Are you looking to camp and hike in the Land of Lincoln? If your answer is, “yes,” lace up your boots because here are three of the Prairie State’s best.
Apple River Canyon State Park
Located 157 miles northwest of Chicago, Apple River Canyon State Park is proof that size doesn’t matter. This small but scenic 300-acre park is a combination of limestone bluffs, deep canyons, and wooded ravines. After exploring the 5 miles of hiking trails, the park resembles the Ozarks of Arkansas, not the flatlands of Illinois.
“Apple River Canyon is one of the best places to camp in a serene, quiet, and out-of-the way setting,” says Steve Meyers, a park ranger.
Wildlife encounters may include whitetail deer, turkey, hawks and eagles. Fifty primitive campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The park is a short 30-minute drive from the historic river town of Galena, Ill.
For more information, contact: Apple River Canyon State Park, 8763 E. Canyon Road, Apple River, IL 61001, 815-745-3302.
Mississippi Palisades State Park
Located 150 miles northwest of Chicago, Mississippi Palisades State Park is a 2,500-acre oasis along the Mississippi River.
This scenic park of steep cliffs, caves and wooded ravines, boasts a rugged 13-mile trail system that is shared with gray and red fox, turkey and whitetail deer. The easier trails are located on the southern end of the park, while the more difficult trails are on the north. No matter which trails you choose, a must visit is Lookout Point. “Lookout Point has miles and miles of beautiful river scenery,” says Walt Zink, the park’s assistant superintendent.
Apart from its great hiking trails, the park is a favorite with fishermen (and women, too). Anglers can cast their troubles away by landing, crappie, bass, walleye, and catfish. The park has 135 campsites available on a first-come, first-served basis, and backpackers can hike into three primitive backpack sites.
For more information, contact: Mississippi Palisade State Park, 16327 Rt. 84, Savanna, IL 61074, 815-273-2731.
White Pines Forest State Park
Located 125 miles northwest of Chicago, White Pines Forest State Park’s 385 acres of rolling hills, cliffs, and stately pines are a great get-away for Windy City or other area residents. Hikers can trek the 5 miles of trails and the park has 106 camping sites. If you don’t want to sleep under the stars, check in to one of the White Pine Inn’s cabins.
But there’s more: If you’re looking for more trails, the nearby Lowden-Miller State Forest has over 22 miles of hiking trails to explore. And if you haven’t had your fill of hiking, Castle Rock State Park is a short 10-minute drive. Other area attractions worth visiting are the John Deere Home and the boyhood home of Ronald Reagan.
For more information, contact: White Pines Forest State Park, 6712 West Pines Road, Mt. Morris, IL 61054, 815-946-3817.
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