11 Best Hiking Trails in Illinois [Update 2024]

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Hiking enthusiasts frequently refer to Illinois as a “hiker’s paradise” due to the state’s abundance of gorgeous mountains and dense forests. Going on a trip to the mountains in Illinois is a fantastic option, whether you want to go on a hike in the mountains of Illinois or you want to discover the natural beauty that Illinois has to offer.

This state has some of the most breathtaking trails in the country, making it an ideal destination for hikers. There are just too many things in Illinois that contribute to the state’s reputation as the adventure capital of the United States.

You want to go on the best hikes Illinois has to offer? Then I am here to tell you about the top hiking trails in Illinois that you should put on your list of things to do before you die.

1. Matthiessen State Park

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Matthiessen State Park is one of the Best Hiking Trails in Illinois

Matthiessen State Park is a beautiful place to go for a hike, with its winding paths through the woods, scenic vistas of the river, and other outdoor activities. Be sure to visit the canyons, and bring water shoes with you, since you will likely find yourself wading through some puddles while you explore them.

2. Starved Rock State Park

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Starved Rock State Park

This area is home to a total of 18 unique canyons, 14 waterfalls, and 13 miles of hiking trails. This park is open throughout the year, and in addition to its many attractions, it also features a spectacular waterfall.

3. Buffalo Rock State Park

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Buffalo Rock State Park can be found to the east of Starved Rock. There are two routes in this area, one of which leads into the forest, and the other offers spectacular vistas of the river. Michael Heizer’s sculptures that are influenced by Native American culture are a major draw for visitors to the area.

Enjoy a relaxing getaway in the best campgrounds in Illinois.

4. Kettle Moraine State Forest (South)

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There are in fact two distinct halves to this park, although the southernmost portion is the one that attracts the most visitors because it is closer to Chicago. It features a number of different hiking opportunities, one of which is a thirty-mile hike on the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.

5. Glacial Park Conservation Area

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Glacial Park Conservation Area

The hills (also known as kames) in this region were originally carved by glaciers many years ago, and the 5-mile route offers visitors the opportunity to explore both lightly wooded places and wetland areas.

Even for someone like myself who is not naturally oriented toward physical activity, such as this hike, it is still manageable to have a good time on the trail.

6. Kankakee River State Park

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This park is situated in Kankakee and Will Counties in the state of Illinois, and it encompasses a total area of 4,000 vast acres of land. In addition to being able to hike and ride bikes throughout the area, you can also snowmobile through the trails during the winter months.

Check out these amazing bike trails in Illinois.

7. North Branch Trail

This location within the broader region of Gompers Park is ideal for both bicycling and hiking. And obviously because of this reason, paved trail that can be found here. The trail, which passes through some absolutely stunning forests, ultimately culminates in a 16-mile journey that takes hikers to the Skokie Lagoons.

8. Moraine Hills State Park

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This park is 10 miles long and winds its way around Lake Defiance. However, it got its name from the stones and boulders that were placed here thousands of years ago. The state park is an excellent location for fishing, and it is also a fun area for families to spend the day on the water during the warm summer months.

9. Ned Brown Forest Preserve

A stunning panorama of Brussel Lake may be enjoyed from this natural area, which also features an 8-mile track that makes a complete circuit of the park. Spend some time wandering around the shoreline and the woods, and if you’re really lucky, you might even come across a herd of elk in the fenced-in pasture that’s located on the east end of the property.

10. Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve

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You are sure to have a good time at this one-of-a-kind preserve because it features 11 miles of paths. The primary 9.5-mile circle highlights the beautiful limestone topography and comes complete with sharp ascents and descents to assure a challenging workout.

Explore the trails on foot, by bike, or all three, but be careful if you veer off the main path because it may be difficult to find your way back to the circle.

11. Shawnee National Forest

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Rock climbing is a popular activity in this large national forest, which is also recognized for its abundance of hiking trails and other outdoor pursuits. Take advantage of your time in Illinois by hiking the 4.5-mile Jackson Falls Trek or the 3.2-mile Garden of the Gods trail, both of which provide stunning views of sandstone structures that are 320 million years old or more.

You are in for an entirely new adventure if you choose to hike along one of Illinois’s many trails. There is a chance of seeing wild animals, such as alligators, a variety of wading birds, and even other wild critters.

You might get the opportunity to see some of the world’s unique trees, such as orchids and cypresses, in addition to the lush vegetation that can be found in tropical areas. Nobody should pass up the chance to seize this occasion!

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