Not every outdoor experience has to take place in remote corners of the world, battling elements, and pushing your limits. More often than not, busy schedules and real life stop you from traveling to your dream destinations, but that doesn’t mean we need to sober up on our wanderlust.
In Illinois, where forests and rivers meet waterfalls and incredible geology, exciting adventures are never too far away. The state offers incredible camping for the whole family and has a myriad of hiking trails for kids and adults of all ages and abilities. Adventures in nature are around every corner. Champaign, home of the University of Illinois and best known for flat prairie land and the most fertile farmland in the world, is a good jumping off spot for many adventures.
Conveniently, Champaign Surplus, a must-stop shop before any adventure, is located right in Champaign. The store has been providing high quality outdoor gear, like the ever-popular Osprey Packs, to outdoor enthusiasts since 1947. Champaign Surplus is considered a mom-and-pop outdoor store, and the friendly and informative staff will treat you like family. Not only is the staff incredibly passionate about making sure your upcoming trip is inspiring and exciting, but that it’s comfortable and enjoyable as well.
Once you have all your gear, it’s time for the fun to begin. There are four destinations throughout the state that will captivate your adventuring spirit and help your entire family develop a lifelong relationship with the great outdoors. Each of these destinations make for all-in-one fun, and combine camping, hiking, and scenic beauty. From rocky bluffs with panoramic views to beautiful waterways and canyons, these destinations are sure to whet your appetite for adventure.
Weekend adventurers will absolutely love Starved Rock State Park. It has 133 campsites and 13 miles of well-marked trails for all levels of hikers. In addition to the camping and hiking, the park boasts beautiful vistas and viewpoints atop the stunning cliffs and bluffs, and wide, scenic canyons along the Illinois River.
If you are looking for incredible waterfalls, you can find them in 14 of the park’s 18 canyons. The most popular can be found in the St. Louis, French, Wildcat, Tonty, Ottawa and Kaskaskia canyons. This is a great place to explore whether you are carrying a toddler or out exploring with the family while rocking your comfortable Osprey Kestrel or Kyte pack.
Stacked up near the northern border of Illinois, Apple River Canyon State Park is another incredible destination for families looking to get outdoors while the weather is still warm. Standing out from the relatively flat terrain of the rest of Illinois, this state park is as beautiful as it is inspiring. It’s sweeping views of pristine streams and wildlife roaming below the gorgeous limestone bluffs, makes it the place to go if you want a true taste of wilderness.
The park has just 49 campsites offering minimal amenities, so this is a great spot to get a bit more in touch with your wild side. When visiting the park, take a dip in the clear waters to clean off the dirt from the day’s adventures, fish for trout and bass for your dinner, or explore one or all of the five trails that wind through the woods. Reconnecting with nature is easy to do here, and the park provides a great way to see a different side of Illinois.
Mississippi Palisades State Park is another perfect family destination, thanks to its 241 campsites and 15 miles of incredible trails. It’s no surprise that this park is popular in the summer months as it is full of wildlife and excellent fishing. The true gem of Palisades, however, is the geological wonderland found in the park.
Many sink holes can be found here, intriguing visitors with their seemingly bottomless limestone walls. Natural erosion has also created numerous rock formations, highlighted by features that look like people on the tops of the bluffs.
If you don’t mind a longer hike, you can find some great views by exploring the southern loop trails, geared for intermediate hikers. If you want something a bit easier that you can hike with the whole family, then check out the loop trails off Ozzie’s Point, Louis’ Point, and Lookout Point—they offer an easy on the knees approach to fantastic overlooks.
Finally, Garden of the Gods is consistently ranked as one of the most gorgeous regions in the Midwest. Located in the Shawnee Forest, there are over 3,300 acres to explore, with trails accessible to all levels of hikers. The 5.5 miles of interconnecting trails here have incredible views full of bluffs that showcase 320-million-year-old rocks. The sandstone paradise is worthy of praise and exploration, and well-worth a night or two of camping.
– Via Roots Rated