Hiking is one of the most fulfilling activities that there is, because it immerses you in nature and exposes you to worlds you never knew existed. But a lot of people don’t hike because they are intimidated. They feel like they aren’t in good enough shape to hike. But people of all fitness levels can hike. It’s all about starting out on trails that aren’t too hard, and then working your way up. So start with these 10 trails.
1. Illinois Beach State Park
This park includes some of the very best stretches of Lake Michigan shoreline. The Dead River trail is naturally surfaced (sand) and goes through the wetlands.
2. Starved Rock State Park
This park has canyons, waterfalls, and enough scenic overlooks to make anyone happy. It is a choose your own adventure kind of park. Walk as far or short as you want. You can see a canyon (French Canyon) within .4 miles from the visitors center.
3. Cache River Natural Area
You can see an incredible world that looks like something out of the deep South. Large, bald cypress trees emerge from the bog. The best path you can take is the Todd-Fink Heron Pond Trail, a fairly flat trail that takes you right through the trees.
4. Waterfall Glen
This is one of those great secrets that not too many people know about. Water crashes down glacier rock. There are 11 total miles of trails. Crushed limestone makes this fairly easy to hike.
5. Ferne Clyffe State Park
Large rocks and waterfalls, along with fresh ferns, characterize this park. The waterfall trail is only .75 miles and leads right to the waterfall. The Big Rock Hollow Trail is .75 miles and leads to a 100 foot tall waterfall.
6. Giant City State Park
Walk between large boulders and among wild rock formations. There is a 13 mile loop. Hike as far or short as you want. Not too far in, you will see amazing rocks.
7. Mississippi Palisades State Park
This park offers some of the most gorgeous views of the Mississippi River. You can hike among the large, 500 foot bluffs. The park has north and south divisions. Trails in the north part are much less strenuous.
8. Matthiessen State Park
Hike through upper and lower dells, around waterfalls, and by canyons. There are five miles of trails. Pretty much every trail is fair game, but the lower dells might be a little challenging for first-time hikers.
9. Garden of the Gods
This is one of the best views of Illinois. Walk among these 320 million year old bluffs. The Garden of the Gods observation trail is only .5 miles long.
10. Castle Rock State Park
This park is right on the Rock River, and you can see all of the rolling topography this area is known for. These are 6 total miles of trails. Take the Wildlife Viewing trail which is just 1 mile long.