Best Hiking in Illinois


Are you ready to discover some of the most scenic hiking trails in Illinois? These trails have everything you desire during your hiking journey- breathtaking views, mountain biking, ecosystem, flora & fauna, wildlife and scenic landscapes! 

For all levels of hikers, Illinois has a wide range of trails, offering breathtaking natural beauty along with wooded hills and lush greenery.

In addition, you will find plenty of rivers and waterfalls to spend your day calmly.

Besides a large number of hiking trails, The Grand Illinois, located in Northern Illinois, is the longest trail. It is over 500 miles long.

Hikers can begin this out-and-back trail by meeting with the beautiful and serene views of Lake Michigan. 

So, let’s not waste any time and embark on our journey in the scenic landscapes of Illinois – a midwestern state in the US.

7 Scenic Trails For Hiking in Illinois

If you love high-toned hiking areas to explore, try out these adventure trails that are among the best things to know before moving to Illinois.


With several rivers, parks, canyons, and wildlife, Illinois is full of hiking trails, and the best of them are discussed below in detail for a virtual hiking journey! 

1. Starved Rock State Park – Breathtaking Canyons 

Starved Rock State Park is the second-oldest state park in the area, established a century ago. Dogs are allowed on the premises, but they must weigh under 50 lbs.

At this park, you can embark on a more than 13-mile hike to take in the breathtaking sights of waterfalls, overlooks, sandstone overhangs, and canyons – the list goes on. 

Additionally, you can participate in several recreational activities, such as camping, hiking, fishing, boating, and hunting. The park also hosts meetings, events, and other programs year-round.

Starved Rock State Park is located in Oglesby, IL – one of the best places to live in Illinois for young adults.

If you’re planning to stay a while, you can make yourself comfortable at the Grand Bear Resort, Starved Rock Cabins, or other lodging options nearby.

How much does it cost to get into Starved Rock State Park?

It’s free! You can park your vehicle nearby and enter the park without paying a single penny.

Is Starved Rock State Park open right now?

Yes! You can visit this park anytime between 7 am till sunset. 

Is Starved Rock worth visiting?

Yes! You can visit here for recreational activities, events, lodging, picnicking, and historical facts.

2. Shawnee National Forest – Scenic trails & hiking opportunities

Located in the Ozark and Shawnee hills of Southern Illinois is the scenic Shawnee National Forest near Harrisburg city of Illinois. 


Mobile network disappearing issues can appear there. But, if you face emergencies in this forest area, you can contact the Shawnee authorities by dialling 911.

Here, you will experience a 3.4-mile moderately challenging trail, which you can easily explore with your family.

It is famous among travellers for its oak-hickory forest, great canyons, incredible geographical structures, and amazing wetlands.

Also, some delicious eateries, including 5 Star restaurants in Illinois, are located near this forest area to calm your hunger with their exotic menus and mouth-watering delicacies.

For your comfort and safety, you will find the Shawnee Forest Cabins, Rocky Comfort Cabins, and other lodges with full amenities there.

So, don’t forget to visit Herod while exploring the most scenic hiking trails in Illinois.

Is Shawnee National Forest worth visiting?

Yes! Valleys, cliffs, canyons, lush greenery, campgrounds, lakes, and rocks make your Shawnee exploring journey worth visiting.

What is the best part of Shawnee National Forest?

Garden of the Gods, Little Grand Canyon, and Cave in Rock are the best parts to explore in this forest area.

Are there bears in Shawnee National Forest?

Yes! You will often spot black bears in this area.

3. Kankakee River State Park – Best fishing & Boating 

The Illini and Miami Indians began living here from the 1670s to the 1680s. However, since the Miami Indians were more numerous, it was often referred to as the River of the Miami from 1685.

Spread over 3,500 acres of land, this state park is among the best locations to explore a two-sided 11-mile-long trail. 

Visitors can enjoy famous activities like fishing, canoeing, camping, picnicking, and trail exploring, making it one of the best hiking trails in Central Illinois.

Moreover, you will see magical views from its limestone canyons.

Hilton Garden Inn Kankakee, Quaint Riverfront Barn, and Quality Inn Bradley-Bourbonnais are the most suitable stay options to keep you relaxed.

So, visit Bourbonnais to explore this adventurous trail.

Can you swim in the Kankakee River?

No! Swimming is prohibited in this area because of its uncertain drop-offs.

Why is the Kankakee River closing?

According to Dave Wollgast, due to hazards, debris, and other unimprovable conditions, the river is closing down.

Is the Kankakee River clean?

Yes! In fact, it is known as one of the cleanest rivers in the Midwest.

Are dogs allowed at Kankakee River State Park?

Yes! But your dog friends must be leashed while exploring the whole trail.

4. Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve – Stunning waterfalls 

Cross-country skiing attracts most tourists, winter activity lovers, and ski lovers. Ski lovers visit here for unforgettable ski adventures through the designated areas.


Hiking in Illinois with waterfalls is a relaxing way to escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. The Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve offers just that. 

Its hilly trail, about 11 miles long, allows visitors to fish, camp, ride horses, and participate in other exciting activities.

The trail reaches an elevation of 400 feet and takes several hours to complete, offering a moderately challenging experience.

According to TripAdvisor, the Hyatt Lodge Oak Brook, SureStay Plus Hotel, and Sonesta ES Suites are the cleanest and best hotels to stay within 20 km of this forest preserve.

So, be sure to visit this place while in Lemont, Illinois.

Is the Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve open?

Yes! After an hour of sunrise, the gate opens and closes after an hour of sunset.

How long is the Waterfall Glen trail?

Waterfall Glen is about a 9.3-mile-long loop trail stated in AllTrails.

Can you picnic at Waterfall Glen?

Yes! A picnic table is installed there where you can enjoy your meal, listen to music, and relax..

Where is the main waterfall at Starved Rock?

The main waterfall is situated along the Green Interior Canyon Trail at Starved Rock, along with others, like French, Wildcat, etc.

5. Ferne Clyffe State Park – Tranquil Hiking Trails 

The hiking trail in this park is suitable for beginners and easily accessible with wheelchairs. Strollers can also visit here to have the best hiking experience and add it to their travel journals.

Hiking in Illinois with waterfalls also includes a hiking path situated in this state park and is surrounded by small brown rocks.

The best part is that you can complete this 206 feet-elevated trail with a group and walk together on its wide rocks.

It is famous for its unique geological structures, a variety of special plants, and recreational activities like hiking, camping, hunting, & fishing.

Ferne Clyffe State Park is located in Goreville, south of Marion, Illinois.

You can enjoy a comfortable stay at several lodging options, including Lake Tree Inn & Suites, Drury Inn Marion, and Baymont by Wyndham Marion.

Can you hunt at Ferne Clyffe State Park?

Yes! The authority of this state park allows you to hunt deer, doves, ducks, rabbits, and several other animals.

Does Ferne Clyffe State Park have showers?

Yes! There are more than 20 accommodations with shower amenities for riders and travellers.

Is Ferne Clyffe part of Shawnee National Forest?

Yes! It is known as the best and premier hike in Shawnee National Forest for families who want to go on a hiking journey.

What time does Ferne Clyffe close?

Ferne Clyffe Park remains open  24 hours. Thus, the park doesn’t close its gate throughout the year.

6. Matthiessen State Park – Captivating hiking trails 

You should visit the park as early as possible to secure the playground area you desire. Please note that the park opens at 7 in the morning and closes at sunset.


If you’re looking for the best hiking in Central Illinois, consider visiting Matthiessen State Park to explore its amazing trails with moderate routes. 

The longest trail, Dells Area to Vermillion, allows you to fully immerse yourself in the natural atmosphere.

With elevations ranging from 200 to 603 feet, hikes in this area are famous for unlimited fun at its sandstone canyons and streams.

When it comes to lodging options in Oglesby, Best Western Oglesby Inn, Hampton Inn & Suites Peru, and Grand Bear Resort at Starved Rock are the best choices to stay.

These options are located near the park and offer a calming vibe.

Which is better, Starved Rock or Matthiessen State Park?

Undoubtedly, Matthiessen State Park is the winner! Compared to Starved Rock, it offers more unique hiking trails and ecology. You’ll fall in love with the park’s scenic views and overall atmosphere.

Is Matthiessen State Park free?

Yes! You don’t have to pay anything to enter this state park.

Is Matthiessen State Park closed?

Yes! Dells area and Vermillion River area are often closed during the weekends for a few months from May to October.

7. Buffalo Rock State Park – Panoramic views of Illinois river

The hiking routes are easy to explore with families and have elevations ranging from 9 to 22 meters.

The park is spread over 250 acres of land and offers recreational activities, such as picnicking, that everyone can enjoy.

With scenic trails and great views of the surrounding areas, this state park is an ideal destination for students studying at the University of Illinois business school, which is just a few minutes away. 

Regional and international students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business can enjoy their free time in this park,

which is famous for its highly adventurous woodland areas, wildlife, and recreational activities.

Located in Ottawa, IL, the state park offers comfortable stay options such as Super 8 by Wyndham Ottawa Starved Rock,

Hampton Inn Ottawa, and Holiday Inn Express & Suites Ottawa.

Are there buffalo in Buffalo Rock?

Yes! There are two American Bison buffalos under Buffalo Rock.

Is Starved Rock closing?

No! It is closed from November to March due to Federal Holidays. However, Starved Rock stays open during the rest of the months.

Are dogs allowed at Buffalo Rock State Park?

Yes! Only leashed pet dogs are allowed in Rock State Park.

Can you swim at Rocks State Park?

No! Swimming is not allowed in Rocks state park.

Best hiking in Illinois FAQs

Where is the most beautiful place to hike?

Visit Shawnee National Forest, Starved Rock State Park, and Buffalo Rock State Park in Illinois to explore the most beautiful places to hike.

What is the biggest waterfall in Illinois?

Burden Creek Falls is the biggest waterfall in Illinois, with 100 feet of elevation.

Where is the best hiking in the Midwest?

There are several best hikes in the Midwest. A few of them you must visit are; 

  • Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan
  • Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio
  • Devil’s Lake State Park in Wisconsin


Are you ready to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and immerse yourself in the peaceful tranquillity of nature? Look no further than the best hiking in Illinois!

Our curated list will take you on a journey through unique hikes that offer a perfect blend of relaxation, stunning geological structures, and breathtaking scenery.

But that’s not all – prepare to be enchanted by the magical waterfalls that grace some of these hiking trails.

These hikes will not only leave you mesmerized but also provide an opportunity for self-discovery as you embark on a journey of exploration.

And the best part? You can enjoy these hikes without the crowds! But hurry,

make sure to visit these destinations as soon as possible to experience the complete hike without any interruptions.

Don’t miss out on the chance to rejuvenate your mind, body, and soul amidst the lush greenery of Illinois.