Filled with fascinating rock formations, overlooks, waterways, and waterfalls, Illinois’ scenery is hard to beat. For those of us who are lucky enough to live here, we know about the abundance of beauty and natural wonders in Illinois that can be found throughout the Prairie State and can be seen for free! Here are seven of those natural wonders in Illinois that can be viewed without opening your wallets.

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This list isn’t even the tip of the iceberg when it comes to natural wonders in Illinois, but it should give you a good start on places to visit if you haven’t already been. What other natural wonders in Illinois would you add? Please list them in the comments below!

Looking for more great natural wonders to visit? Check out these natural attractions in Illinois!

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Natural Wonders In Illinois

What is the famous natural wonder in Illinois?

One of the most famous natural wonders in Illinois is the Garden of the Gods, located in the Shawnee National Forest. This stunning rock formation attracts visitors from near and far with its unique and breathtaking beauty. Over millions of years, the forces of nature sculpted towering sandstone cliffs, rugged bluffs, and balanced rock formations, creating a mesmerizing landscape. Walking along the designated trails, visitors can marvel at the intricate rock formations, enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding forests, and immerse themselves in the serene atmosphere of this geological marvel. The Garden of the Gods is not only a natural wonder but also a cherished destination for outdoor enthusiasts, hikers, and photographers who come to witness the magnificence of nature's artistry.

What are the best natural wonders in Illinois? 

Illinois may not be world renowned for its grand natural wonders, but it still boasts several captivating sites that showcase the state's natural beauty. 

Here are some of the best natural wonders in Illinois:

  • Starved Rock State Park: Located along the Illinois River, Starved Rock State Park is a scenic gem with towering sandstone canyons, waterfalls, and panoramic views. Visitors can explore the park's numerous hiking trails, witness seasonal waterfalls, and enjoy breathtaking vistas from the park's iconic Starved Rock overlook.
  • Shawnee National Forest: Covering large portions of southern Illinois, Shawnee National Forest is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. It offers diverse natural wonders such as the Garden of the Gods, with its stunning rock formations, and the awe-inspiring Rim Rock Trail, which winds along dramatic cliffs and offers breathtaking views of the forest.
  • Mississippi Palisades State Park: Situated along the Mississippi River, this park showcases dramatic limestone bluffs, caves, and lush forests. Visitors can hike the park's trails, go rock climbing, or explore the unique geological formations and stunning river views.
  • Cave-in-Rock State Park: Located on the Ohio River, this park is home to a massive limestone cave that has attracted explorers for centuries. The cave and its surrounding cliffs provide a fascinating glimpse into the region's geological history.
  • Matthiessen State Park: Adjacent to Starved Rock State Park, Matthiessen State Park offers its own natural wonders, including stunning canyons, waterfalls, and unique geological formations. The park's trails lead visitors through lush forests and reveal hidden wonders at every turn.


While Illinois may not have the towering mountains or grand canyons of other states, these natural wonders showcase the state's diverse landscapes and offer opportunities for outdoor recreation, exploration, and appreciation of its natural beauty.

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