Illinois is known for its classic midwestern landscapes of low hills, stands of forests, and expansive wetlands, and the relatively flat terrain endear area of the state ideal to hikers of every experience level. If you're planning a hiking expedition in the Prairie State, consider one of the five great trails we've listed here based on suggestions from Trails.com and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Illinois & Michigan Canal State Trail
Hikers can follow the entire 96-mile route of the Illinois & Michigan Canal State Trail, or walk specific sections/loops, to see a range of landscapes that range from riverfront bluffs to rolling, grass-covered hills. Along the I&M Trail you'll pass through several state parks, see restored historical sights, and have the chance to see an abundance of birds and wildlife.
Rock Island Trail
The Rock Island Trail treats hikers to a beautiful, secluded walk along a hardwood tree-canopied path that measures no more than 100 feet in width. The 27-mile trek passes through Rock Island Trail State Park and scenes of seemingly endless perennial wildflowers and the Grand Prairie Division, fields of tall prairie grasses that appear as pioneers would have seen them moving west.
Illinois Prairie Path
The 61-mile Illinois Prairie Path is a scenic trail paved with crushed limestone designated for non-motorized public use that passes through three counties. The nation's first rail-to-trail conversion, the Illinois Prairie Path brings hikers to scenes of restored prairies, old train stations, bridges, and Founders Park.
Hennepin Canal State Trail
The 105-mile linear park known as the Hennepin Canal State Trail passes through five counties in Illinois to offer hikers views of natural riverfront landscapes and man-made historical sites. The hiking trail follows the abandoned Hennepin Canal, an industrial waterway that features locks and aqueducts, and passes the Illinois River, Rock River, and Rock Falls.
Trail through Waterfall Glen
A 9-mile loop paved with turf or crushed limestone takes hikers through Waterfall Glen, an ecologically diverse expanse of land within the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County alive with native wildlife. Hikers get to see woodlands, prairies, and savannas as well as the ridges and holes that were formed by the Wisconsin Glacier.