Fox Ridge State Park, a 2,064-acre park just south of Charleston in east-central Illinois, is known for its steep, thickly wooded ridges, broad, lush valleys and miles of rugged, scenic hiking trails.
In sharp contrast to the flat prairieland of most of this section of Illinois, the Coles County park is set amidst rolling hills along the forested bluffs of the Embarras ("Ambraw") River. Hiking the trails at Fox Ridge is a highlight for many visitors. The staircase to Eagle's Nest climbs 144 steps to a deck overlooking the river, providing wonderful views.
Fox Ridge State Park is a great place to visit at any time of year. In winter, the snow-softened ridges are alive with birds and animals. In the spring, a panoramic blanket of multi-hued wildflowers and flowering trees celebrate the resurgence of growth. By summer, the dense vegetation and new generation of wildlife are thriving in the sun, and autumn brings its brilliant display of color as nature enhances the woodlands with yellows, reds, purples and oranges.
For the day visitor there are many designated picnic areas scattered throughout the park, with tables and grills (ground fires are not permitted), restrooms, drinking water, playgrounds, two baseball diamonds and sand volleyball courts. A large, brick outdoor pavilion and eight smaller shelters are available for reunions and group gatherings. Six shelters are available for reservation.
Picnic tables, cooking grills, drinking water, toilet facilities and a sanitary dumping stations are available to campers. The shower building is closed by November 1st (may be earlier if bad weather) and reopen April 15 (may be earlier - weather depending)
Due to the rich, abundant plant and animal life in the park and its dramatic hills and bluffs, the 8 miles of the park’s meandering trail system is the natural focus for most visitors. Fox Ridge is a ravine of glacial moraine and many of the 10 connected trails are steep. Eighteen picturesque wooden bridges and numerous rest benches make them easily negotiable. Descriptive markers at each trail entrance provide detailed information. Turkey, deer, foxes, squirrels, raccoons, rabbits, turkey vultures, hawks, owls, quail, pheasants and the lush foliage will make your journey both exciting and restful.
Eight separate but looping trails are located within the park, allowing visitors to extend or cut short a walk. Options range from a walk along the Embarras River to a nice walk through the deciduous forest once common in the area. A 4-mile horse trail is available, however, users must bring their own horse and there are no overnight facilities for horses (Horse trail closed from October 31 - April 15).
The staircase to Eagle's Nest climbs 144 steps to a deck overlooking the river, providing wonderful views during the fall, winter and spring.
A fitness trail offers another dimension to the trail system. Two accessible trails are available, one wandering along the edge of a ravine and the other circling a small fishing pond with an accessible fishing pier.
Fishing and Boating
Ridge Lake is well-stocked with bluegill, largemouth bass and channel catfish. However, fishing is permitted by reservation only at this research facility. Contact the Illinois Natural History Survey at 217-345-6490.
Fishing in the Embarras River is open to anglers willing to descend the steep slopes. Lake Charleston, about 4 miles from the park, also provides opportunities.
Canoe access: Two canoe launches, one north and one south, provide a 5 mile trip on the Embarras River.
The northern area of the park contains 1,129 acres open for public hunting. A windshield card is needed for hunting, and can be printed off at dnr.illinois.gov. The Fox Ridge hunter fact sheet shows boundary lines and describes the area and species most abundant.