22 Best Hiking Places in Illinois 

22 Best Hiking Places in Illinois 

When thinking of Illinois, most people immediately think of city life and Chicago pizza. But Illinois is also home to many of the country’s amazing state parks, forests, and recreation areas, and no park worth their salt should miss the opportunity to explore these wonderful trails. Read on to discover 22 of the best places to hike in Illinois!

Northwest Illinois

Castle Rock State Park

First on our list of picnic spots in Illinois is Castle Rock State Park! The slope in Castle Rock State Park ranges from about 60 feet (18 m) to 400 feet (118 m) on 809 acres of the park. The trails cater to everyone of all levels, from family walking tours to advanced hiking tours. Castle Rock State Park Lookout is a must-see attraction that hikers of all levels can access. You can walk the aisles all year round and even take your dog with you, as long as he is on a leash.

Johnson-Sock Trail State Park

At Johnson-Sauk Trail State Park, you can follow a historic trail that follows the one used by the Native Americans. The road passes over rolling hills, through forests of hardwoods and pines, and along flat land, covered in grasslands. Look for wildlife, such as raccoons, deer, and squirrels, as well as a variety of birds. In general, the park features trails ranging from 10 to 15 miles.

Rock Cut State Park

Rock Cut State Park features fairly easy and moderate trails, which provide a variety of options for exploring the areas. One of the trails is the Perryville Path, which follows a path out and back. The park caters to hikers of all levels, and its portions are wheelchair-friendly. You’ll find other activities to do in the park, and dogs on a leash are allowed.

Northeast Illinois

Chen O Lakes State Park

It is the number of lakes that stand out in Chain o’ Lakes State Park. At this hiking destination in Illinois, you will be surrounded by bodies of water of various sizes. Hiking trails extend in and out of the lakes, with an increase of 150 – 155 feet (46 – 47 m). The trails are suitable for hikers of every skill level. The water attracts birds and other wildlife, so find your buddies in the wild as you enjoy your hikes.

Maureen Hills State Park

More than 10 miles of Illinois hiking trails await the hiker at Moraine Hills State Park. Along the way, you’ll enjoy seeing large numbers of birds and wildlife that inhabit the lakes and wetlands covering about half of the park’s area. Lake Defiance is located near the middle of the park, which gives you a unique opportunity to see one of the few glacial lakes in Illinois that is still undeveloped.

Chanahun Parkway State Park

Next on our list of places to hike in Illinois, Channahon Parkway State Park is the main trail of the Illinois and Michigan Canal State Trail, which covers 80 miles (128 km) of hiking along a surface covered in asphalt, crushed stone, gravel and grass. It follows the path of an old railway track. The park offers another 61 miles (98 km) of trails to explore. There are plenty of scenic and historical sites to enjoy along the way. Look for birds, especially the great blue heron.

Southern Illinois

Maple Forest Reserve

The trails in Maple Grove Forest Preserve are suitable for all hiker skill levels. Features like a 1.4 mile (2.4 km) loop, surrounded by beautiful wildflowers are a walk worth taking on their own. Make a family event for it and plan a picnic to enjoy among the flowers. The family dog ​​can go on a hiking trip in Illinois too, as long as it’s on a leash.

Ottawa Canyon – Starved Rock State Park

Ottawa Canyon is a trail in Starved Rock State Park, an easy 1-mile (1.4 km) loop trail for all hikers of any skill level. Let your dog spend a day outside, where dogs are allowed on leashes. Choose your time of year carefully, so you have the best chance of enjoying the wealth of wildflowers on the road.

Western Illinois

Lake Catherine Trail

The Lake Katherine Trail is a fairly easy Illinois hiking trail that’s perfect for a leisurely stroll or a fairly steady hike. No matter what speed you choose on the track, you will have plenty of opportunities to look at the number of birds along the way. The trail is wheelchair friendly, so it caters to everyone. If you’re interested in water, after enjoying the trail, you can rent a kayak and head out onto the lake.

Dales Canyon and Bluff Trail – Matteson State Park

Stunning waterfalls, some in caves that water has carved out of the rock over thousands of years, abound in the Dells Canyon and Bluff Trail. This is a 2.2 mile (3.5 km) trail that takes you on a path that goes through the falls and over a bridge that spans the river, on which you can look at the water flowing through the various rapids. The trail elevation gain is 380 feet (115 meters), so be prepared for some climbing.

Eastern Illinois

Garden of the Gods

The Garden of the Gods is a recreation area and aptly named: its scenic beauty cannot be easily surpassed, so it should definitely be a place worthy of belonging to the gods. The area is perfect for walking and picnicking, so you can spend an entire day enjoying the area. One of the most popular hiking trails is the observation trail, and it’s well worth navigating the gradients and steep steps to see the panoramic view from above.

Fallersburg Woods Forest Preserve

In the Fullersburg Woods Forest Preserve, you’ll find a 3.2-mile (5 km) loop trail that follows Salt Creek all the way around the bluff to reach a historic watermill, which is part of a sense of the past that seeps into the space. Autumn is a particularly beautiful time of year in the reserve, when the amazing orange-red color of the trees is reflected in the river.

Central Illinois

Glen Trail Waterfall

Arrive at this hiking destination in Illinois early, because the Waterfall Glen Trail is a very popular attraction. Hikers, walkers, and runners use the 9-mile (15 km) Broken Stone Trail. The views along the way are beautiful and the waterfall going through the boardwalk is gorgeous. The trail is best from April to October, but is available all year round. Be careful, as some parts can be a little slippery in wet weather.

East Central Illinois

Kickapoo State Recreation Area

One of the things about hiking, and especially hiking in Illinois, is that sometimes you see not only the beauty of nature, but also its capacity for renewal. The Kickapoo State Recreation Area was established on the site of an old mine in the strip, which caused the destruction of nature. Now, you can hike through beautiful woodland areas and past some of the 22 deep pools. Enjoy the birds, wildlife, and wildflowers while you marvel at the glory of nature.

Lincoln Trail Homestead State Park

Hiking and history may not always seem like a likely combination, but sometimes they go together. Lincoln Trail Homestead State Park is the site of Abraham Lincoln’s first home in Illinois. In the park, the Lincoln Trail is a 5-mile (8 km) loop suitable for walkers looking for a moderately challenging Illinois hiking trail. There are some side lanes which are a bit more challenging. The Sand Ford Nature Trail is recommended for those more adventurous hikers.

Spitler Woods Natural Area

In the 202-acre Spitler Woods State Natural Area, you’ll find the opportunity to hike through beautiful trees that are not densely crowded, so you can enjoy the birds and wildlife waiting for you to discover them. Perhaps you will be lucky enough to discover something rare and add it to your watch list.

West Central Illinois

Nauvoo State Park

Next on our list of places to hike in Illinois is Nauvoo State Park! Both the original Quashquema name for the city that represents the park’s background and the current Hebrew name focus on the peace of Nauvoo State Park. It is really something to experience in the beautiful surroundings. If you keep your eyes above the trail, you should be able to see birds, such as goldfinch and woodland ducks, and wildlife, such as raccoons, skunks, and deer. The best way to enjoy beauty and tranquility is to camp in the park and spend your time hiking.

Horseshoe Lake State Park

Sometimes the name of the park will tell you what to expect. It wouldn’t be surprising to learn that the central feature of Horseshoe Lake State Park is the unusually shaped lake. Horseshoe Trail takes you along the lake, so you can enjoy views of the water from the bank. In hot weather, why not take a break and cool off in the water, instead of just looking at it?

Randolph County Conservation Area

If you’re looking to get away from it all while hiking in Illinois, the 5-mile (7.6 km) loop trail in the Randolph State Conservation Area is a good choice for you. The trail is not too crowded, so you will have a great opportunity to be alone with nature. The most popular time for the route is from March to October. You can enjoy the forests, wildlife and birds in this park.

Southern Illinois

Sam Del Lake Conservation Area

The Sam Dale Lake Conservation Area isn’t just about hiking, but it also gives you plenty of opportunities for other activities if you’re feeling inspired to hit the trail at a hiking destination in Illinois. Perhaps you’d like to spend time off your feet and perch on a horse, or see the shores of a lake instead of looking out at the water as you stroll past. If you choose to stick with hiking, you can follow the Sam Dale Loop Trail, which is accessible year-round.

Trail State Forest Tears

When you go out for a walk in an area with an unusual name, your curiosity is sure to be piqued. State of Tears State Forest is such a park. The name refers to the journey that the Cherokee, Creek, and Chickasaw states took when they were forced to relocate in the early 19th century. There are a number of trails that allow you to explore the forest. One is specifically designed for cross-country running.

Fort Massac State Park

Last but not least on our list of places to hike in Illinois is Fort Massac State Park! If you are interested in trees, the Circle Trail in Fort Massac State Park is definitely the place for you to visit, as it is the Forest Watch Tree Recognition Trail. If you are looking for a longer hike, try the Hickory Nut Ridge Trail. It follows the Ohio River and gives you plenty of opportunities to enjoy the beauty of the park. There is also a sense of history in the area, as it was the first state park to be declared in Illinois, in 1908.


Hiking in Illinois is the perfect way to explore the variety of beautiful natural areas the state has to offer. It’s also the best way to get up close and personal with forests, grasslands, lakes, rivers, and waterfalls. There are plenty of opportunities to see wildlife along the trails, as well as an abundance of bird life. Some of the best hiking spots in Illinois have a sense of history, which adds to the experience. You can also bypass trails and participate in other activities that the parks and preserves offer. Take the opportunity to explore the great trails of Illinois and find more and more that the state has to offer.

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