Step Outside - Illinois WELCOME TO STEP OUTSIDE! Find the best outdoor fun near you! en-us 30 http://stepoutside.org/ Step Outside - Illinois 144 144 http://stepoutside.org/ https://cdnstep-americantownscom.netdna-ssl.com/img/stepoutside_logo.gif Tue, 17 Jul 2018 23:36:59 -0500 SPOTLIGHT: Things to Do in and Around Fox Ridge State Park Sprawling across thousands of acres with twinkling lakes and lush vegetation, Fox Ridge State Park is the ideal escape. Whether you’re looking for a camping getaway, pristine hiking trails, or unmatched scenic views, check out all the best things to do in and around Fox Ridge State Park. 

Located in East Central Illinois, Fox Ridge State Park is known for its lush valleys and steep ridges. This 2,064-acre park is a beautiful destination year-round and offers a variety of recreational activities including hiking, camping, and cross-country skiing. So, whether you’re planning on a short hike and picnic or an extended vacation, Fox Ridge State Park is sure to provide a relaxing and memorable outdoor experience. 

Trails are a great way to view the abundant wildlife and vegetation at Fox Ridge State Park. The Loop Trail is nearly five miles long and is moderately difficult due to the steep descents and numerous steps. It’s accessible year-round and features many wooden bridges, which are sometimes out of service. Several rest benches are available. 

Every park features a scenic spot, and Eagle’s Nest is one you can’t miss at Fox Ridge. Eagle’s Nest is located on top of a very steep bluff overlooking the river below. You’ll have to climb 144 steps to access the deck and experience the amazing panoramic views year-round. 

Fox Ridge offers ample camping including two rustic cabins and over 40 campsites with access to a sanitary dumping station, toilet facilities, and shower building. Picnic tables, drinking water, and cooking grills are also available for campers. 

Take a look into the past at the Dudley House in Charleston. This historic home was built in the late 1800s and features Queen Anne style architecture, which is rare in Illinois. The home is completely restored to its original splendor with fixtures, furniture, and art dating back to the late 19th century. 

Known as the oldest house in Coles County, the Five Mile House is a tourist attraction offering a glimpse into the 19th history. The home was built around 1840 and has a rich history worth discovering. This landmark was restored to its original appearance with modern updated added for functionality. 

Built around 1860, the Greenwood School building is a one-room schoolhouse that held classes from 1895 to 1948. The schoolhouse has undergone restoration since 1975 and is now open to the public. This museum is another piece of Charleston history and interesting attraction near Fox Ridge State Park. 

Located nearby Fox Ridge State Park, Mac’s Uptowner is a great place to relax after a long day of recreation. They offer a large drink selection, friendly bartenders, and live music most weekends. This joint is Charleston’s main music venue. You’ll also find pool tables, video games, and great food. 

]]>
http://stepoutside.org/article/spotlight-things-to-do-in-and-around-fox-ridge-state-park http://stepoutside.org/article/spotlight-things-to-do-in-and-around-fox-ridge-state-park Fri, 13 Jul 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Great Hiking Trails in Illinois 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.

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

A post shared by Ryan Laurenzo (@ryanlaurenzo_48) on

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.

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. 

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. 

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.

]]>
hightowernrw/Shutterstock.com http://stepoutside.org/article/5-great-hiking-trails-in-illinois http://stepoutside.org/article/5-great-hiking-trails-in-illinois Thu, 05 Jul 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Excellent Places for Beginners to Kayak in Illinois Kayaking allows you to experience nature at its finest—on the water’s surface surrounded by wildlife. Illinois has many beautiful rivers and lakes that are ideal for kayaking and getting close-up scenic views of native landscapes. If you’ve never kayaked before, rest assured that there are safety courses available to get you started and plenty of calm, accessible waters in Illinois. The following kayaking spots are great for first-timers who want a peaceful experience. 

What better way to experience Chicago than from a kayak on the river? You don’t have to be an experienced kayaker to enjoy the breathtaking scenes from this majestic waterway. With Wateriders, you can choose from several tours including the architectural tour, sunset paddle, and firework paddle. Whichever tour you choose, you’re guaranteed an unforgettable experience. 

Located in southern Illinois, the Cache River is surrounded by towering cypress trees over 1,000 years-old. Kayaking through these wetlands provides views of migratory waterfowl, endangered species, and native plants. A public boat launch is provided off Perks Road. 

The shallow, clean waters of the Kankakee River make it an ideal destination of beginner kayakers. Rent a kayak locally or bring your own for beautiful views of waterfowl, deer, and other native wildlife. This unspoiled wildlife makes this 4,000-acre state park an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. 

The Hennepin Canal provides 78 miles of calm waters, perfect for beginner kayakers who don’t mind using arm power. With history dating back to the early 19th century, the canal was once used for commerce, industry, and recreational traffic purposes. Now it is a nationally-recognized historic place full of recreational activities. 

Known for its panoramic views and tree-covered bluffs, Starved Rock State Park offers kayakers a view of unspoiled nature. Visitors can see this charming landmark by kayaking on the beautiful Fox and Illinois Rivers. For a whitewater trip with more speed, try out the Big Vermillion River. 

]]>
Vitalii Nesterchuk/Shutterstock.com http://stepoutside.org/article/5-excellent-places-for-beginners-to-kayak-in-illinois http://stepoutside.org/article/5-excellent-places-for-beginners-to-kayak-in-illinois Wed, 27 Jun 2018 00:00:00 -0500
10 Best Outdoor Festivals in Illinois From Lake Michigan to the Illinois, Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, there is a lot to celebrate about the outdoors in the Land of Lincoln. Whether you’re into cycling, paddling or just getting outside and enjoying it, an outdoor festival is the perfect way to enjoy Mother Nature. Here are our favorite outdoor festivals in Illinois.

Every summer, paddlers descend on Rockford’s Bauman Park for a day of music, food, camping and paddling on the Kishwaukee River. Free shuttles are available to the park, as are kayak and canoe rentals—also with a shuttle—from Rocktown Adventures

The venerable Niles Bike Fest has evolved into the Niles Cycling Classic, which is an all-day family-friendly event. Part of the Intelligentisa Cup series, the Classic offers a full day of races and merriment, including professional racing events and a family fun ride on the course. Holiday Inn Express and Suites is a major sponsor of the event.

A post shared by Kevin Yolangco (@kevinyolangco) on

Every August for more than a decade, the town of Bath, Illinois, has hosted the Original Redneck Fishin’ Tournament. The event centers around catching as many invasive Asian carp as possible in any way you can—except with a rod and reel. All net proceeds are donated to Help for Homeless Veterans, and the activity helps to eradicate the Asian carp that have invaded the Illinois River. According to event organizers, “It’s like Madi Gras on the river… but dirtier.”

Every summer, the Forest Preserves of Cook County host Kid’s Fest, which—despite the name—offers the whole family an opportunity to paddle, hike, climb and explore the Wampum Lake Woods area. The preserve contains 4,800 feet of shoreline in 412 acres of forested land. Activities and information booths hosted by the likes of the National Park Service will also be on hand at Kid’s Fest.

One of the biggest such events in the United States, the Chicago International Dragon Boat Festival is parent of the major league dragon boat series. In addition to the boats and racing, participants and spectators will be treated to live entertainment, food vendors, a beer garden and even a health and wellness “village.”

Each year, in July, the City of Yorkville throws a part celebrating its river town history. Ribs (and other food), homebrew tasting, whiskey tasting, live entertainment and on-the-water activities like cardboard canoe races, a flotilla and paddling. This year's amazing sponsorships include Stephen Alan Salon, Morris Hospital Yorkville Campus, Taekwondo Korea Center, and many more. Thanks to these businesses this festival is flowing smoothly.

For more than half a century, the famous Spoon River Valley has welcomed visitors to scenic and historic Fulton County. Now two weekends in October, visitors can drive, walk or paddle the valley and stop at the many food and craft vendors that dot the route. Notable spots along the drive include Brown's Oakridge Exotics and Zoo, Dickson Mounds State Museum, Rasmussen Blacksmith Shop Museum, and many more.

A post shared by Matthew Dawson (@mattdawson82) on

The Fall Color Festival is a month-long festival that celebrates the turning of the leaves at Morton Arboretum in Lisle. Enjoy hiking, a fall color 5K run (or walk) through the trees, as well as a cider and ale festival, where you can sample seasonal beers and ciders from local breweries. There are also several family-friendly activities throughout the duration of the festival. This year's honorable presenting sponsor, making this event possible, is DuPage Medical Group.

The Southern Illinois Fat Tire Festival is the state’s premier single track party. In addition to miles of great riding, the festival will include live entertainment, vendor expos, camping, a climbing wall, hikes and zip lines. The Fat Tire Challenge, involving events like a Huffy toss and a keg pull, also happens during the festival. The Red Bull Fire Truck will also be on hand. Other businesses that partnered up with this exhilarating event include Bike Surgeon, New Belgium Brewing Company, and Camp Ondessonk.

Hosted by the Chicago Whitewater Association, the Illinois Whitewater Festival is an annual event at the Marge Cline Whitewater Course on the Fox River in Yorkville. The main part of the event will be slalom races as part of the Buttercup Series of whitewater races. Whether you’re racing or just paddling to play, you can rent a ‘yak from the Yak Shack. This event is co-hosted by the Yorkville Parks & Recreation Department and the Yorkville Area Chamber of Commerce

]]>
http://stepoutside.org/article/10-best-outdoor-festivals-in-illinois http://stepoutside.org/article/10-best-outdoor-festivals-in-illinois Wed, 27 Jun 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Best Birdwatching Hikes in Illinois Illinois is home to hundreds of bird species thanks to the diverse habitats throughout the state. The preservation of these wetlands, prairies, beaches, forest, and marshes has protected these birds and allowed them to thrive. Many bird sanctuaries in Illinois offer refuges for migratory birds as well as endangered/threatened species. The following trails in Illinois are ideal for birdwatching! 

Located in the Little Black Slough, the largest state-owned natural area, this trail is nestled within the forests featuring incredible wildlife diversity. More than 100 endangered and threatened plant and animal species occupy this incredible area, which has remained undisturbed for centuries. Hikers and bird observers can view many species of birds here including herons, mallards, geese, great horned owls, bald eagles, hawks, vultures, and doves. 

Located in Madison County, Horseshoe Lake State Park offers some of the best birdwatching in the state. The area’s close proximity to the Mississippi River allows an ideal habitat for over 300 bird species including wading birds, waterfowl, numerous shorebirds, over 15 gull species, and many others. Hiking trails are available on Walker’s Island, where the Eurasian tree sparrow has been sighted. 

Visitors come to the Jelke Creek Bird Sanctuary to enjoy a birdwatching adventure unlike any other. This protected area serves as a refuge for migrating birds needing a resting place. The public trails are accessible by foot, bike, and horseback, allowing visitors the opportunity to encounter birds flying overhead, swimming in ponds, and perched in trees. Many bird species including cardinals, woodpeckers, doves, chickadees, robins, and wrens have been spotted in this area. 

A post shared by Greg Larson (@mrphotar) on

This tiny site on located in Chicago on the Lake Michigan shoreline is actually a birdwatching hot spot throughout the year. Featuring over 200 bird species, Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary attracts migrant songbirds, water birds, and much more. Visitors are advised to remain on the hiking trail to avoid disturbing the wildlife in this small area. 

Located 50 miles southwest of Chicago, Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area is mainly a dedicated natural preserve and nesting habitat for threatened or endangered birds. Visitors can hike along seven miles of trails through the prairie and view a variety of birds including waterfowl, blackbirds, marsh birds, killdeer, great blue herons, great egrets, and the Henslow’s sparrow. Migrating birds including warblers, eastern kingbirds, and catbirds are prevalent in this beautiful area, as well. 

]]>
http://stepoutside.org/article/5-best-birdwatching-hikes-in-illinois http://stepoutside.org/article/5-best-birdwatching-hikes-in-illinois Thu, 01 Feb 2018 00:00:00 -0600
Start Your Trek: 10 Best Hiking Retailers in Illinois Before undertaking any hiking trip, one must be equipped with all of the proper equipment. From the right boots, the right layers, to the right hydration gear, you’ll find all you’re looking for and more at the great hiking retailers of Illinois. Here are our 10 favorites in the state. 

This family-owned sporting goods business has been a local favorite for years. Presleys offers plenty of high-quality hiking gear such as shoes, backpacks, canteens, and more. Patrons appreciate the large gear selection, knowledgeable staff, and friendly customer service. 

For a wide selection of hiking gear at affordable prices, check out Army Navy Sales. This military surplus store has been in business for many decades and offers high-quality military gear. Check out their tents, apparel, camping equipment, flashlights, and other outdoor gear. 

This family-owned business has been serving the Champaign area for three generations. Champaign Surplus carries a wide variety of brand-name hiking apparel, accessories, and gear. Customers appreciate the price-match policy, helpful staff, and high-quality merchandise. 

Grab everything you need for your next hiking trip at Shawnee Trails Wilderness Outfitters. Known for its friendly owner, this local sporting goods shop carries a wide selection of brand-name hiking gear at affordable prices. The owner will price match any price, whether online or another local store.

Angelo’s Outdoor Sports Center is recognized for its friendly staff and great prices on all outdoor gear. Pick up your sunscreen, sunglasses, water bottle, apparel, and other hiking equipment here. Aside from hiking gear, they also carry a wide variety of bait and are very generous with it. 

Camping Comfortably offers high-quality camping gear and customer service. You’ll find hiking backpacks, camping tents, cookware, binoculars, personal care items, and other hiking essentials here. Patrons appreciate the affordable prices, pleasant store environment, and kind owner. 

WildCountry carries all the gear you need for a rugged outdoor hiking expedition. They offer the best brands in outdoor gear such as the North Face, Columbia, and Woolrich. Their knowledgeable staff really cares about providing customers with the best information on all the products.

Known for their welcoming and knowledgeable staff, Arc’teryx is the go-to local shop for outdoor gear in Chicago. They carry very high-end products and go out of their way to help you find what you need. Although their gear is on the expensive end, it lasts for many years and is worth the price. 

Although primarily known for bicycles, Bushwhacker carries a lot of great hiking and outdoor gear. This locally-owned store offers a wide selection of outdoor clothing, footwear, backpacks, tents, water bottles, and camping accessories. Patrons appreciate the patient, knowledgeable staff and consider the store an asset the area. 

Sierra Trading Post is the perfect place to shop before you next hike. The carry high-quality hiking boots and shoes, clothing, trekking poles, walking sticks, backpacks, daypacks, hydration packs, and more. Customers love finding name-brand products at discounted prices here. 

]]>
http://stepoutside.org/article/start-your-trek-10-best-hiking-retailers-in-illinois http://stepoutside.org/article/start-your-trek-10-best-hiking-retailers-in-illinois Thu, 18 Jan 2018 00:00:00 -0600
SPOTLIGHT: T.A.Z. Archery http://stepoutside.org/article/spotlight-taz-archery http://stepoutside.org/article/spotlight-taz-archery Wed, 10 Jan 2018 00:00:00 -0600 A beginnerโ€™s guide: Ice fishing Vin T. Sparano, as excerpted from Complete Outdoors Encyclopedia: Camping, Fishing, Hunting, Boating, Wilderness Survival, First Aid

 

 

Ice fishing differs greatly from open-water fishing, and it is a demanding sport. It requires an understanding of and an ability to cope with winter weather, knowledge of the cold-weather habits of the fish, and the use of an unusual assortment of gear, most of it unique to ice fishing.

There are two basic ice-fishing methods: tip-up fishing and jigging. In general, tip-ups are usually used on larger fish—pike, pickerel, walleyes, trout, and such—that prefer bait and require the angler to play the waiting game. Jigging is usually preferred for smaller fish that tend to school up—bluegills, perch, crappies, and the like. But these are merely generalizations, not hard-and-fast rules. For example, jigging (sometimes called chugging) is often quite productive on big lake trout and salmon in the Great Lakes. 

Also called tilts, these come in various styles, but they all perform two basic functions: they hold a baited line leading from a revolving-type reel spool, and they signal the bite of a fish. The most common type of tip-up consists of three strips of wood, each about 18 inches long. Two are cross pieces that form an X as they span the hole. The third piece is an upright; at its bottom end is attached a simple line-holding spool, while the upper end holds the signaling device. The signal is usually a piece of very flexible spring steel with a red (some anglers prefer black) flag on the end. After the hook is baited and lowered to the desired depth, the steel arm is “cocked”—bent over and down and hooked onto a “trigger.” When a fish strikes, an arm on the revolving spool releases the steel arm and it flies erect.

In this type of tip-up, the reel is positioned underwater. In other variations, the reel is positioned above the ice. Each type has its advantages. The above-the-ice reel can be more sensitively adjusted for light-biting fish, but the line tends to freeze on the reel once it gets wet. The underwater reel largely eliminates the problem of freezing, but the fisherman must remove the tip-up from the hole before he can grab the line.

Baits for tip-up fishing are usually live. In general, it pays to match the size of the bait to the size of the fish you’re after. Baits range from tiny maggots (often called mousies) and grubs for panfish, to worms and small minnows for walleyes, and up to 6-inch baitfish for pike. 

As done by ice fishermen, jigging is simply a method of imparting an up-and-down movement to a lure or bait. Jigging can be—and is—done with any sort of line-holding rod or stick. 

Some jigging rods—more appropriately called sticks—are simply pieces of wood 18 inches or so long, with U-shaped notches in each end. The line—10-pound-test monofilament is very popular—is wound lengthwise onto the stick around the U-shaped notches and is paid out as needed. There are other types of jigging sticks of varying designs, and many ice anglers use standard spinning or spincast rods or the butt half of a fly rod. 

Rods made specially for ice jigging are simple affairs consisting of a fiberglass tip section that is 2 or 3 feet long seated in a short butt. The butt may have a simple revolving-spool reel or merely a pair of heavy-wire projections around which the line is wound. The tip section may have two to four guides, including the tip guide. The shortness of such a rod lets the user fish up close to the hole and have better control over the lure or bait at the end of his line. 

There are many and varied jigging lures and baits, but flashiness is built into most of them. Others produce best when “sweetened” with bait. Two popular jigging lures are: an ungainly looking critter with a heavy body shaped and painted to resemble a baitfish, a hook at each end and a treble hook in the middle of its underside, and a line-tie ring in the middle of its upper surface; and a long, slim, three- or four-sided, silvery model with a treble hook at one end and a line-tie ring at the other. 

Jigging methods vary with the fisherman and with the fish being sought. However, a productive way to fish many jigging lures, especially flashier types, is to twitch the lure slightly and then jerk it suddenly upward with a quick upward movement of the arm. The proper interval between jerks is learned with experience. 

Popular jigging baits include a single perch eye (either impaled on a small hook or used to sweeten a tiny hair or rubber-bodied ice fly), worms, grubs, maggots, insect larvae, minnows, and cut bait (pieces of skin or flesh that are cut from the tail or body of such fish as smelt and perch). 

Jiggers tend to move around more than tip-up fishermen, boring holes in different areas until they find a productive spot. 

Like most other forms of fishing, ice angling requires some auxiliary equipment. Most ice anglers prefer to keep such gear to a minimum, for they have to haul it with them wherever they go on the ice. 

If you’re going to fish through holes in the ice, you need something to make those holes. The ice auger is a popular tool for this job. Augers come in different designs. One has a long handle with a U-shaped bend at the top, and a rounded cutting blade at the bottom. The handle is turned much like that of a manual drill, and the blade cuts a round hole through the ice. Another type looks like a giant ice drill with sharp, widely spaced threads. It is used in the same way. Gasoline-powered ice drills are also available. 

Then there’s the ice spud or chisel. This is a heavy metal handle with a large, chisel-type blade at the bottom. The spud’s weight helps the angler punch down through the ice, but the user must shape the hole once he has broken through. 

An indispensable item of accessory gear is the ice skimmer, a ladle-type device that is used to keep the hole clear of ice chips and chunks and to skim ice. A heavy sinker will serve the same purpose. 

Many ice anglers like to use an attached spring clip. It is attached to the fishing line and used to determine the water depth—an important factor because in winter most game fish are found on or near the bottom. 

Winter is the time of year when ice fishermen venture out onto frozen waters. Most will have fun, but a few will get into trouble because they don’t know how to make sure that the ice is safe. The first rule is never take chances. There are two periods when accidents are likely to happen: early in the season when slush ice doesn’t freeze uniformly and late in the season when ice melts at an uneven rate. It takes prolonged periods of freezing to make ice safe. Here are some rules to remember: 

Be cautious of heavy snowfalls while ice is forming. Snow acts as an insulator. The result is a layer of slush and snow on top of treacherous ice. 

Clear, solid river ice is 15 percent weaker than clear lake ice. 

River ice is thinner midstream than near the banks. 

River mouths are dangerous because currents create pockets of unsafe ice. 

When walking with friends, stay 10 yards apart. 

Lakes that have a lot of springs will have weak spots of ice. 

 

 

 

 

About the author:

Vin T. Sparano is the author of Complete Outdoors Encyclopedia as well as three other guides for Rizzoli

He has been an outdoor editor and writer for more than fifty years. He is editor emeritus of Outdoor Life, and has written and edited more than fifteen books about the outdoors. In 2013, he was inducted into the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame.

]]>
http://stepoutside.org/article/a-beginners-guide-ice-fishing http://stepoutside.org/article/a-beginners-guide-ice-fishing Tue, 26 Dec 2017 00:00:00 -0600
10 Best Bait and Tackle Shops in Illinois Illinois’ locally-owned bait shops offer fresh, high-quality bait and expert fishing advice. What more could you ask for? Whether you’re a seasoned angler or just learning to hold a fishing pole, the right equipment is important for a successful trip on the water. Find helpful service, insider tips, and all of the best gear at the 10 best bait and tackle shops in Illinois. 

Anglers International Resources is known for their vast selection of fishing gear and live bait. The staff members are super friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable on the products. Whether you’re new to fishing or have decades of experience, they will treat you with respect and give you personalized attention. 

Dave’s Bait, Tackle & Taxidermy has everything an angler needs for a fishing trip. Not only do they carry an impressive selection of fishing gear and live bait, they also clean and oil reels and offer free advice for new anglers. The employees are very helpful and knowledgeable, offering honest recommendations of tackle, reels, rods, and everything else fishing related. 

For a great variety of high-quality live bait, look no further than Jim’s Bait & Tackle in Fox Lake. This little bait shop is run by very dependable, knowledgeable folks who know the area. They don’t try to sell you want you don’t need, but provide honest advice and friendly conversation. 

Located on Lake Michigan, Park Bait has been providing bait, tackle, and honest fishing advice since 1958. You’ll find a great selection of live bait, lures, tackle, rods, reels, buckets, tackle boxes, and other fishing equipment at this little shop. They’re also happy to provide updated fishing reports with the latest lake conditions and fishing recommendations. 

Whether you’re just looking for the typical live baits or need a special order, Triangle Sports and Marine can help. They carry all the top brands of fishing gear and a wide variety to choose from, as well. You can also get up-to-date fishing reports, hard-to-find tackle, and quality bait. Patrons describe this little roadside shop as a “mini Bass Pro.” You’ll love their friendly, personalized service. 

Live bait vending machine?!

A post shared by Tracy D (@_tracyd) on

Barnard’s Bait Shop is a one-stop shop for everything fishing-related. They carry live bait, fishing tackle, and offer fishing licenses. You’ll find nightcrawlers, crickets, minnows, wax worms, and other live bait throughout the year. And if they don’t have exactly what you’re looking for in stock, they’re happy to order it for you. 

For a great selection of live bait and friendly customer service, check out Lee’s Bait & Tackle. They carry large suckers, bulk minnows, hot baits, and much more in stock. Patrons appreciate the knowledgeable staff, large bait selection, and reasonable prices. They inspect your live bait and can re-line your reels, as well. 

Until next year, the first and best job I ever had ๐Ÿ‘

A post shared by @ angelr0072 on

If you want advice from experienced anglers, look no further than Fishtech in Morton Grove. They carry everything fishing related and are happy to order anything they don’t have in stock. Their outstanding customer service, expert advice, and product selection make this shop a local favorite. 

A post shared by kristen romaniszak (@lil_snotty) on

Chicago Bait and Tackle is known for their friendly, accommodating staff and reasonable prices. They offer great deals on bait and even a rewards program. You’ll find a great selection of fishing gear including lures, rods, reels, combos, tackle, fishing line, and much more. Their knowledgeable employees are willing to help answer any questions, as well. 

Tom’s Bait Shop has been open for many years and offers extremely reasonable prices on bait and fishing gear. This no-frills shop is a local favorite because of the old-school atmosphere, high-quality bait, and dedication to the community. The owner is very knowledgeable on fishing and willing to answer any questions you may have. 

]]>
http://stepoutside.org/article/10-best-bait-and-tackle-shops-in-illinois http://stepoutside.org/article/10-best-bait-and-tackle-shops-in-illinois Thu, 21 Dec 2017 00:00:00 -0600
10 Best Archery Outfitters in Illinois Illinois is fortunate to have a great selection of high-quality archery gear stores throughout the state. No matter your archery style or experience level, the following archery stores will meet your needs. They all feature personalized customer service, very experienced staff, and a wide selection of bows and archery accessories. If you need your bow repaired, customized, or serviced in any way, the following archery outfitters are your answer. Here are the best in the state.  

Select Archery is one of the best archery gear stores in Central Illinois. The friendly staff treat all the customers with respect, offering honest recommendations and personalized attention. Their tech department is extremely knowledgeable and capable, plus the archery lessons are very reasonably priced. 

This full-service archery shop and range is a local favorite for many reasons including their top-notch coaching, excellent customer service, and fair prices. The staff members at BowDoc Archery are very accommodating to customers and provide a safe environment for kids to learn archery. They do a great job of getting you set up with a bow suitable for your skill level and needs. 

Whether you just need your bow restrung or desire to purchase an entire new bow, Fox Valley Archery is worth the visit. It’s run by people who are passionate and knowledgeable on everything related to archery. They are very helpful at restoring and servicing bows, answering archery questions, and offering honest advice. 

For personalized attention, look no further than Archers Alley in Decatur. The staff spends as much time as necessary to ensure your archery needs are satisfied, from setting up your bow to making sure you know how to use it. Their huge variety of merchandise and long distance range also make Archers Alley a great local archery store. 

If you’re new to archery, check out Archery Custom Shop in Forest Park. They offer personal service, competitive prices, and honest recommendations on archery gear. Their expert staff members are very seasoned on everything archery-related and also offer archery lessons for every style of archery. Don’t forget to check out their indoor shooting range, as well. 

Another Central Illinois gem, Wolf Hollow Archery in Chillicothe is recognized for their outstanding customer service and archery knowledge. They offer a fantastic selection of inventory and will set up your bow the same day. Whatever your archery needs, they will take care of you and answer any questions you have. 

This family-owned company is known for friendly, helpful customer service and insightful recommendations. Their certified bow techs are able to service any bow, perform arrow repairs, customizations, and anything else you could possibly need. They also offer archery lessons by certified archery instructions and have an indoor 20-yard shooting range. 

New hobby

A post shared by ashleykperez (@ashleykperez) on

For a professional archery shop with superior customer service, look no further than Chicago Archery. You’re always in good hands as the staff is extremely knowledgeable, caring, and helpful. They make honest suggestions and don’t try to push expensive products on you. Patrons highly recommend the lessons here, as well. 

T.A.Z. Archery is a one-stop shop for all your archery needs. Their staff members are very patient with beginners and willing to spend extra time helping with bow set-ups, repairs, and customizations. The laid-back range environment makes T.A.Z. an awesome place to shoot, as well, and they sell top-quality bows. 

Just call me Katniss Everdeen. #Archery #BowAndArrow #HungerGames #KatnissEverdeen #Fun

A post shared by Sherae (@mon_sherae) on

Strictly Archery offers a wide selection of leading bow brands and provides services such as bow repairs and adjustments. Located in Shorewood, Strictly Archery also offers affordable archery lessons for both adults and children. Their new indoor archery range features 3D and portable targets, allowing archers of all experience levels to sharpen and perfect their skills. 

]]>
http://stepoutside.org/article/10-best-archery-outfitters-in-illinois http://stepoutside.org/article/10-best-archery-outfitters-in-illinois Wed, 20 Dec 2017 00:00:00 -0600
5 Best Ski Destinations for Families in Illinois It doesn’t matter if you’re an experienced skier or a complete newbie, skiing with the family is a fun way to enjoy the winter season. Illinois’ ski areas offer pristine conditions, lessons for all experience levels, and an abundance of other amenities. Enjoy skiing, snowboarding, and even some tubing, at these five great ski destinations for families in the state.  

Known as the most beautiful ski area in Illinois, Chestnut Mountain Resort offers both indoor and outdoor activities for the whole family. This premier ski and snowboarding resort offers beautiful views of the Mississippi River, exhilarating activities, and abundant amenities. The mountain features 3,500-foot slopes, a 475-foot vertical drop, and a variety of lifts. 

It was a bright, bright, bright sunshine-y day. Peace out, Galena.โœŒ๐Ÿผ

A post shared by Jessica Meier (@jessicaannmeier) on

Located near the Quad Cities, Snowstar Winter Park is a family-friendly ski area featuring 15 trails and 11 snow tubing lanes. Their massive terrain park offers something for everyone including novice and experienced “snow athletes.” They also offer lessons for both kids and adults. Snowstar is the perfect spot for skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing, and all snow sports. 

Villa Olivia is located near Chicagoland and offers fun winter sports for the entire family. Relax at the ski cafe or practice your skills on the slopes. Skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing are popular activities here. They also offer ski and snowboard lessons including group lessons for all skill levels. 

Raging Buffalo is known for being the world’s first exclusive snowboarding area. The terrain park changes regularly, so the hills stay fresh. The beginner’s hills feature two rope tows, table tops, half pipes, a staircase, and magic carpet. Raging Buffalo also offers lessons on the hour. 

Four Lakes is the ideal place to learn the ski or snowboard in the Lisle area. The hills are great considering the natural terrain is flat. Both newbies and experienced skiers appreciate the park. According to user reviews, the lessons are the best aspect of this ski resort. 

]]>
http://stepoutside.org/article/5-best-ski-destinations-for-families-in-illinois http://stepoutside.org/article/5-best-ski-destinations-for-families-in-illinois Tue, 12 Dec 2017 00:00:00 -0600
10 Best Ski and Snowboard Stores in Illinois Although it may not be as mountainous as other areas of the United States, Illinois is home to several top-notch ski and snowboard shops to make your next skiing expedition perfect! Beginner to advanced skiers can appreciate the product selections, professional services, and excellent customer service from the following shops. For the best in ski and snowboarding gear and expert advice, check out these 10 awesome local stores in Illinois. 

This full-service snowboard and ski shop is one of the few to receive recognition from Snow Industries America. Viking Ski Shop has been in business for over 50 years, providing excellent customer service and a wide selection of quality products. They also offer services such as custom boot fitting, expert tunings, and much more. 

And now merry Xmas to me!...got my first set here when I was 16 #vikingskishop #coloradodreaming

A post shared by Brian Reynolds (@breynolds75) on

If you want expert advice, look no further than Alpine Accessories. The owner has decades of experience with ski, snowboard, and other snow sports equipment. So whether you just need your board tuned or custom ski boot fitting, you’ll be in good hands at this shop.

Aline Shop is known for the high-quality gear and unsurpassed customer service. They offer a great selection of skis and snowboards, with staff members willing to help anytime without pressuring you to purchase. They provide honest suggestions and provide a pleasant shopping experience. 

This shop specializes in cross-country ski and bike equipment and services. They offer rentals and helpful assistance for all your questions. Customers appreciate the non-salesy atmosphere, competitive prices, and accommodating customer service. No upselling here, just a helpful environment. 

Known as the largest snowboard shop in the Midwest, Shred Shop is a must-visit if you’re in Skokie. The staff members are super helpful and very knowledgeable on boards, plus willing to answer any questions. They also offer a fantastic selection of boards, so plan on spending at least an hour here. 

For an impressive selection of winter sports equipment, check out Boardsports Unlimited. They sell snowboards, helmets, jackets, bags, and accessories while also offering services and rentals. Their staff members are very knowledgeable on the equipment, resulting in a very loyal customer base. 

Windward 82 may be the coolest snowboard shop on this list. The store looks very hip and has a comfortable, laid-back vibe. The board selection is also impressive, and customers rave about the staff. They’ll let you try out the boards even if you aren’t planning on buying. 

Snowbird Ski & Patio is another gem shop for purchasing ski and snow gear. They offer a notable selection of gear and accessories, rentals, and services. Their professional, knowledgeable staff members also do a great job of servicing boards and skis. You can always trust this shop for your snow sport needs. 

If you’re looking for a great selection of reasonably priced ski gear, look no further than Winter Globe Sports. The staff here is also extremely accommodating and very knowledgeable on the products. Plus, their full tune-ups are serviced very well and highly recommended by patrons. 

You’ll find a wide variety of name-brand ski equipment and accessories at Scandinavian Ski Shop. Their prices are slightly higher than other shops, but you can still pick up high-quality equipment here. However, customers have noted difficulties returning items on occasion. 

]]>
http://stepoutside.org/article/10-best-ski-and-snowboard-stores-in-illinois http://stepoutside.org/article/10-best-ski-and-snowboard-stores-in-illinois Mon, 11 Dec 2017 00:00:00 -0600
Camping Done Right: 7 Best Outdoor Stores in Illinois Choosing the right camping gear is an essential part of planning any camping trip. Whether you’re just going down to the creek for a night under the stars or planning an extended hike through Shawnee National Forest, the proper camping gear is a necessity. Embarking on a camping trip unprepared is both foolish and dangerous. For high-quality gear and expert advice from a knowledgeable staff, check out these seven great camping stores in Illinois. 

If you’re looking for high-quality camping gear, head to Uncle Dan’s with locations in Chicago, Evanston, and Highland Park. This store offers everything you need for camping including backpacks, tents, sleeping gear, cooking supplies, lighting, camping furniture, tools, and more. Customers appreciate the great selection of gear and helpful customer service. 

Camping goals. โ›บ๏ธ๐Ÿผ

A post shared by MH Aesthetics (@mhaestheticsusa) on

WildCountry is a family-owned business that only carries the best brands in outdoor and camping gear. Their staff is trained in the gear sold in their stores, so you’ll get the best information about the camping products you’re looking for. And if they don’t have the products you need in-stock, they’ll try their best to get it for you. 

Since 1947, Champaign Surplus has been providing the outdoorsperson with high-quality gear at affordable prices. This store carries everything from tents, sleeping bags, and cookware, to lanterns, trekking poles, and knives and tools. Find all of your favorite brands like Mountain Hardwear, Osprey, and KEEN.  

For the newest, most innovative camping gear, head to Erehwon Mountain Outfitter. They specialize in outdoor apparel and bags, but also offer camping essentials like lanterns and sleeping pads. Here you’ll find the best brands in outdoor apparel such as Chaco, Columbia, and Eagle Creek, and excellent customer service. 

Since 1979, Shawnee Trails Wilderness Outfitters has been providing the community with high-quality camping and outdoor gear at competitive prices. This locally-owned shop is the place to visit if you’re planning on camping in the Shawnee National Forest. They carry hiking and climbing shoes, tents, packs, outerwear, canoes, kayaks, and much more. 

This store sets out to do exactly what its name implies: Camping Comfortably. The supplies provided by Camping Comfortably are seemingly endless: camping chairs, coolers, tents, bedding, lanterns, stoves, grills, fire pits, heaters, tools, and knives, the list goes on. Find brands such as Coleman, ALPS Mountaineering, Blackpine Sports, and more. 

For knowledgeable and courteous staff, look no further than Dunn’s Sporting Goods in Marion. This family-owned and operated sporting goods is the place to go if you’re planning on doing any fishing, hunting, or archery on your camping trip. They also offer camping apparel, bags, footwear, firearms, and ammunition. 

]]>
http://stepoutside.org/article/camping-done-right-7-best-outdoor-stores-in-illinois http://stepoutside.org/article/camping-done-right-7-best-outdoor-stores-in-illinois Mon, 04 Dec 2017 00:00:00 -0600
ATV Off-Roading Adventure at Little Egypt Off Road Off-roading is an adventurous activity for people who are ready to leave the pavement behind. There are several off-roading areas throughout Illinois, but among the very best is Marion’s Little Egypt Off Road. For an excellent adventure through the wilderness, check out this itinerary. 

Located in a historic building that was once a bank, the Vault Cafe on the Square offers a unique dining experience in Marion. The warm, inviting atmosphere and historic charm attracts many diners, but the delicious food keeps them coming back. Menu favorites include the pancakes and Eggs Benedict (they serve breakfast all day). The staff here is also very friendly, as well, making this a great way to start an off-roading adventure. 

Eggs Benedict at The Vault #eggsbenedict #brunch #thevault #friendtime

A post shared by Kady (@kadyelli) on

Little Egypt Off Road offers the ultimate off-roading adventure with approximately 900 acres of diverse terrain. Located just east of Marion, this family-friendly off-road park features over 50 miles of open trails and numerous dirt bike trails. A kid’s track is also available for the little ones to have fun. This is the perfect spot to bring your dirt bikes, ATVs, and off-roading vehicles year-around. 

Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge offers 44,000 acres of recreational activities, making it a perfect place to visit on this off-roading adventure. Here visitors can view a variety of wildlife including white-tailed deer, wild turkey, bald eagles, waterfowl, and more. Trails, points of interest, fishing, hunting, and environmental education programs for kids are available at this beautiful refuge. 

John Brown’s on the Square is a great place to stop in the evening after an awesome off-roading adventure. This small-town bar offers over 100 beers and live music every Friday night. Guests love this spot because of the comfortable atmosphere, friendly service, amazing music, and great beer selection. The John Brown Ale is a favorite here. 

A visit to the historic Olde Squat Inn ends this off-roading adventure. Guests can stay in the original log cabins from the 1800s, explore the outdoors, and enjoy home-cooked breakfast by a sandstone fireplace. Bobcats, wild turkeys, bucks, and woodpeckers have been spotted near the cabins. Olde Squat Inn allows you to experience authentic Southern Illinois history.  

]]>
http://stepoutside.org/article/atv-offroading-adventure-at-little-egypt-off-road http://stepoutside.org/article/atv-offroading-adventure-at-little-egypt-off-road Mon, 06 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0600
5 Energizing Hikes in Illinois Working out at the gym can get mundane for outdoor enthusiasts, so many decide to pursue invigorating hikes in nature. From rock formations to scenic canyons, Illinois offers several challenging trails for hikers seeking a refreshing outdoor experience. Many of these hiking trails are located within state parks, but each is scenic and offers a fantastic cardio workout for fitness lovers of all experience levels. Here are five energizing hikes throughout the state. 

Experience the ultimate lower body workout at Swallow Cliff. This natural area features a 100-foot-tall bluff, drawing visitors seeking a challenging hike or run up the steep limestone stairs. The trail also passes through an 800-acre forest preserve with hilly terrain. 

Known for its steep limestone bluffs. Apple River Canyon State Park features a scenic canyon area formed by a vast sea that used to exist in the area. The park offers five hiking trails that wind through the woods. These trails are several miles long and can be hazardous, so they’re more suitable for advanced hikers looking for an energizing workout. 

Giant City State Park is famous for its huge rock formations and lush landscapes. Although hikers can enjoy several trails through the park, the Red Cedar Hiking Trail offers a more challenging 12-mile hike with an overnight campsite. This hike is ideal for an invigorating workout for more experienced hikers. 

Garden of the Gods is one of the most beautiful scenic areas in the state. Located in Shawnee National Forest, this natural wonder was created from over 300 million years of erosion. Now hikers can experience these sculptured rock formations and breathtaking views from the Observation Trail, which offers an energizing hike for all fitness levels. 

There are three unpaved and two paved trails at the Deer Grove Forest Persevere. The Yellow Trail is the longest in the area at 5.4 miles. According to its site, this historic 1,800-acre preserve attracts everyone from “serious botanists to weekend joggers.” This is an excellent place for a refreshing hike among beautiful wildlife. 

]]>
http://stepoutside.org/article/5-energizing-hikes-in-illinois http://stepoutside.org/article/5-energizing-hikes-in-illinois Tue, 24 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0500