Outdoor Activities In Illinois – From the Wisconsin Dells to the Indiana Dunes and Michigan’s Mackinac Island, Illinois’ neighbors offer the perfect summer getaway.
Here are 10 activities to try in great Lincoln country this summer, from hiking and kayaking to fishing, stargazing and more.
Outdoor Activities In Illinois
Flowing from southeastern Wisconsin to Ottawa, Illinois, the 202-mile Fox River offers a variety of paddling experiences in the northeastern part of the state.
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One stretch known as the Middle Fox River offers some of the river’s most ideal canoeing. From Elgin in the north and down through St. Charles, Geneva, Batavia and Aurora, the river passes through forest and wooded areas.
Start your trip at a number of canoe rentals and launch sites along the river, including Geneva’s Mill Race Cyclery and Fox River Canoe and Kayak, Mt. St. Mary’s Park in St. Charles, and Laurelwood Park in Batavia.
Adeline Jay Geo-Karis Illinois Beach State Park in Zion is less than 90 minutes from downtown Chicago (depending on traffic) and offers 241 campsites “Premium Class A” – meaning with power and access to showers, which can be useful for city residents. unaccustomed to rustic nature.
Illinois Beach is the only shoreline left on the state’s beach crest, according to the state Department of Natural Resources. Stretching 6.5 miles along the shores of Lake Michigan, the park features dunes and swales (submerged or swampy areas with slightly different sides), swamps, and oak forests. The park also has a wide variety of flora and fauna, including more than 650 species of plants, from colorful wildflowers to cactuses.
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Plan ahead: This campsite is very busy, especially on bank holidays. Reservations are accepted from May 1 to September 30.
Located in the northwest suburbs of Crystal Lake, Quarry Cable Park & Grille offers a complete cable park with features for all types of surfers.
Located on the 32-acre North Lake of the Three Oaks Recreation Area, the park features two types of electric cable systems that pull ropes and hold skiers. One, a full-size six-tower cable system, contains several jumps for more experienced riders. The other, the two tower system, is perfect for beginners.
Quarry Cable Park offers several pricing options, including a $55 day pass and a $35 two-hour pass. Quarry also offers private lessons with 45-minute sessions starting at $50.
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Designated a National Waterway in 2016, the Kankakee River is part of a system of well-managed waterways, including the Des Plaines and Illinois Rivers.
Surveyed by the French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle in the late 17th century, most rural rivers probably looked as they did when La Salle first saw them. Renowned as one of the cleanest rivers in the Midwest, the Kankakee River is popular with kayakers, recreational boaters, and fishermen.
Start your kayaking tour at the bird park access point in Kankakee, the Kankakee Conservation Area boat launch in Wilmington, or several other locations. Kayak rentals are available at Reed’s Kayak and Canoe Trips in Kankakee.
Located more than 60 miles from Chicago between Interstates 55 and 80 in Morris, Heidecke Lake State Fish and Wildlife offers more than 1,300 acres for fishing from April 1 through fall.
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The Illinois Department of Natural Resources began leasing Heidecke Lake in 1978 when it was created as a cooling lake for the Collins Power Plant. The DNR maintains the lake by regularly pumping water from the Illinois River.
The lake is regularly stocked with Walleye, Hybrid Striped Bass, Pure Musklung, Black Crappie and Largemouth Bass. Because it receives water from the Illinois River, Heidecke Lake is also home to trout, quillback, freshwater drum, and other species of fish.
If you’re feeling adventurous, look no further than the popular Vermillion River site south of Starved Rock State Park.
With 14 rapids and nearly 10 miles of flow, Vermillion River Rafting offers a three- to four-hour whitewater rafting trip (in addition to kayaking adventures). The company provides rafts, paddles, life jackets and also offers rafting lessons.
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According to the company, May through mid-July is the best time to boat here, as spring rains (and we have a lot of them!) raise the water level by about 4 feet.
Located just a few miles from the Indiana border in Oakwood, Kickapoo State Recreation Area is an ideal destination for hikers (not to mention runners, boaters, fishermen, and campers).
Once an open-pit mine, the 2,842-hectare park features forests of cottonwoods, elms, ash, and wild cherry trees and shrubs surrounded by deep ponds with a variety of wildlife.
For serious hikers, the park’s nearly 8 miles of out and back trails pass through forests, prairies, and even the edges of abandoned farmland. The trail is suitable for experienced outdoor hikers or runners.
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Don’t want to sweat (too much)? No problem. The park also offers shorter, easier hikes on well-marked trails.
Catch a Kickapoo: Poison ivy is “abundant” in the park, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Therefore, those traveling in the area should learn to recognize poison ivy. And avoid them at all times.
When escaping the city, you often have the opportunity to see the night sky come alive, and that is certainly the case in Galena.
Both Galena and Jo Daviess counties in northwestern Illinois not only offer a variety of quaint lodging options (from log cabins to cozy lodges), but also provide perfect locations for stargazing.
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The only interruptions will come from tree frogs, bullfrogs and possibly owls, which according to the Galena operation, “sing their hearts out at the top of their voices” in the summer.
For stargazing locations near home and throughout Illinois, see the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ “Best Places to Stargaze” list.
Wing shooting, or shooting birds in flight, is not an easy sport. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources offers archery courses for both novice and experienced hunters. (Don’t worry: they’re shooting clay targets — not birds.)
Some classes are held at the Decatur Gun Club, a popular destination that claims to be the oldest shooting club in Illinois. It was Decatur-born William Brett who became one of the first clay wing target makers in the United States in the late 19th century.
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For nature lovers, horse riders and, more recently, climbers, a trip to Pere Marquette State Park is worth it.
A few years ago, the Illinois Mountaineering Association began working with the Department of Natural Resources to make Pere Marquette the newest climbing destination in Illinois. The park’s new climbing area features designated boulders suitable for experienced climbers, but the park also offers plenty of climbing and rock climbing opportunities.
The climbing area, which will eventually include more than 60 climbing routes, is just one reason to visit Pere Marquette. Located in Grafton, about an hour’s drive from St. Louis, the 8,000 acre park offers beautiful views of the Illinois River from a series of scenic bluffs.
Sign up for our morning newsletter to get all our stories delivered to your inbox every week. Illinois is a beautiful Midwestern state made for outdoor activities and adventure. Fortunately the outdoor scenes here have always been epic with many adventure locations and natural areas. From overnight camping to incredible trails, unique state parks and endless lakes, Illinois will simply amaze you. While Illinois residents spend most of their time in the winter, summer here is the complete opposite. Even the entire state, especially Chicagoans, are going outside when summer blooms. You may love peace or be a mass junkie; Illinois Outdoor Experience has it all for you.
Things To Do In Illinois
Begin your Illinois outdoor adventure in God’s Garden of Natural Wonders. Or take a Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour and explore a new world for yourself. If you’re here in the spring or fall, you can also plan your waterfall hike at the beautiful Starved Rock State Park. OK, don’t get too confused. Here are some of the most popular and affordable outdoor experiences in Illinois. Check out our list and create your own travel plan.
You may have kayaked in many natural places, but have you ever thought of floating between skyscrapers and walking through the city? If so, then head to the Chicago River in Chicago. There are many lakeside shops that offer kayak rentals and even beginner courses. Before you join in the fun and adventure, they will teach you how to steer and balance your kayak. Most of them charge by the hour, or you can rent for the whole day. If you are not alone, you can choose a guided tour. The tour takes almost 3 to 4 hours. They also allow you to navigate the water at night and admire the architecture around you.
In the south is the Cache River State Nature Reserve