Step Outside - Illinois WELCOME TO STEP OUTSIDE! Find the best outdoor fun near you! en-us 30 Step Outside - Illinois 144 144 Mon, 04 Mar 2024 16:36:31 -0600 The Ultimate Guide to Beginner Hiking in Illinois Thousands of acres of forest, sparkling waterfalls, rolling plains—Illinois is a hiker’s dream. Whether you’re looking for a physical challenge or a wildlife-observing adventure, look no further. Check out our beginner’s guide to hiking in Illinois.

One of the best times of year to go on a hike in Illinois is during the fall. The heat from the summer has dissipated. The bugs are gone. And foliage is in full swing. 

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As a hiker, the last thing you want is to get all blistered up from a pair of uncomfortable boots. The proper footwear on a hike will make or break your experience. Here are a few of our favorite brands.

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You'll need more than just a good pair of boots. Navigational tools, First Aid, and extra water are just a few items you should be carrying. Make sure to add these 10 essentials to your checklist. 

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Grab those binoculars. When wildlife accompanies your journey, it makes the experience all the more special. Spot great horned owls, hawks, herons, and more on these beautiful birdwatching hikes.

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Looking for a good place to pick up those new boots? A backpack? The perfect lightweight jacket? These well-stocked and expertly-run retailers have your back.

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Are you now ready for more of a challenge? These strenuous hikes will certainly get your heart rate up. 

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10 Best Dog-Friendly Hiking Trails in Illinois! There are so many perfect spots for adventures with your pup in the great state of Illinois. The state has an abundance of dog-friendly trails and parks for you and your pup to explore. Read on for a guide to the 10 best dog-friendly hiking trails!

This 160 acre property was gifted to the citizens of Kane County by Emily Schweitzer. Here, you and your pup can explore oak forests, crop land, hay meadows and marshes. You can even visit the Edwardian house and matching dog kennel situated at the southeast corner of the property.

This 90 acre park was acquired from the Smoeger Estate and is full of natural woods and meadows. The park is perfect for an afternoon stroll with your pup and every inch of the park is open to your furry family member.

This 67-acre green space is located on the banks of the Fox River and is the perfect outdoor escape for your pup. The area contains an off-leash dog area, hiking/biking trails, interpretive signs, and even fishing.

This 1,350 acre park is a great spot for exploration and adventure. Here, you and your pup can explore diverse habitats and activities like hiking, biking, fishing, birding and more.

This lake is a great destination for a pup looking to get out and explore. With trails that allow dogs (as long as they are on a leash) and plenty of wildlife, your pup is bound to have a blast.

This 2,200 acre park is the perfect spot for fishing, biking, hiking, birding and more. And with ten-plus miles of trails, your pup can explore for hours. There’s no limit to what you can discover!

Explore this beautiful park with your pup and take in the seven-acre lake, several pavilions, asphalt walking trails, and more. See why Maryville locals flock to this hidden gem.

This wilderness area on the Illinois River, known for its steep sandstone canyons, is the perfect spot for a pup looking to explore. With trails, wildlife and even a Lover’s Leap Overlook to explore, your pup will be entertained for hours.

This 122 acre open space property is a pup’s paradise. With a savanna and mesic woodland, pocket seeps and a clear rippling brook, you and your pup will have plenty of exploring to do.

This 147 acre preserve is located at the site of the historic Grinton Mill and provides access to the DuPage River with a boat launch and picnic area. Perfect for a pup looking for an adventure.

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5 Cool Spots for ATV Off-Roading in Illinois The Illinois off-roading scene is a burgeoning one, with several independent parks scattered throughout the state catering to ATVs, motocross, and other off-roading vehicles. Whether you prefer a long weekend camping on-site or a quick afternoon jaunt, one of the following five parks will have what you need. Beginners, intermediate, and advanced riders, look no further than the following five cool spots for ATV off-roading in Illinois. 

The Cliffs in Marseilles, Illinois, offers 300 acres of “pure insane terrain” from April 1 to November 1, Monday-Friday. Day passes are available and range in price based on age and whether or not you’re riding or viewing. Consider the year pass for particularly enthusiastic riders. Feel free to peruse their many trails on your own, or join one of their Trouble Maker’s Adventure Tours, which will take you through the trails with a guide. 

Little Egypt Off Road in Marion, Illinois, is a private, family-friendly park covering 900 acres. Terrain ranges depending on the trail. Choose from over 50 miles of routes. Fees differ depending on age, how many passengers, and whether or not you’ve decided to camp for the night. Ride through forests, mud, creeks, and more.

Fox Valley Off Road near Ottawa, Illinois is situated on 100 acres of race-ready terrain. Become a member to participate in regular races, or simply stop by to enjoy the park without paying membership fees. Of course, fees apply per vehicle. Make sure to call or check their website if the weather is bad, because the park may close to prevent damage to vehicles. Kids can take advantage of the beginner track to learn the basics, whereas veterans are encouraged to try the trails or secondary track. 

Rocky Glen OHV in Rockford, Illinois is one of the premier riding areas in the state. Closed Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, riders shred it up on long weekends starting Friday. Riders must wear safety gear and adhere to the rules of the park, available on their website. The site has miles of trails covering 120 acres with tracks for beginners, intermediate level riders, and advanced riders. Open terrain, as well as winding courses, are both on-site.  

While Ki Tracks is a motocross park, it is accessible to ATVs as well. Ki Tracks regularly hosts exciting events like races, but if you’re just looking to have a little fun on a nice day—this is your spot! Their main track is regularly watered and groomed. There is also a peewee track available for the little ones! If you get hungry, there are concessions on-site as well.

*Note: Age restrictions, special licenses, and other requirements for off highway vehicles vary from state to state. Before heading out on your OHV, please consult your local regulations.

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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. 

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5 Exhilarating Jet Skiing Spots in Illinois There’s nothing quite like jet skiing on a calm, beautiful lake surrounded by nature. The abundant lakes in Illinois provide many opportunities for jet skiing and catching a cool breeze. For scenic views and a thrilling ride across Illinois’ waters, check out these five great spots. 

Chain O’ Lakes is surrounded by three natural lakes and the Fox River, providing ample jet skiing opportunities. There’s also a 44-acre lake within the park. With plenty of beautiful natural scenery and water, you’re sure to find a great spot for jet skiing in this area. If you don’t have your own jet ski, rent from Jet Funn—the largest watersport rental company in the Chain O’Lakes. 

Experience unparalleled views of Chicago from a jet ski on Lake Michigan. Rent a jet ski from Jet Ski Chicago, the only jet ski provider for Chicago’s beaches, and embark on an unforgettable experience. You’ll also get amazing views of Navy Pier and the shorelines. 

What better place to jet ski than in the beautiful Illinois River valley? Starved Rock State Park is one of the most popular attractions in Illinois. The Illinois River runs past the state park, providing fantastic views of the park. 

Located in Northwest Illinois, this beautiful state park was designed to provide four convenient boat access points to the Illinois River. There’s also a jet ski launching area just east of the boat ramps. These calm waters are perfect for jet skiing and not as crowded as the more popular jet skiing areas in the state. 

Known for its abundant fish variety, Pistakee Lake is another great spot for jet skiing. The lake itself is 1,700 acres, spacious enough to not worry about getting too close to a boat. Like most of the lakes in Illinois, the Pistakee is surrounded by beautiful nature including the Grant Wood Forest Preserve and Pistakee Highlands. You can also rent from Jet Funn to ride here. 

Anton Watman/ Fri, 09 Feb 2024 00:00:00 -0600
5 Beautiful Scenic Hikes in Illinois Scenic hikes are relaxing, inspiring, and invigorating for both new and experienced hikers. There are hundreds of hiking trails throughout Illinois thanks to the many state parks. The following scenic hikes are found in various landscapes ranging from sandstone bluffs to swampy wetlands. These hikes also range in length and skill levels. Explore these five beautiful scenic hikes and don’t forget to capture the natural beauty with your camera! 

Matthiessen State Park is home to beautiful canyons, streams, waterfalls, and other natural geological formations. Hikers can explore five miles of marked trails, choosing from various routes over the bluff tops or into the dells. The wide variety of vegetation and wildlife provide additional scenic variety to hikes through the park, as well. 

Known for its diverse and breathtaking terrain, Shawnee National Forest offers many miles of hiking trails through woodlands, hills, and sandstone formations. The Rim Rock National Recreational Trail is an exceptionally beautiful scenic hike that winds around the top rim of a rock. Its historic values led to its designation of a national recreation trail in 1980. 

Ferne Clyffe State Park offers an extraordinary variety of plant life and wildlife, making it a haven for nature lovers. Big Rocky Hollow Trail is an easy hike that leads to a beautiful, 100-foot waterfall. The total length of the trail is just under a mile. Each of the 18 trails in the park are assigned a number and name to prevent any confusion with hikers. 

The Des Plaines River Trail spans over 30 miles through 12 forest preserves and a variety of natural habitats. This gravel trail follows the Des Plaines River until connecting with the Cook County Forest Preserve trail. Hikers can experience diverse landscapes including prairies, savannas, valleys, and woodlands. 

From forested swaps to shallow wetlands, Cache River State Natural Area is dominated with beautiful trees. The Big Cypress Tree Trail is a short hike that showcases a bald cypress tree over 1,000 years-old. The tree’s base has a circumference of over 40 feet, making this natural wonder a destination for both novice and experienced hikers. 

Oleksandr Koretskyi/ Fri, 09 Feb 2024 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. 

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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.  

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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.

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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.

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5 Awesome Trail Running Spots in Illinois Nothing beats running on a nature trail through wilderness. Illinois offers hundreds of running trails, all of which boast scenic views around every corner. Varying in length and terrain, these five awesome trail running spots in Illinois each bring a unique experience for adventurous runners. 

Busse Forest Trail winds through the 3,558-acre Ned Brown Forest Preserve, circling around lakes and meadows. This trail is over 11 miles-long and ideal for running or jogging. Runners can choose to take the main loop, which is approximately eight miles, or the shorter side loops leading to the edges of the forest. 

The Des Plaines River Trail winds along the Des Plaines River and is suitable for both novice and experienced runners. This long, lush trail is over 56 miles long and features diverse terrain for an adventurous run on a variety of trail surfaces including crushed stone, pavement, and dirt paths through forests. Runners can also catch glimpses of native wildlife such as deer, turtles, and birds. 

This 13-mile trail is ideal for runners seeking both natural and industrial scenery. Centennial Trail features a historic swing bridge and offers both paved and crushed limestone surfaces. Runners can experience woodlands and ample wildlife, particularly birds, and wildflowers in the warmer months. This trail is also very peaceful and quiet. 

The Hennepin Canal State Trail is ideal for a historic run along an old canal. Runners can also experience abundant wildlife and lush vegetation that is particularly vibrant during the fall. More advanced runners often try the 4.5-mile trail in the main complex, which features more diverse landscapes including grasslands, marshes, and tall timbers. 

The Chicago Lakefront Trail offers some of the most beautiful views of Lake Michigan and Chicago. This 18-mile trail is often frequented by commuters, tourists, and recreational enthusiasts regardless of the season. Runners appreciate the interesting sites including beaches, museums, and parks, in the area. The trail starts at the South Shore Cultural Center and ends at Kathy Osterman Beach. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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5 Awesome Campgrounds for Families in Illinois Camping creates fond family memories, and Illinois is home to many great campgrounds for your next family getaway. Whether you’re looking for a campground full of amenities and activities, or a more relaxing spot in nature, you’re sure to find the perfect recreational area in Illinois. The following sites are top-rated by guests and are owned by folks who have the campers’ best interests in mind. Here are a few great family-friendly campgrounds in the state. 

As an award-winning campground several years in a row, Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park at Pine Lakes offers the best in family fun. Kids love the inflatable water playground on the lake, and paddleboards, paddleboats, and kayaks are available. They also offer other fun activities including tie-dying, horseshoe pits, outdoor movies, live music, hiking, biking, hay rides, crafts, games, and much more.

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This amenity-filled camping resort is perfect for families with kids of all ages. They offer rental units at affordable prices and wide variety of family-friendly activities including fishing, tubing, kayaking, rafting, arts and crafts (every weekend), and mini golf to name a few. This camping resort also has two heated pool, two playgrounds, and even an arcade. 

Whether you want to “rough it” or enjoy a comfortable camping getaway, Crazy Horse makes a memory-filled family experience. With plenty of wide open nature, this family-oriented campground offers fishing and a remodeled lodge with pool tables, board games, books, arcade games, food, and hot breakfast every weekend morning. They also have themed weekends throughout the season.

Camp on a modern ranch at Hansen’s Hideaway. This family-friendly campground is located on 100 acres of scenic landscape with a swimming pond, playground, game room, snack bar, and more. They also offer horse boarding, hay rides, nature trails, covered picnic pavilions, and horseshoe pits. Hansen’s Hideaway is a great family getaway spot. 

Lincoln Trail Family Campground is the perfect place to relax and enjoy nature. While they don’t offer the many amenities and activities as the other campgrounds featured here, this serene campground is surrounded by lush vegetation and features a beautiful lake. They host many annual events and the owners really care about the quality of the camping experience. 

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5 Awesome RV Campsites in Illinois RV camping provides the perfect opportunity to get away from the daily mundane routines and stresses of our modern lifestyles. Illinois offers many beautiful forests and scenic areas that feature some awesome RV campsites full of activities and amenities. Many of these campgrounds offer swimming pools, lakes or rivers, family-friendly activities, and attractions in nearby local communities. 

Crow Valley Campground is the perfect spot for family camping on the Rock River. They offer spacious RV sites equipped with water and electricity at very affordable nightly, weekly, and monthly rates. Campers have access to plenty of amenities including a pool, game room, Wi-Fi, playground, and store. Choose from a plethora of family-friendly activities such as volleyball, basketball, horseshoes, fishing, and more. 

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For modern amenities in rustic resort environment, look no further than Whittington Woods Campground. This RV campground offers full hook-ups and a salt water pool for registered campers. They also offer a fully-stocked store, pavilion with several picnic tables and fire pit, playground, and basketball. Campers can also take advantage of the nearby attractions, which include museums, shops, and dancing. 

Located in scenic western Illinois, Driftwood is nearby the Mississippi River and also surrounded by many lakes and streams for plenty of recreational activities. This beautiful RV park offers full hook-up sites, free hot showers, clean bathrooms with private dressing rooms, and a swimming pool for relaxing. Hiking, boating, fishing, and hunting are all nearby this family-friendly campground. 

Sycamore RV Resort provides a quiet, relaxing getaway for the entire family. This lakeside campground offers a full range of camping activities including boating, swimming, fishing, picnicking, and more. The campground is also conveniently located near many local attractions such as the Sycamore “Turning Back Time” Classic Car Show, Sycamore Speedway, and Great Western Trail. 

This family-owned RV park is open year-around and provides a scenic spot for anyone wanting some peace and quiet. Archway provides a variety of full hook-up sites, laundromat, handicap-accessible bathrooms, Wi-Fi, a playground, and fishing pond for campers. It’s also conveniently located near restaurants and retail stores. 

Aleksey Stemmer/ Sat, 27 Jan 2024 00:00:00 -0600
5 Cool Rock Climbing Spots in Illinois While Illinois doesn’t seem like an ideal spot for rock climbing, it offers several cool spots for rock climbers looking to experience scenic views. The best rock climbing spots in Illinois are generally found in the state parks, where unique sandstone formations are present. No matter your skill level, everyone can experience the stunning natural beauty of Illinois at these five cool rock climbing spots in the state. 

Giant City State Park is known for its rustic beauty and plentiful recreational opportunities. The massive sandstone cliffs are ideal for experienced rock climbers who want to see the unique landscape up close. Rock climbing is only permitted at Shelter #1 bluff (Makanda entrance) and Devil’s Standtable cliff. Ropers are allowed, but permanent anchors aren’t permitted. 

Recognized for its plentiful recreational activities and abundant vegetation, Shawnee National Forest is a top destination in Southern Illinois. Although only limited rock climbing is available in Shawnee National Forest, climbers are allowed at Jackson Falls (near Ozark). Jackson Falls is ideal for technical and sport climbing and offers gorgeous scenic views of the forest and bluffs in the area. 

Mississippi Palisades State Park is known for its amazing natural landscapes and rich Native American history. The cliffs at this park are ideal for catching the best scenic views of the park, however, climbing is only allowed at Indian Head, Twin Sisters, and Sentinel Area. This park doesn’t maintain the rocks/cliffs or allow permanent anchors. So if you’re heading up there, make sure to come prepared! 

Ferne Clyffe State Park offers some of the most outstanding views in the state. Featuring unique plant life and geology, this widely-recognized state park provides many recreational activities including rock climbing. Whether you’re seeking an interesting climb or advanced route for a challenge, you’ll find it along with breathtaking scenery at Ferne Clyffe State Park. Absolutely no bolts are allowed on any bluffs, and some bluffs are inaccessible to protect the native endangered flora. 

Located nearby Ferne Clyffe State Park, Cedar Bluff is another ideal rock climbing area for both newbies and experienced climbers. The Little Big Wall offers a unique climbing experience from out of a cave and onto a rock face. Cedar Bluff also offers several other climbing routes, some are long and challenging, while others are smooth and consistent. 

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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. 

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