Some of the most invigorating and peaceful times of your life can be spent hiking the trails on Illinois state lands. From the rugged bluffs at Mississippi Palisades State Park in the northwest, to the wooded ravines at Fox Ridge State Park in east-central Illinois from the soaring canyons and waterfalls at Starved Rock State Park in the North, to the swampy and fascinating Mermet Lake State Conservation Area in southern Illinois, we offer you a boundless variety of hiking experiences. You can choose from over 270 trails that total more than 700 miles.
There are three long trails: the 155-mile Hennepin Canal Parkway, the 50-mile Illinois & Michigan Canal, and the 27-mile Rock Island Trail. Numerous other trails are suitable for family hikers. Eleven state areas offer trails for visually impaired hikers or for the physically disabled. Combine hiking's physical exhilaration with the mental lift that comes with being in touch with nature, and take a vacation even if it's to a state park only a few miles from home.
Stop at the visitor center or park office before you venture onto the trail. Pick up a trail map and learn more abut specific regulations of the area you’ll be in. Ask for additional information on trail conditions. Take a few minutes to read the map and any trail head signs. You’ll have a safer and more enjoyable hike. Use established trails within park boundaries.
Choose the right equipment. For most Illinois trails, walking or running shoes are sufficient. Shoes with heavy lugged soles can increase erosion problems on trails.
While on the trail, minimize your impacts. You aren't out to conquer the wilderness. Put nature first. All plants, animals and their habitats should be respected.
Don't litter. Carry out what you carry in.
Take only memories, leave only footprints. Your visit to an Illinois state park can be pleasant if you abide by a few simple rules:
- Stay on designated hiking trails.
- Don't pick any flowers.
- Confine your pet to a leash.
- Wear comfortable walking or hiking shoes.
- Take water with you on long hikes.
- Use insect repellent to help ward off mosquitos and other insects.
- Be sure to protect yourself from wood ticks, carriers of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and deer ticks, carriers of Lyme disease. Deer ticks thrive in woods and fields with tall, dense grass. Apply insect repellent, suited for warding off deer ticks, as directed. Wear a long-sleeved shirt, button your collar and stuff your trouser cuffs into the tops of your socks. Wear light-colored clothing to better see if any ticks have attached to your clothes. Examine your clothing and skin frequently for ticks and also check your pets. Ticks prefer warm, moist areas, so pay particular attention to inspecting your groin, armpits and scalp. Carefully remove any attached tick immediately with tweezers. You may also want to preserve it in a small bottle of alcohol should symptoms appear later. Symptoms can be flu-like and some victims suffer a red, bull's-eye-like rash with a clear center around the site of a tick bite. Not all deer ticks carry Lyme disease, but if you suspect you've been bitten, contact your doctor. Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics, and patients can recover fully if treated early.