Oak Trail has been designed for disabled visitors. The 12-mile Red Cedar Hiking Trail provides an invigorating challenge to the truly dedicated backpacker.
8. Ferne Clyffe State Park (Goreville)
Eighteen diverse trails offer visitors the chance to view the beauty of Ferne Clyffe at their own pace. Motorized vehicles and bicycles are not permitted on the trails. Equestrian use is allowed on equestrian designated trails. Equestrian trails are closed to horses from November 1 to April 30. Naturally occurring dangerous areas exist within the park, so hike on designated trails, exercise awareness and caution. Each trail has been assigned a number, as well as a name, to make map reading easy for even the novice hiker.
7. Dixon Springs State Park (Pope County)
Dixon Springs State Park is one of several state parks in the Illinois Shawnee Hills. The park is situated on a giant block of rock, which was dropped 200 feet along a fault line that extends northwesterly across Pope County. The 786-acre park is about 10 miles west of Golconda on Illinois Route 146 near its junction with Illinois Route 145.
See 6 more Illinois hiking trails, including some with beautiful canyons and gorgeous waterfalls, at Reboot Illinois.
Sign up for our daily email to stay up to date with Illinois politics.
- 16 Fun and Unique Festivals in Illinois
- Top 25 Illinois Restaurants from Enjoy Illinois: Delicious Destinations awards
- The musical lineup for the 2015 Illinois State Fair
- 25 Illinois summer trips you need to take this year
- Tell the politicians who work for you what you believe needs to be done to improve Illinois in a few clicks