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 Fri, 03 Dec 2021 17:04:28 -0600 5 Perfect Fall Camping Spots in Illinois Fall in Illinois means pumpkin patches, local festivals, and camping in the beautiful state parks throughout the state. The dense forests, lush vegetation, and charming rivers provide picturesque spots of camping in the fall. Campers can experience nature’s vibrant autumn colors at the following perfect fall camping spots. Whether you prefer full hook-up camping or more rustic adventures, you’re sure to enjoy these relaxing campsites. 

As the “Trail Riding Capital of Illinois,” Eddyville offers many scenic trails throughout the Shawnee National Forest area. Hayes Canyon Campground features 32 RV campsites with electric hookups, cabin rentals, and a few pens for horses or mules. This award-winning campground is also conveniently located near recreational activities and scenic areas including Little Creek Archery, Bell Smith Springs, and Millstone Bluffs. The abundant trees and vegetation are beautiful in the fall at Hayes Canyon Campground. 

Located on 1,000 acres of crystal-clear water in Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, Little Grassy Campground and Marina is the perfect fall camping spot. Little Grassy Lake is considered one of the most beautiful lakes in southern Illinois thanks to the woody rocky shoreline and translucent waters. The campground offers a variety of options including full hook-up, water and electric only, tent, and a tent group site for campers. This scenic area offers stunning views in the fall. 

The dense vegetation and forested bluffs of Fox Ridge State Park are extra beautiful in the autumn when they display brilliant orange, yellow, and red hues. This 2,064-acre park features lush valleys, steep ridges, and miles of scenic hiking trails with several picturesque wooden bridges. Campers have access to many picnic areas, fishing on Ridge Lake, boating, and public hunting. 

Although known for its beautiful wildflowers in the spring, Pecatonica River Forest Preserve is just as beautiful in the autumn. It’s located on 466 acres of oxbow swamps and woodlands, featuring a 130-year-old limestone barn on the preserve. It offers 15 non-electric campsites, 133 picnic tables, restrooms, playground equipment, canoe access, and nearly 10 miles of hiking trails. 

Trail of Tears State Forest is abundant in wildlife and used mainly for ecosystem preservation. Camping in the Trail of Tears State Forest is a peaceful experience with lush vegetation and scenic hiking trails nearby. Campers also have access to picnic shelters and game hunting (seasonal). More primitive campers appreciate the tent campsites and log shelters for rustic camping in the forest with gorgeous autumn views. 

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5 Stunning Foliage Hikes in Illinois Illinois’ state parks and forest preserves feature miles of hiking trails offering scenic views of lush foliage, native wildlife, and interesting landscape formations. Hikers have the opportunity to experience the stunning foliage colors from hundreds of native plant and tree species in the spring, summer, and fall months. The following foliage hikes are free to the public and provide close-up views of unspoiled nature. 

Known for its moss-covered boulders and bubbling brook, Dixon Springs State Park features the tallest tree in Illinois: a 165-foot-tall red oak. Aside from this cool fact, this beautiful state park is home to other giant, century-old trees, abundant wildlife, and huge boulders. Several beautiful foliage hikes are available throughout the park including Pine Tree Trail, Oak Tree Trail, Bluff Trail, and Ghost Dance Trail. 

Kankakee River State Park is known for its rich cultural history, unspoiled natural beauty, and clean streams. Hikers can take advantage of the miles of beauty foliage scenery along the north side of the Kankakee River via the park’s trail system. The hiking trails offer stunning views of limestone canyons, beautiful foliage, and a waterfall. 

Matthiessen State Park is the ideal spot for anyone interested in geology or passionate about recreational activities. This unique park features a diverse landscape that ranges from prairie to canyons and forest. The park offers five miles of marked hiking trails featuring stunning views of foliage, wildlife, and rock formations. Hikers should always remain on the trails and exercise caution near the steep cliffs and canyons. 

Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve is an ecological haven featuring 740 native plants species and hundreds of animal species includes mammals, fish, reptiles, birds, and amphibians. This nearly 2,500-acre park features 11 miles of turf and limestone-covered trails through a variety of habitats including grasslands, wetlands, woodlands, and savannas. Unmarked footpaths are also found through the Waterfall Glen, but they may not connect with the mapped trails. 

Known for its magnificent views of the Illinois River, Pere Marquette State Park is the recreational lover’s paradise. This state park is rich in local history, geology, wildlife habitat, and year-round recreational activities. Hikers can take in stunning views of the wooded ravines, towering river bluffs, and lush forests along 12 miles of marked trails. These trails are suitable for both experienced and beginner hikers. 

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8 Best Outdoor Fall Activities in Illinois In a state with one of the nation’s great cities and a deep-rooted agricultural history, fall is a time of year to celebrate. That’s why folks in Illinois get outside and look for some action in the crisp, cool autumn months. If you’re looking for something to do this autumn, check out some of these ideas—they’re our favorite fall activities in Illinois.

When the water temperatures cool down, the muskie bite heats up in Illinois. And if you’re a muskie hunter, you won’t want to miss November’s IMTT Championship Tournament on the Fox Chain of Lakes. Launch for the tournament (or quench your thirst and wait for the weigh-in) at the Thirsty Turtle Bew & View Pub.

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The Cannonball Ride fall off-road cycling series, including the Fat Tire Fest, takes place throughout October and November at various locations, with the last two races taking place in the Chester area. The distances are 50-plus miles, with plenty of climbing, gravel and cross-country racing. Race headquarters and the newest Cannonball sponsor is St. Nicholas Landmark restaurant on the banks of the Mississippi, in Chester.

Starved Rock State Park, carved into the bluffs of the Illinois River is one of the state’s most dramatically beautiful. Hike the carved canyons and ravines, surrounded by the colors and scents of autumn, the sounds small cascades rushing in the background. Hike to the edge of the bluff to see the foliage’s bursting with color up and down the river valley. Eat, drink or stay at the Starved Rock Lodge, located right in the park.

What better way to enjoy fall than from the deck of an historic riverboat? Head to the Quad Cities and step aboard the Celebration Belle for an authentic sternwheel experience, as you take in the crisp autumn air and enjoy the gorgeous fall colors of the tree-lined Mississippi River valley.

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Hit the roads for a 5K or half-marathon at the annual Hero Run in Mascoutah. Not only is it an awesome event, it is was founded to honor veterans and service members who are on active duty, as well to raise money to assist those who are struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After the run, stay for Braktoberfest, where you can recover from the run with plenty of beer and all the food you need.

If you like corn mazes, whether for the zen of getting lost, the thrill of solving the puzzle, or even the corn itself, you kinda have to visit the World’s Largest Corn Maze, which is right here in Illinois. More specifically, you can find it at Richardson Adventure Farm in Spring Grove.

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Kickapoo State Park is home to some of the best singletrack in Illinois. The 13 miles of trails are maintained by the Kickapoo Mountain Bike Club and offer awesome experiences for all levels of riders. If you need gear or repairs, Cycles Plus in Danville is a great choice that’s close to the park.

The Sangamon River, a tributary of the Illinois in the central part of the state, is an excellent all-around fishery but is particularly good for flathead catfish. These leviathans easily grow to sizes in excess of 50 pounds. In the fall, these cats are feeding a sheltering in deep holes and other structure. Tailwaters below dams, such as the one at Petersburg, are often excellent spots to find flatheads. If you’re looking for bait, gear or local advice, stop into Big Red’s Bait and Tackle in nearby Springfield.

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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. 

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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 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 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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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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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. 

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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

Not only will you find high-quality gear and top brands at North American Outfitters, but you'll also be treated to a staff that truly knows their stuff. The shop has three different indoor ranges including a 3-D pop-up systemthe first in the area. Find products from Mission, PSE, Ravin, and more. Need a bow repair? They do that too. 

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. 

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5 Warm-Weather Fishing Destinations to Escape the Cold When winter drops its icy fingers across the fisheries of the United States, making the water hard in some places or the air just too darn cold in others, many anglers find themselves dreaming of warmer weather. The good news is, you don’t have to wait. If dropping a line through a little hole in the ice isn’t your idea of fun, head south! There are plenty of places where you can enjoy both tight lines and warm weather, all winter long. Here are a handful of warm-weather fishing destinations where you can go to escape the cold.

Islamorada, in the Florida Keys, is the self-proclaimed “Sportfishing Capital of the World”—and you know, it just may be. With the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Florida Bay on the other, Islamorada is exceptionally well positioned to offer a tremendous variety of fishing opportunities, including inshore, offshore, reef fishing, and flats fishing. So, whether you’re targeting tarpon, trolling for tuna, or stalking snook, you’ll find a fishery in close proximity to the island. 

The Hadley House Resort, located right on Islamorada, is one of the best lodging values on the key. Hit Florida Bay for some “backcountry” fishing (inshore and flats) with Pirate for Hire Charters, or head offshore on one of Dirty Boat Charters’ trips.

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Venice, Louisiana, is another U.S. fishing Mecca with its own title—alternately known as the Redfish or Fishing “Capital of the World”—that derives from its unique location, which places it at the center of a variety of fisheries: Inshore, offshore, bottom fishing, and even freshwater bass fishing. You could catch a bull redfish and trophy largemouth in the morning and bring home yellowfin tuna steaks for dinner in the afternoon.

Stay at Nicole’s Fishing Bed and Breakfast, which partners with several local houseboats to provide accommodation for visiting anglers. To hunt trophy-size inshore species like bull redfish, tarpon or speckled trout, hook up with Reel Tite Fishing Guide Service. Voodoo Fishing Charters will put you on the offshore species, like yellowfin tuna and mahi mahi.

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The Kona Coast of the Island of Hawaii (the Big Island) is yet-another destination that draws sport anglers from all over the world. Kailua-Kona’s large charter fleet is testament to the large numbers of marlin, tuna, and mahi mahi that make their home in the warm Hawaiian waters. Shore anglers can get in one some of the Big Island’s massive ulua (giant trevally) action—if you can get a local to tell you where to go.

Camelot Kona Fishing Charters is a skilled and respected charter outfit that has been putting people on fish for more than four decades. The Royal Kona Resort, on the bay in Kailua-Kona, is just minutes from the marina and is a great place to stay and relax after a long day on the water. 

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Largemouth anglers have it tough in the winter time, especially in the more-northern latitudes of the United States. Well, here’s some good news to soothe your winter bassin’ blues: One of the Lone Star State’s best largemouth fisheries is located deep in South Texas, along the Mexican border. On Falcon International Reservoir, more commonly called Falcon Lake, the day time air temperatures during the winter months average in the 70s and 80s. You won’t even need a jacket.

Falcon Lake is an impoundment of the Rio Grande, just southeast of Laredo. The 83,000-acre lake is a renowned largemouth bass and catfish fishery. Five and six-pound bucketmouths are not uncommon. If you’re looking for a different kind of challenge, Falcon Lake also supports a decent alligator gar population. The lake does straddle the border, so if you intend to fish in Mexican waters, you will need a Mexico fishing license. If you don’t bring your own, you can rent a boat from Falcon Lake Marina. Lakefront Lodge offers a variety of accommodations, from RV sites to motel rooms and rental cabins.

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St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, is another sunny island destination you can reach without a passport. And the flight is definitely worth it! More than 20 IGFA world records have been set by angler’s fishing out of the Virgin Islands, including the women’s all-tackle record for blue marlin, which was set by a 1,073-pound monster billfish. The islands’ location on the edge of the Puerto Rico Trench and in close proximity to the Gulf Stream make the USVI the perfect launching point for hunting big pelagic species, ranging from massive marlin to trophy tuna.

Consider Point Pleasant Resort, not far from Red Hook, for lodging. Double Header Sportfishing will get you out to the fish.

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Photograph Courtesy of Dirty Boat Charters http://stepoutside.org/article/5-warm-weather-fishing-destinations-to-escape-the-cold http://stepoutside.org/article/5-warm-weather-fishing-destinations-to-escape-the-cold Wed, 04 Dec 2019 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. 

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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, 21 Nov 2019 00:00:00 -0600
7 Impressive ATV Destinations in the Midwest If you're in search of the top places to ride your ATV (or UTV!), you’ll find plenty of terrific terrain to traverse in the Midwest. From river flats to rocky crags and massive sand dunes, America’s heartland has trails that are perfect for just about any rider. Here are a few of the most impressive ATV destinations in the Midwest.

Tucked into the hills and ridges of northern Minnesota’s Iron Range, the Iron Range Off-Highway Vehicle State Recreation Area boasts 36 miles of trails spread across 1,200 acres located adjacent to both the Chippewa and Superior National Forests. Another 2,700 acres are being developed to expand the park. The area has been restored from reclaimed iron mines, so there’s plenty of awesome terrain for riders of all skill levels. Trails Edge Lodging  is an awesome place to stay for quick access to the OHV area.

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The Embarrass River ATV Park is a public off-road area operated by the village of Tigerton, Wisconsin, on the banks of the Embarrass River. More than 30 miles of trails weave their way across over 500 acres of northern Wisconsin woodlands. Camping is available at the ATV park itself. The Konkapot Lodge, outside nearby Bowler, is a great alternative if you don’t want to bring a tent or haul your RV.

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Midwesterners don’t have to head for the coasts to off-road over massive sand dunes—they just need to make their way to western Michigan. The ORV scramble area at Silver Lake State Park. There, you’ll find that 450 of the park’s 2,000 acres of Lake Michigan sand dunes are open to and rideable with your ATV. Camping is available in the park, itself, and other lodging options, like the Dunes Waterfront Resort, can be found in nearby Mears, Michigan.

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More than 160 acres of interconnected trails across varying terrain make Lakeview OHV Park Iowa’s premier ATV destination. The extensive network consists of hard pack, sand, and mud trails, along with some hill climbs. No camping is allowed directly in the OHV park, but Lake McBride State Park has a campground and is located only a mile or so from the OHV park. Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, both less than 20 minutes from the park, offer plenty of other lodging options.

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Off-road riders in the Show Me State will find all that they’re looking for at Finger Lakes State Park outside Columbia, Missouri. More than a dozen miles of trails and roadways criss-cross the park’s 1,128 acres. The rolling hills and hardwood forests combine to make an exciting and scenic ride for ATVers of any age and skill. Camping is available in the park, and there’s plenty of lodging in nearby Columbia, like the Tiger Hotel.

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Located in western South Dakota, the Black Hills National Forest offers an incredible number of riding opportunities for off-road enthusiasts. The forest has 21 designated trailheads that connect to more than 700 miles of motorized trails—many of which intersect with another 500 miles of roads that are “open to all vehicles.” There is something for every rider in the forest—easy to difficult; loop routes and camp-as-you-go options (camping is available in the forest). Trails End Cabins and Motel, near Hill City, makes a great base camp for your off-road adventures. 

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With its proximity to the Chicago area, there’s not a better bet for ATV riders in northern Illinois or southern Wisconsin than the Cliffs Insane Terrain Off Road Park on the Illinois River near Marseilles. The Cliffs’ interconnected trail system spreads across more than 300 wooded acres, with all sorts of awesome terrain to get your blood pumping. If you prefer to camp while in the area, check out Glenwood RV Resort. The Starved Rock Lodge, located in the nearby state park of the same name, is a great choice for those who like a little scenery with their lodging.

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http://stepoutside.org/article/7-impressive-atv-destinations-in-the-midwest http://stepoutside.org/article/7-impressive-atv-destinations-in-the-midwest Wed, 02 Oct 2019 00:00:00 -0500
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.✌🏼

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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. 

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http://stepoutside.org/article/5-best-ski-destinations-for-families-in-illinois http://stepoutside.org/article/5-best-ski-destinations-for-families-in-illinois Fri, 01 Mar 2019 00:00:00 -0600
Best Winter Weekend Getaway at Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge Northwestern Illinois is home to some of the state’s most stunning terrain. Rolling hills, forests and towering river bluffs along the Mississippi make this part of Illinois especially gorgeous in the winter months—and the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge is an awesome place for a great winter weekend getaway in the Land of Lincoln.

Main Street Inn has everyone raving over its location, beyond-hospitable staff, gorgeous interiors, and prime location. What more could you ask for? Right on Main Street in Galena, south of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge, you won’t be able to miss this historic inn. You won’t want to leave once you enter the luxurious family-run building (circa 1850). Be sure to book your room with enough time in advance, as there are only six rooms available. Head to the inn to drop off your luggage and begin your winter getaway in style!

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Under half a mile from the Inn along Main Street you’ll find this quaint restaurant with nothing short of mouth-watering dishes to fuel you up on your day of wintery adventures. The owners gave Galena the best French and German food in the area. If you’re a garlic lover you’ll love Poulet Roti, and if you’re a meat-eater, grab a plate of corned beef. There’s something for everyone here, the locals and visitors from out of town can both agree!

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The state’s premier ski destination is Chestnut Mountain Resort can be found in the vibrant town of Galena. The resort offers 19 ski trails, a seven-acre terrain park and nearly 500 feet of vertical over more than 220 acres of rolling hills and bluffs. And there’s plenty of opportunity for some apres ski fun at the resort’s restaurants, bars and lodge.

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Not only will you find sweeping vistas up and down the bluff-lined Mississippi River Valley in the refuge, you’re sure to encounter many of the birds and other species that use the river as a flyway during the winter months. Be sure to bring your camera and check some migratory species—such as bald and golden eagles—off your list of birds to see.

The waters of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge include the massive river itself, as well as the backwaters, sloughs and lakes that have been created by millennia of flooding, sediment build-up and channel alterations. This creates unique winter angling opportunities like ice fishing on the frozen backwaters (when ice is thick enough) or chasing leviathans in the channels. Make sure you have all the appropriate licenses and know where you can fish before you go. 

The Galena River Trail, just outside the refuge and near the historic city of Galena, follows the river of the same name for six scenic miles. It makes for a perfect day of out-and-back cross-country skiing. If you don’t feel like skiing the entire 12 miles, you can always follow one of the shorter trails in junction to the trail

One awesome way to experience the winter majesty of the Upper Mississippi Wildlife Refuge is by rolling through the refuge on two wheels. The best place to do so is the stretch of the Great River Trail that cuts through the refuge, away from highways and most vehicle traffic, southward from the town of Savanna. If you bike the length of the 10-mile segment to Thomson, you’ll see plenty of what the refuge has to offer—without much elevation gain. Keep going if you want to challenge your quads. 

Mississippi Palisades State Park is contiguous with the Upper Mississippi Wildlife Refuge, and during season, 1,500 acres of the park is open for hunting. Licensed hunters can take deer or wild turkey during archery seasons. A limited firearm hunt is also offered to a small number of hunters every year. Be sure to check the Illinois DNR website for current seasons, regulations and restrictions before you go.

Some of the best hiking or snowshoeing in the refuge is located in the contiguous Mississippi Palisades State Park. Lace up your boots, and depending on the snow depth, strap on your snowshoes, and head out on the Bittersweet Trail. When it meets up with Deer Trail, follow the loop around and return to the trailhead via the Bittersweet Trail for an under-five-mile round trip trek.

After a long weekend of adventure, you’ll definitely want to unwind at Galena Brewing Company. With an exciting menu full of cheesy goodness, this place is perfect for capping off the weekend. There is an array of different beer to choose from, such as Miner’s Treasure Amber Ale and the award-winning Famer’s Blonde Ale. Be sure to come on an empty stomach because the giant pretzels and cheddar biscuits will be calling your name! 

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http://stepoutside.org/article/best-winter-weekend-getaway-at-upper-mississippi-national-wildlife-and-fish-refuge http://stepoutside.org/article/best-winter-weekend-getaway-at-upper-mississippi-national-wildlife-and-fish-refuge Mon, 04 Feb 2019 00:00:00 -0600