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Five Illinois adventures at a northern state park

Dude fishing at Apple River Canyon State Park
Dude fishing at Apple River Canyon State Park
Photo by author Ted Nelson

When people who live in Illinois think adventure, they usually drive north to Wisconsin or even farther. I just returned from a hiking trip to Big Bend National Park. Most of the incredible adventures take place outside the Prairie State. This does not mean the state is completely boring.

Here is a list of five adventures within the state that take place at an Illinois State Park or Natural Area.

Cross-Country ski at Rock Cut State Park

Rock Cut is one of the farthest north state parks, so it is no surprise that this would be the best park for cross-country skiing. Located just north of Rockford, this state park grooms their trails, has cross-country ski lessons, and even has ski rentals when there is snow on the ground. That happened a lot this last winter.

Birding – Volo Bog State Natural Area

The Interpretive trail over the bog on a floating boardwalk is an incredible little adventure. It is a great place to see herons, rails, waterfowl, sandhill cranes, egrets, and many other species. If you are a plant person, it is also a great place to study the fauna. It is incredible how lush the environment is and difficult to believe it is in Illinois.

Fishing – Apple River Canyon State Park

Apple River Canyon has smallmouth bass and they stock the river with trout. The river is accessible to fish all through the park. The canyon is also quite picturesque and a beautiful spot to spend the day.

Hiking – Moraine Hills State Park

Moraine Hills has several trails going through a diverse landscape including hardwood forests, tallgrass praire, and lakes and bogs. There are over 10 miles of trails in this picturesque park located near the Fox River. Moraine Hills is also a great park to enjoy in the winter for cross-country skiing.

Kayaking – Starved Rock State Park

Thanks to Kayak Morris, which leads kayak trips into Starved Rock, one can enjoy this park from a different perspective. This park is also great for all the above activities minus cross-country skiing, which can be done at nearby Matthiessen State Park.

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