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LOCAL DESTINATIONS

Here you will find information on some of our favorite locations for outdoor recreation in the area. If you ever need ideas for a hiking or camping trip, just give us a call or stop by the store. We'd love to help you plan your outdoor adventure!

Difficulty Scale:  1=highly accessible   2=easy   3=moderate   4=difficult   5=challenging

River Ridge Trail

Illinois

About:

The River Ridge Trail in Forest Glen Preserve is set up to be a well-marked walk in one direction.  The trail is marked with red arrows, orange plates or bands which are much more visible one direction than the other.

 

The trail begins at the Staff Office on the Old Barn Trail and follows the Willow Creek Trail and Primitive loop.  Water is available except in winter.  There are 2 campsites along the hike.  There are restrooms at the campsites but no water.  Water can be obtained from the Vermillion River or creeks in the park but it must be filtered!

 

The walk takes you through the Duffin Nature Area onto the Big Woods Trail and then on to the entrance drive road.  Then it follows the southern boundary of the park, past the Doris Westfall Prairie and back to the Staff Office.  The halfway point is the Vermillion River below the tower at 5.5 miles.

 

If you plan to camp overnight you need to complete a Trail Registration form 1 week prior to your trip (not always strictly enforced).

 

This hike should take between 5 and 6.5 hours to complete depending on your fitness and seasonal conditions.

There is not too much in elevation gain or loss but there are a couple of short, rocky and interesting ascents and descents.

 

Deer are plentiful in the park as well as raccoons and the usual rodents.  Most of the forest is deciduous but there are pines and prairie areas as well.

Best Length of Time:

The River Ridge Trail is 11 miles long although you can hike parts of it to make the hike shorter. Up to 6.5 hours to do the entire 11 miles.

Difficulty: 2

Starved Rock State Park

Illinois

About:

Starved Rock is a beautiful state park that runs along the south bank of the Illinois River about 45 minutes southwest of Chicago. The park is just shy of a 2 hour drive from Champaign-Urbana, but well worth the car time.

 

There are over 13 miles of hiking trails through a variety of canyons — there are tons of wildflowers in the park and 14 of the 18 canyons have waterfalls. (The best times to see waterfalls are in the spring when the snow and ice melt or after a heavy rainfall.) Winter hikes can be beautiful to see the frozen icefalls.

 

There is also lots to do at the park and around the area… camping (there is a campground), paddling, rafting and boating, fishing and hunting during hunting season, and horseback riding are all available. The park runs many events, guided hikes and educational programs throughout the year. There is also a very popular lodge, nearby wineries and plenty to enjoy in rustic neighboring river town. And many additional parks/trails nearby to explore.

 

The proximity to Chicago and many available activities make Starved Rock very popular. So, the park can sometimes be quite crowded… if you’re looking for a quiet, solo place to hike, its definitely best to visit during off-peak seasons and/or head out on the less popular trails. (But I will say that the beautiful scenery does make any visit worthwhile.)

Best Length of Time:

A day trip is good, but taking 2-3 days can be lovely.

Difficulty: 2

Turkey Run State Park

Indiana

About:

One of the most beautiful places to hike within an hour drive from Champaign. There are 11 nice hiking trails of various lengths and difficulty to enjoy. The trails meander through canyons with sandstone cliffs, forested areas, several historical sites; and often partially along Sugar Creek. All are nice, but trails 3, 4, 5 & 9 are my personal favorites.  One portion has 140 steps and a few ladders, and another goes up a small rocky stream. Very fun!

 

Turkey Run is open all year long, but is especially beautiful in autumn and spring.

 

Camping (there is a campground), Canoeing, Fishing and Horseback Riding are all available. Definitely family friendly, and has a good Nature Center. Dogs & cats are allowed on leash. The in-state daily entrance fee is $7, and the out-of-state fee is $9.

Very easy to get to Turkey Run.  There is excellent signage en route from any direction.

There is a large parking lot one you’ve entered the park gate house.

Best Length of Time:

At least a full day is good, if not longer.

Difficulty: 3

Kickapoo State Park-

Paddling

Illinois

Located West of Danville, Illinois this is a paddle from Kinny’s Ford (1/2 mile west of the intersection of county roads 2620N/900E) to Kickapoo State Park, 13 miles south, on the only National Scenic River in the state of Illinois.  A good exit point is the west entrance bridge at Kickapoo State Park.

 

The Middle Fork is surrounded by miles of high bluffs and forests.  The river has mussels, turtles, ducks, herons and other waterfowl as well as sunfish, bass and many other species of fish.  Bird life is plentiful and the trees along the shore include Oak, Dogwood, Walnut, Redbud and ash.  Plant life adjacent to the river and along nearby trails include orchids, ferns and prairie grasses as well as the only wild stand of Indian Paint Brush in Illinois.

 

The Middle Fork River has eroded through glacial deposits and exposed high bluffs that have numerous small springs.  The diverse wildlife of the area includes 45 kinds of mammals, 190 types of birds and 24 species officially identified as threatened or endangered.

Best Length of Time:

Allow about 6-7 hours for the full 13 mile trip and 4-6 for a shorter 8 mile trip.  This assumes normal water conditions.

Difficulty: 3

About:

Kickapoo State Park-

Biking

Illinois

The trail system consists of approximately 10 miles of off-road biking, with twists and tight turns through the forest, quick dips into steep ravines, and many man-made obstacles along the way.  Obstacles include log piles, dirt mounds, log skinnies, and some fun jumps throughout the trail. 

 

The trail system is comprised of 7 different paths that weave in and out of forest and prairie.  I highly recommend checking out trail #5. It is a little more challenging, but a lot of fun.  Halfway through the trail there is a bench overlooking a small pond in the woods, a nice place to take a pit stop.

The trails are free and open to the public.  The best times to go are in the spring or fall because it is much cooler and there are fewer insects about.  If you are going in the summer I recommend going in the morning because it gets mighty hot during the day.

Best Length of Time:

2-3 hours depending on your pace

Difficulty: 3

About:

Champaign-Urbana

Road Cycling

Illinois

Champaign, Illinois is in the midst of an extremely flat Midwest Prairie and agricultural environment.  In addition, most of the county roads that crisscross East-Central Illinois are “Mile Roads” situated exactly one mile apart and they tend to run due east-west or due north-south.  This makes navigation quite easy.

 

Rides or 10-100 miles are relatively easy to set-up and if you can cycle 40-50 miles you have an opportunity to visit some very quaint local, small towns and villages, stop to visit historical sites (Lincoln) and/or eat in local pubs or restaurants. 

 

Among our favorite rides are:

 1) a 30 mile loop from Champaign to Lake of the Woods Park in Mahomet

2) a 40 mile loop from Champaign to Monticello

3) a 35 mile loop from Champaign to Homer Lake Forest Preserve between Ogden and Homer

4) a 55 mile loop from Champaign to Bement

5) a 55 mile loop from Champaign to Allerton Park (7 miles past Monticello)

6) a 50 mile loop from Champaign to Mansfield

7) a 105 mile loop from Champaign to Tuscola, Bement, Monticello, Mahomet and back to Champaign

8) a 25 mile loop from Champaign to Philo

9) a 27 mile loop from Champaign to Sadorus

Best Length of Time:

At least a full day is good, if not longer.

Difficulty: 3

About: