5 Great Hiking Trails in Illinois

By April Dowling

5 Great Hiking Trails in Illinois

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Illinois’ diverse natural landscapes and abundant state parks have led to the many great hiking trails around the state. With thousands of miles of trails available in Illinois, hikers have endless opportunities to explore woodlands, savannas, prairies, lakes, forests, and other ecological wonders left untouched from millions of years ago. The following hiking trails are all unique in landscape and offers up-close glimpses of wildlife.

1. Waterfall Glen

Waterfall Glen is a 2,492-acre forest preserve formed by glaciers that covered the Chicagoland area millions of years ago. Today this impressive open space includes savannas, prairies, and woodlands featuring hundreds of native plant species, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates. Waterfall Glen offers 11 miles of beautiful trails for hiking and exploring this natural wonder.

Dashing through the woods

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2. Des Plaines River Trail, Wadsworth, IL

Experience nature at its finest on the Des Plaines River Trail. Located in Wadsworth, this 31-mile trail is perfect for hiking, skiing, horseback riding, bicycling, and snowmobiling. Experience a diverse array of natural landscapes from river views to beautiful woodlands, savannas, and prairies throughout the journey.

3. Rock Cut State Park

Rock Cut State Park is best known for Pierce Lake and Olsen Lake, which together cover over 200 acres of the park. The rolling plains of the park are filled with wildlife such as deer, fox, beaver, waterfowl, muskrat, raccoon, and birds. Dozens of wildflowers and tree species also make vibrant displays each year at Rock Cut. Visitors can access 40 miles of hiking trails, 23 miles of biking trails, and 14 miles of equestrian trails at this history-filled state park. 

4. Edward L. Ryerson Conservation Area

This special preserve features pristine woodlands supporting many rare, endangered, and threatened species, making it an exceptional natural area. The northern flatwoods forest is a rare landscape visitors can explore at Ryerson. This area also has a small farm, rain gardens, and many educational opportunities for families. There are over six miles of scenic trails that lead past historic buildings, through dense woodlands, and along the Des Plaines River. 

5. Busse Forest Trails, Cook County, IL

The Busse Forest Trails are approximately 12 miles long and include shorter trail segments. With asphalt surfaces, these trails are perfect for biking, skating, and hiking through the Ned Brown Preserve. A 590-square-foot lake known as the Busse Reservoir is the focal point of this 3,700-square-foot wooded preserve.

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