In the southern part of the state between the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers lies the vast 289,000 acres of the Shawnee National Forest, which is also called the Illinois Ozarks. It’s a place filled with unparalleled beauty that must be seen with your own eyes to be believed. With 300 miles of trails that lead to unique rock formations, bluffs, rivers, forests, hills, streams, and more, this is an area filled with endless possibilities for outdoor adventure. Also within the Illinois Ozarks are several natural features that evoke so much amazement, they can be considered natural wonders.

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The Illinois Ozarks are filled with so much beauty it can take your breath away. Have you explored much of Southern Illinois? What are your favorite rock formations in Illinois? Tell us in the comments!

Looking for some more hikes? Check out these easy hikes in Illinois!

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Illinois Outdoors

What are the best state parks in Illinois?

While they are gorgeous, it's not just the Illinois Ozarks that you need to explore. Check out the best state parks in Illinois:

  • Moraine Hills State Park: You’ll find this 2,200-acre state park in McHenry. Enjoy ample opportunities for bird-watching as well as fishing on Lake Defiance. You can also hike ten miles within the park, including Pike Marsh, which is chock full of interesting flora and fauna.
  • Matthiessen State Park: Located in Oglesby, this 1,938-acre park is full of lovely scenery, like prairies and forests and canyons and rock formations. Explore the park via five miles of trails or picnic, horseback ride, hunt, or fish.
  • Rock Cut State Park: Head to Caledonia for this 3,092-acre park. Enjoy fishing and kayaking in Pierce and Olson Lake, explore 40 miles of hiking trails, or pedal 23 miles on your mountain bike. You can also camp here.


What are the most beautiful lakes in Illinois?

If you want to take a swim, boat, fish, or just admire some pretty water, check out some of the most beautiful lakes in Illinois:

  • Lake of Egypt: You’ll find this 2,300-acre manmade lake in southern Illinois. It abuts the beautiful Shawnee National Forest and is a great spot for swimming and water and jet skiing. It’s also a popular fishing spot, full of channel catfish, largemouth bass, and more.
  • Devil’s Kitchen Lake: Located in Williamson County, this 810-acre lake is known for its rainbow trout and attracts fishermen from all over. And the scenery is pretty interesting too; despite it being on flat terrain, the surroundings are all sharp slopes and valleys. You can also take a boat out on the lake, although you cannot swim.


What are the best waterfalls in Illinois?

The beauty of the state isn't just rock formations in Illinois. Check out the best waterfalls in Illinois:

  • Thunder Bay Falls:  Located in Galena, you can view this waterfall from your car if you’d like. However, I do highly recommend getting a bit closer to feel the mist coming off of it and truly take it in. There are two viewing platforms.
  • Apple Canyon Lake Waterfall: This one is another great easy-access waterfall. It is located in Thompson Township. You don’t even have to get out of your car to view this one, too. If you want to extend this excursion to something else, you can also fish, hike, hunt, and more in Apple River Canyon State Park.

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