The 15 Best Hiking Trails in Illinois!

There’s nothing like exploring a new hiking trail and discovering hidden scenic gems along with way. Fortunately, Illinois offers plenty of hiking trails to satisfy the adventurous hiker of any experience level. The following hiking trails offer miles of beautiful rural scenery of various landscapes ranging from rolling meadows to sandstone bluffs and sparkling rivers. 

1. Giant City State Park, Makanda, IL

Giant City State Park is an incredible display of geology and natural wonder. This outdoor lover’s paradise offers several picturesque trails for hikers of all skill levels. The Red Cedar hiking trail is a 12-mile stretch offering an overnight campsite halfway through. Hikers can marvel at the huge sandstone bluffs, lush vegetation, and over 75 tree varieties throughout the park. 

2. Castle Rock State Park, Oregon, IL

Located in Illinois’ Rock River Hills region, Castle Rock State Park is distinguished by beautiful rock formations and ravines. This scenic park offers six miles of marked trails for hiking, cross-country skiing, and tobogganing when weather permits. A picnic area overlooking Rock River Valley is also available for hikers. 

3. Rock Island Trail State Park, Wyoming, IL

This naturally beautiful state park in Stark County offers nearly 30 miles of peaceful hiking in uninterrupted nature. Hikers are surrounded with prairie grasses and wildflowers, essentially experiencing what early settlers did 100 years ago. The tree-canopied corridor and trestle bridge are must-see features at Rock Island Trail State Park. 

4. Matthiessen State Park, Utica, IL

Hikers can marvel at unique rock formations and colorful natural wonders at the Matthiessen State Park in Utica. There are five miles of well-surfaced, marked hiking trails over the bluff tops and into dells’ interiors. Hikers can view exposed sandstone, beautiful rock colorings, and uncommon fern species throughout the park. 

5. Trail of Tears State Forest, Jonesboro, IL

Hikers of all skill levels can appreciate abundant wildlife and lush vegetation at the Trail of Tears State Forest just north of Jonesboro. The hiking trails are open year around, some of which are designated for horseback riding and one for cross-country running. Trail of Tears State Forest offers over 5,000 acres of outdoor recreation. 

6. Moraine View State Recreation Area, LeRoy, IL

This beautiful and conveniently-located recreation area in LeRoy features 1,687 acres of relaxing wildlife and a 158-acre lake. Hikers can explore the irregular crests and expansive ridges created during the Ice Age 15,000 years ago. There are a couple trails for hikers to explore the wooded areas and beaver dam, both trails around under two miles long. A handicap-accessible trail is available, as well. 

7. Kickapoo State Recreation Area, Oakwood, IL

Kickapoo features over 2,800 acres of breathtaking natural beauty including crystal-clear ponds, lush forest ridges, and wildlife habitats. Experienced hikers can navigate the seven-mile trail through forests, bottomlands, and abandoned croplands. There are also shorter, well-marked trails for less experienced hikers. 

8. White Pines Forest State Park, Mt. Morris, IL

White Pines Forest is a scenic haven in every season. Located in Mt. Morris, this picturesque location features 385 acres of moss-covered cliffs, trailing vines, white pine forests, and wildlife. Several hiking trails are available for all hiking abilities, allowing hikers to experience the vine-covered limestone bluffs, whispering pines, and abundant spring flowers. 

9. Eagle Creek State Recreation Area, Findlay, IL

View indigenous wildlife, miles of shoreline, and herds of deer at the Eagle Creek State Recreation Area in Findlay. Hikers can undertake three marked trails for a relaxing walk through the forest, and the 12-mile Illini Trail is available for hikers seeking more adventure. A three-mile cross-country trail is open during the winter months. 

10. Sand Ridge State Forest, Forest City, IL

Sand Ridge State Forest is a forest island in the middle of a sea of agriculture. Located just southwest of Peoria, this 7,200-acre forest features miles of unspoiled nature. Hikers can experience sprawling open fields, pine plantations, oak-hickory woodlands, grasslands, and sand prairies on 44 miles of marked trails. These trails range from a mile and a half to 15 miles long. 

11. Argyle Lake State Park, Colchester, IL

Take in 1,700 acres of heavily wooded scenery at Argyle Lake State Park in Colchester. Hikers can catch of glimpse of beaver dams and more than 200 bird species along the five miles of foot trails throughout this park. There are 12 hiking trails available, most are for moderate to advanced hikers. 

12. Chain O’Lakes State Park, Spring Grove, IL

This water wonderland in Spring Grove is the ideal opportunity for hikers to view dove, waterfowl, pheasant, deer, and other wildlife around the hundreds of acres of water. The Nature’s Way hiking trail is just over two miles long, beginning at Oak Grove Picnic Area. A fourth-mile trail is also accessible for hikers wanting a less strenuous walk through nature. 

13. Apple River Canyon, Apple River, IL

Located near the Wisconsin border, Apple River Canyon features a scenic canyon area, beautiful streams, limestone bluffs, deep ravines, and an assortment of wildlife. There are lots of fossils in the area, as well, due to the lack of glacial activity. Hikers can choose from five trails that wind through the woods for several miles. These trails are ideal for moderate to experienced hikers. 

14. Hennepin State Trail, Sheffield, IL

Hike the towpath along the Hennepin Canal, which spans from the Illinois River to the Rock River. This 155-mile path provides a spectacular view of the canal’s locks and aqueducts plus animal life around the canal. The towpath hiking trail is level and suitable for all hikers from newbies to experienced. 

15. Pyramid State Recreation Area, Pinckneyville, IL

Surround yourself with nearly 20,000 acres of serene wildlife at Pyramid State Recreation Area near Pinckneyville. A coal mine once existed here, but now hikers can enjoy over 16 miles of trails among the forested hills, ponds, lakes, and wildlife. This recreation area is the perfect weekend getaway for a combination of relaxation and adventure. 

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