hiking trails in illinois

18 of the Best Hiking Trails in Illinois From a Local

18 of the Best Hiking Trails in Illinois From a Local

Enjoy your summer in Illinois by going on incredible hiking trails forests and state parks that Illinois has to offer. Did you know that Illinois has one national forest, six state forests, and 73 state parks to explore? You’ll get to be visually enticed by the wide variety of canyons, rivers, vegetation, fauna, flora, prairies and wildlife. Whether you would like to enjoy a relaxing walk and be one with nature or experience a challenging and adventurous hike, there is something for everyone to enjoy! Here is a list, in no particular order, of eighteen of the most breathtaking and best hiking trails in Illinois that you can traverse and have your outdoor escape.

Matthiessen State Park

You will get to experience 5 miles of hiking trails that include marvelous animal and plant life, along with unparalleled views of the stunning geological wonders as you hike through the park.

best hiking trails in illinois

(Photo Credit: Illinois Department of Natural Resources)

Heron Pond

For an experience like no other, go hiking at Heron Pond. Make your way across the boardwalk past the giant trees and through the bog. The best part is that some of the trees found here are over a thousand years old!

Garden of the Gods

This hiking destination has the best classic views in Illinois by far. The boulders found at the Garden of the Gods aren’t only giant, they’re over 300 million years old as well! Their short trail that’s found here takes you around the boulders, and there are more found around the park as well.

Hennepin Canal

This abandoned riverway turned state trail is 105 miles, so you can choose to hike for as short or as long as you like. This trail is popular among both hikers and bikers.

Trail of Tears State Forest

With an abundance of wildlife and lush vegetation, this forest is worth adding to your best hikes list. The trails are open all year round, and one of the trails is specifically for cross country running. You will enjoy the views of valleys and hills as the trails pass through them.

best hiking trails in illinois

(Photo Credit: Illinois Department of Natural Resources)

Lake of the Woods

This park spreads across 900 acres and has a botanical garden and carillon. The trail is scenic, with a beautiful bridge over the lake.

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

There is ongoing work to restore the endangered ecosystem here, which includes introducing a herd of bison. The hiking trails are 29 miles among the ‘sea of grass,’ which includes a 1.5-mile trail called the Prairie Creek Woods.

Starved Rock State Park

The greatest thing about the most visited state park is that you can hike for as short or as long as you like. There are magnificent views that include waterfalls and large canyons, not to mention the picturesque overlooks.

best hiking trails in illinois

(Photo Credit: Illinois Department of Natural Resources)

Buffalo Rock State Park

This state park has a 3.3-mile trail for you to hike and offers scenic views of the Illinois River. You might be wondering why this state park is called Buffalo Rock State Park- there are actually two magnificent bison that reside in the park for you to see.

Cache River Natural Area

For the ultimate experience, take a hike at the Cache River Natural Area, which spreads across 14000 acres! There is so much scenery to enjoy, from bald cypress trees that have roots sticking out the ground, to large and green vibrant bogs. There is even a boardwalk that can be hiked and leads directly onto the bog.

Pere Marquette State Park

This state park offers twelve miles of marked trails to hike, along with its stunning views that include an abundance of wildlife, lush forests, and towering bluffs.

Apple River Canyon

You can go hiking at Apple River Canyon anytime during the year. This state park is not only beautiful, but it’s also known for its five trails, many streams, and scenic canyons. There is so much to explore here!

best hiking trails in illinois

(Photo Credit: Illinois Department of Natural Resources)

Ferne Clyffe State Park

Get prepared to be amazed by the eighteen different trails that you can take at this state park. The trails vary in terrain, from waterfalls to forests, to fields. You will be visually enticed by the state park’s unique geological features.

Dixon Springs State Park

This park is unique as it exists over a rock that was dropped 200 feet. There are two beautiful hiking trails to experience. Visitors have been drawn to this state park for centuries because of its mineral-enriched water.

Shawnee National Forest

This forest spreads across 286400 acres and boasts diverse landscapes and bluffs, and is home to a variety of animal and plant life. There are scenic views of both the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.

Castle Rock State Park

This state park has six miles of hiking trails to experience, along with its remarkable fauna and flora, and remnants of its prairies and forests that covered the land at one point. There is a sandstone bluff that is found adjacent to the Rock River, and the state park is named after this bluff.

best hiking trails in illinois

(Photo Credit: Illinois Department of Natural Resources)

Kankakee River State Park

The state park spreads across 4000 acres and is found on both sides of the Kankakee River, which stretches across eleven miles. You will find a variety of routes to explore by hiking or biking, and a variety of nature to see. There are stunning views of a waterfall and limestone canyons, and the river has a suspension bridge across it. This State Park is one of the best hiking trails in Illinois.

Giant City State Park


Explore the natural wonders of this state park while hiking along the trails. One of the trails has been designed for disabled visitors, the Post Oak Trail, and another trail offers an exciting challenge for dedicated hikers and is twelve miles long, the Red Cedar Trail.

best hiking trails in illinois

(Photo Credit: Illinois Department of Natural Resources)

Where do you like to go hiking? Tell me in the comments below!

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