Illinois stands as a state brimming with diversity and natural splendor, offering a haven for enthusiasts of scenic beauty, hiking, wildlife, and history. Within the multitude of parks in Illinois, we present five outstanding options that warrant a visit.
Starved Rock State Park
Starved Rock State Park stands out as one of Illinois’ most popular and breathtaking destinations. Situated along the Illinois River, the park boasts 18 sandstone canyons, 14 waterfalls, and over 13 miles of hiking trails. Visitors can relish the panoramic views of the river valley, the vibrant autumn foliage, and the frozen waterfalls during winter. The park also provides opportunities to spot various wildlife, including bald eagles, deer, and otters. Offering activities like hiking, camping, fishing, boating, and more, Starved Rock State Park caters to a variety of outdoor interests.
Illinois Beach State Park
Distinguished as the sole state park in Illinois featuring a beach, Illinois Beach State Park stretches over six miles along the shores of Lake Michigan. With a sandy beach, dunes, marshes, and forests, the park offers diverse recreational options, from swimming and sunbathing to picnicking and exploring nature trails. Birdwatchers will find the park particularly appealing, with the chance to observe rare and migratory species.
Pere Marquette State Park
Encompassing over 8,000 acres, Pere Marquette State Park holds the title of Illinois’ largest state park. Named after the French explorer Father Jacques Marquette, the park is situated at the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, providing stunning views and varied habitats. Activities range from hiking, biking, and horseback riding to fishing, boating, hunting, and camping. Notably, Pere Marquette State Park is renowned for its winter population of bald eagles.
Shawnee National Forest
Covering more than 280,000 acres in southern Illinois, Shawnee National Forest is a national treasure boasting unique natural formations, including the Garden of the Gods, the Little Grand Canyon, and the Cave-in-Rock. Visitors can immerse themselves in the grandeur of ancient rock formations, towering cliffs, deep canyons, and diverse flora and fauna. The forest offers opportunities for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and paddling, providing a serene retreat into nature and history.
Matthiessen State Park
Matthiessen State Park, a hidden gem near Starved Rock State Park, is named after philanthropist Frederick William Matthiessen, who donated the land to the state. Featuring a stunning canyon, a stream, waterfalls, and mineral springs, the park invites visitors to explore its rock formations, fossils, plants, and wildlife through activities such as hiking, biking, horseback riding, picnicking, fishing, hunting, and camping. Matthiessen State Park is a sanctuary where the beauty and mystery of nature unfold.