Nature April 09, 2021
A Nature Lovers Definitive Guide To Illinois’s Natural Beauty – Parks, Beaches, Hikes And More!
When it comes to Illinois, and all the natural beauty in The Land of Lincoln that there is to appreciate, there are lots of places that could potentially come to mind. Illinois is home to an abundance of natural beauty: serene parks and preserves, pristine lakes and rivers, and some incredibly scenic hiking trails. No matter what kind of experience in nature you’re seeking, there’s no doubt that Illinois can deliver — and then some! Our state parks are second to none, and we’ve even got a national park or two to appreciate, as well. This is our ultimate guide to the best natural beauty of Illinois.
The Best Little-Known Park In Illinois
Dixon Springs State Park is a vastly underrated treasure that goes criminally underappreciated year after year. In addition to boasting excellent camping and playgrounds, there are also countless breathtaking trails throughout the park just waiting to be explored. The park is filled with interesting geological features, too, like a “honeycomb” rock, craggy canyon walls, and more.
Have you ever paid a visit to this underrated Illinois park?
The Most Pristine Beach In Illinois
Did you know that even in landlocked Illinois, we’ve got beaches that rival the Caribbean? It’s true! Thanks to the placement of the enormous Lake Michigan, we’ve got a decent number of pristine beaches that truly look and feel just like the actual ocean. Leone Beach, near Chicago, is a perfect example of just how epic our beaches can be. With crystalline blue water that seems to reflect the endless blue sky, and warm, soft white sand, we’re almost certain you’ll forget you’re in Illinois. Lazing on this little slice of paradise will surely relax you as deeply as an afternoon in the Florida Keys.
Seriously, how breathtaking is this incredible Illinois beach?
The Most Jaw Dropping Lake In Illinois
Lake Shelbyville is like something out of a dream. With more than 1,000 campsites and crystal-blue waters that reflect the sky as far as you can see, it’s one reservoir that will knock your socks off. It’s large, with 11,100 acres of water that reaches up to nearly 70 feet deep in some places. There are three full-service marinas for those who enjoy boating, and camping around the lake is a beloved pastime of the locals. Two state parks flank the lake: Eagle Creek State Park and Wolf Creek State Park. They’re all definitely worth a visit, so maybe a camping trip over a long weekend is in order!
How long would you stay at Lake Shelbyville if you could?
The Most Beautiful Waterfall In Illinois
Have you ever heard of Bork Falls? It’s nestled in the woods of Shawnee National Forest, and during the warmer months (particularly after a good rain, too) it’s a feast for the nature lover’s heart. If you take the waterfall trail at Ferne Cliffe State Park, you’ll soon find yourself at Bork Falls, a beautiful Illinois waterfall that careens down into an aquamarine pool. In fact, there are several waterfalls along the trail en route to Bork Falls, but they’re seasonal. Bork Falls, however, can usually be found flowing yearround.
Would you take a dip in this awe-inspiring waterfall-fed pool?
The Best Trail To Hike In Illinois
The entire park is underrated for sure, but the trails sprinkled throughout Matthiessen State Park are simply too beautiful for words. Take your pick of any of them, really, and wander through breathtaking canyon views until you reach the pristine water of a gorgeous natural pool. You’ll find yourself at Cascade Falls, an absolutely stunning waterfall in the heart of the park. You will not regret following any of the trails at Matthiessen State Park; they all lead you straight to paradise.
How many could you hike in a day?
The Most Beautiful River In Illinois
Illinois is quite lucky to have so many beautiful rivers that run right through. One of our favorites in terms of stunning scenic beauty is the Sangamon River, a tributary to the much larger Illinois River. It begins in southern McLean County, and it’s surrounded by quiet banks, beautiful trees, and quiet respite from the crazy, loud world around us. Come spend the day on the banks with your feet in the cool water and watch your worries flutter away in the breeze.
Have you ever visited this beautiful Illinois river?
The Best Place To Spot Wildflowers In Illinois
There are many, many places that come to mind when we imagine Illinois wildflowers. Perhaps one of the most striking spots to really appreciate them, however, is in Chicago, at the Garfield Park Conservatory. Each year, as the months begin to warm and new growth bursts forth from beneath the ground, Garfield Park Conservatory lights up with brilliant and intense color, most notably in the form of electric-pink tulips. It’s something that every local - and every visitor - must experience at least once in their lifetimes.
Have you ever been to any of these premier destinations for wildflowers in Illinois?
The Most Unique Garden In Illinois
Sunken Garden in Aurora is something straight out of a whimsical fairy tale. We’re not sure which is more beautiful: the flawlessly groomed, emerald-green foliage, or the hundreds upon hundreds of breathtaking blooms all over the grounds. It’s nestled in the core of Phillips Park and is home to more than 15,000 flowers. Sunken Garden is beautiful both visually and, somehow, emotionally, as it’s an incredible place to simply sit in silence and marvel at the wonder of the world around us. It’s a truly special place, and we are truly lucky to have it here in Illinois.
How long could you spend lost in this awe-inspiring Illinois garden?