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The 8 Must-Experience Outdoor Adventures In Illinois

The 8 Must-Experience Outdoor Adventures In Illinois (2024)

Illinois is a beautiful Midwestern state made for outdoor activities and adventures. Fortunately, with plenty of adventure spots and natural zones, outdoor scenes here always go epic. From overnight camping spots to incredible trails, unique state parks, endless lakes, Illinois will simply surprise you. While Illinoisans spend most of their winters keeping themselves indoors, summers here are the exact opposite. Though the entire State, especially the Chicagoans, head outdoor as soon as the summer season blooms. You may love peace or can be a crowd junkie; outdoor experiences in Illinois have it all for you.

Begin your outdoor adventure in Illinois from the natural wonder, the Garden of Gods. Or go for the Shawnee Bluffs canopy tour and learn about a new world on its own. If you are here during spring or monsoons, you can also plan your waterfall hiking in the beautiful Starved Rock state park. Ok, don’t get confused like that. Here are some of the most popular and worthy outdoor experiences in Illinois. Have a look at our list and build your own itinerary.

The 8 Must-Experience Outdoor Adventures In Illinois

1. Kayak Down On The Popular Chicago River

You may have kayaked in several natural settings but ever thought of floating amidst skyscrapers and pacing the city? If yes, then quickly head towards the Chicago River in the Chicago city. There are several businesses along with the lakefront offering kayak rentals and even beginner lessons. Before experiencing the fun and adventure, they will teach you how to steer and balance your kayak. Most of them charge an hourly rate, or you can even rent for an entire day. If not alone, you can opt for tours with guided excursions. Such tours last nearly 3 to 4 hours. They even allow you to navigate through the river during the night and admire the architecture around you.

2. Cache River State Natural Area

Located in the southern region, the Cache River State Natural Area is the only bayou in Illinois. It is one of the most diverse natural preserves in Illinois and also a lesser-known site. Rowing down the miles-long Lower Cache canoe trail here is a must-experience outdoor adventure in Illinois. On the way, you will see a 1000-year-old bald cypress tree, huge state champion cherry bark oak, and similar wilds from the past. However, beware of the residents, including lizards, turtles, salamanders, and snakes. If not been cautious enough, they can harm you and even prove life-hazardous. Also, before heading here, soak well in insect repellent, wear well-covering clothes and take on your water shoes.

Outdoor Adventures In Illinois - Cache River State Natural Area

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3. Hike Through The Dramatic Garden Of Gods

The most well-known landmark of Illinois, Garden of Gods, is a must-experience outdoor site. Suitably the jeweled crown of Illinois, Garden of Gods, is located within the Shawnee National Forest. If you carry an adventurous appetite, then hike through dramatic rock formations which took millions of years to make. It may amaze you, but few of the rocks here are even 320 million years old. Climb the Anvil Rock, Devil’s Smoke Stack, and Camel Rock and grab spectacular views like nowhere else in the Midwest. Though despite being a popular hike, it is also marked as one of the most dangerous trails in Illinois. If hiking is one of your learned possessions, do climb up the dramatic garden of Gods in Illinois.

4. If With Kids, Walk Through The Ferne Clyffe State Park

Illinois is home to hundreds of state parks, but the one that keeps it easy for kids is the Ferne Clyffe, State Park. The Park is located right in the middle of Shawnee National Forest. With awe-inspiring rock formations and low difficulty trails, it makes easy for kids and novice to hiking around. There are several small and medium-sized rocks kids can easily climb and slide off. One popular is the Spider-man rock that lets you slide down similarly as he slides down the buildings. You can spend nights in the campgrounds taking benefit from several amenities. There’s also a kid’s playground, waterfalls & water bodies, along with several fern-covered foliages.

5. Spend Some Time Admiring The Uniqueness Of Giant City State Park

One of the must-experience outdoor places in Illinois is the Giant city state park. It is located in the heart of the Shawnee National Forest and is a family-friendly place to visit. The state park got its name from the giant rock formations that look like huge city walls. Every trail here passed between two huge rock walls making one feel as if they are passing through a street. Each trail is well marked with plenty of cool rock formations, historical significance, and rock formation. The Park is usually not very crowded, so if you are looking for some peace amidst nature, it is one good option. Rock climbers and mountain hikers can bring along their gears and add experience to their adventure book.

6. Float Through Lake Michigan On A Stand-Up Paddleboard Like Never Before

Lake Michigan is an inseparable part of Illinois and one of its prized possessions as well. One of the coolest ways to explore the Illinois share of Lake Michigan is on a stand-up paddleboard. Though there are several rentals on the lakefront, Monroe Harbor & North Avenue Beach are popular amongst them. Adventurers can observe Chicago’s outdoor views and catch some epic views around. These breathtakingly scenic views include Chicago’s skyline and the popular navy pier. Though remember that stand-up paddle boarding isn’t a cakewalk, especially during the windy days.

7. Try Rock Climbing At Maggie Daley Park

If you are done with nature’s excursion for adventure in Illinois, you can relive it in city life as well. The climbing wall here is 40 feet tall over a surface area of 19,000 sq. feet. It is divided into three different climbing, including bouldering, lead-harnessed, and top rope. The wall can handle 25 to 100 climbers at a given time, both beginners and advanced climbers. Beginners can hire a private belayer and still experience the adventure here. Or take a short (paid) lesson on Belaying and climb on your own. For $30, they provide you will find all the necessary equipment along with safety from their trained staff. If you are a Chicago local, you must definitely go for it.

8. When It Is Winter, Enjoy Ice Skating and Skiing

There are multiple winter playgrounds in Illinois where you can adventure your heart out. While most of them are half an hour from downtown Chicago, you can wear your skates and slide on the snow. There are a few worthy ski resorts as well, including the Chestnut Mountain resort and the Wilmott Mountain ski resort. For night skiing, you can head towards the Ski Snowstar, a small but charming space. Though Illinois lack is a total plain state, you will get surprised knowing there are a few great slopes and hills to ski down. Skiing facilities here caters to experts of all level and all age groups.

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