Are you looking for the best places for hiking in Illinois?
Then you’ve come to the right place!
Known as the ‘Prairie State,’ there is so much to do in Illinois. And it is full of amazing scenic views.
But Illinois also has forests, wetlands, farmland, and of course, cities like Chicago.
That makes the Illinois hiking trails some of the best in the midwest.
They are so varied and each one of them has something unique to offer for hikers of all skill levels.
I was born and raised in the Midwest, and Illinois is one of my favorite places to visit, especially for exploring!
On this list, I’ve made sure to include a variety of different kinds of Illinois hiking trails.
There are easy hikes that take less than 10 minutes and more moderate hikes that can take you a few hours.
No matter your skill level, I promise there is a beautiful place for hiking in IL on this list for you!
So, let’s take a look at some incredible scenic trails for hiking in Illinois.
15 Scenic Trails For Hiking In Illinois
Hike The Little Grand Canyon Trail
The Little Grand Canyon Trail is a scenic trail located in Shawnee National Forest.
It is a beautiful Illinois hiking trail, especially in the spring months.
The most popular time to visit and hike this trail is in April and October.
In April, the wildflowers are often in full bloom and offer a beautiful springtime landscape.
If you visit in October, you’ll be treated to a riot of Midwest autumn colors.
The trail is open year-round and is rated as moderate to difficult.
It is rated that way because it is a fairly rocky trail and there is a significant slope in certain areas of the trail.
If you choose to hike the whole trail, it is 3 miles. But you can always take one of the shorter segments that you’ll find along the main trail.
It’s a bit of a difficult trail, but it’s also one of the best hiking trails in Illinois.
Head Outside Of Chicago To Hike The Waterfall Glen Trail
One of the best hikes near Chicago can be found at the Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve.
The Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve is located in Darien, which is about 30 minutes outside of Chicago.
With over 2,500 acres, the park itself is massive and there’s plenty to explore.
Most visitors love to hike the Waterfall Glen Trail.
The Waterfall Glen Trail, also considered the Main Trail, is a 9.5-mile loop.
It is also paved, so it’s a fairly easy trail for most hikers to enjoy.
You can bike the trail, or simply walk it.
Along the loop, you’ll see several scenic sites, including a beautiful Illinois waterfall.
If you are looking for a fairly easy hike, then this is one of the best hikes near Chicago.
The Garden Of The Gods Observation Trail Is A Short And Easy Illinois Hiking Trail
The Garden of the Gods Observation Trail is one of the most popular places for hiking in Illinois.
It’s a heavily trafficked trail, but it’s also short and easy.
At just .5 miles, this out-and-back trail is a loop that is paved with flagstone.
As you walk the loop you’ll get to see stunning panoramic views of the famous rock formations.
It is a narrow trail and there are some steep parts, so while it’s rated as easy, it might be difficult for wheelchairs or strollers to navigate.
There are also portions that are considered moderately steep.
However, because it’s such a short loop, most people find the trail fairly easy to navigate.
If you go on this Illinois hiking trail, you’ll be rewarded with some beautiful views.
This is an excellent place to check out camping in Illinois as well.
The Dells Canyon And Bluff Trail Is Great For Hiking In Illinois
Located in Matthiessen State Park is the Dells Canyon and Bluff Trail.
The Dells Canyon and Bluff Trail are categorized as moderate trails.
It is a 2-mile loop that is fairly popular, so you may experience some heavy traffic during the popular hiking seasons.
While you are on the trail you’ll get to see some beautiful natural canyons and a natural lake.
It is rated as moderate because there are some steep sections and it can be very slippery in certain areas.
However, it’s still one of the best hiking trails in Illinois!
The Indian Point Trail Is A Beautiful Place For Hiking In Southern Illinois
If you’re looking for a great place for hiking in Southern Illinois, head to the Shawnee National Forest.
The Shawnee National Forest is full of amazing Illinois hiking trails.
Many of the beautiful trails on this list are in the Shawnee National Forest!
One of my favorites is the Indian Point Trail.
The Indian Point Trail is a 1.9-mile loop.
You’ll start on a ridge and then gently progress to a bluff that overlooks the beautiful valley.
Because you’ll be going up in elevation, and there are some steep areas, the trail is rated as moderate.
However, the beautiful views of the prairie, valley, and woods are totally worth it!
Go Hiking In Southern Illinois At The Giant City Nature Trail
The Giant City Nature Trail is one of the best hiking trails in Illinois for all skill levels.
It is rated as easy and is a 1-mile loop.
Because it is an easy trail with beautiful views, it is also very popular.
So prepare for potentially dealing with some crowds during the peak hiking season.
There is a wooden boardwalk that takes you through natural canyons and you’ll see plenty of wildflowers as well.
The trail is also located near the Devil’s Standtable, which is a really cool and popular rock formation to check out.
Giant City Nature Trail is a great Illinois hiking option if you want to enjoy scenic views on an easy trail.
The Jackson Falls Trail Is Another Beautiful Shawnee National Forest Trail
The Jackson Falls Trail is nestled in the heart of Shawnee National Forest.
It is in an area that is popular for rock climbing, mushroom foraging, and bird watching.
The trail itself is .25 miles long, but it is considered fairly moderate.
Generally, it takes about 20 minutes to hike the trail and reach a viewpoint of this stunning Midwest waterfall.
But there are some steep points.
However, if you want to hike to the bottom of the falls, you’ll need to take a 3.25-mile roundtrip hike.
It’s easily one of the best hikes in Illinois if you want a bit of a challenge and some scenic views in a short hike.
Go Hiking In Chicago On The Lakefront Trail
A great way to see the city but also enjoy a nice hike is the Lakefront Trail.
The Lakefront Trail is one of the best hiking near Chicago options.
There is an 18-mile bike trail next to an 18.5-mile pedestrian trail that hugs Lake Michigan.
You can start and stop the trail at several points throughout the city.
So you can hike the whole thing, or just do certain sections.
No matter what you choose to do, this is easily one of the best hikes near Chicago.
You’ll get to see some scenic views of the city as well as Lake Michigan on the entire trail.
Go Hiking In Illinois In The Shawnee National Forest
Because there are so many hiking trails at the Shawnee National Forest, it’s one of the best places for hiking in Southern Illinois.
You will find hills, lakes, and woodlands all of which make great hiking in Illinois.
You’ll walk through mature beech and oak-hickory forest.
Shawnee National Forest is one of the most beautiful places to hike in Illinois.
The Springbrook Prairie Trail Is Great For Hiking In Illinois
There are two parts to the Springbrook Prairie Trail.
The most popular part of this hiking trail in IL is the 5.5-mile loop.
It is well-maintained with crushed limestone and is generally a pretty easy hike.
There are a few hills, but for the most part, it’s considered an easy trail.
The other part of the trail is a bit more rugged.
It is a 2.9-mile loop that is not paved. The trail is actually mostly dirt and grass, which is one of the reasons why it is considered a bit more difficult.
Both trails will have you walking through some gorgeous scenic Illinois prairies.
Depending on when you visit, you may get to see them full of wildflower blooms.
Try Illinois Hiking On The Bloomingdale Trail
You can find the Bloomingdale Trail in Bloomingdale Park.
Bloomingdale Park is actually located in Chicago.
That makes it a great place for some of the best hiking near Chicago.
The trail stretches 2.7 miles through Chicago’s northwest neighborhoods.
It also crosses through several beautiful areas within the city.
It’s one of the best hiking trails in IL because it is fairly easy, paved, and you’ll get a mixture of both cityscapes and natural areas.
If you’re looking for unique hiking in IL options, I suggest spending some time on the Bloomingdale Trail.
Head To Starved Rock State Park And Hike The Illinois Canyon Trail
Starved Rock State Park is about 2 hours west of Chicago.
It’s a popular Illinois State Park and it has some of the best hiking trails in Illinois.
The Illinois Canyon Trail is popular because it is fairly short and is rated as an easy trail.
It is .9 miles long and it’s an out-and-back trail.
Along the trail, there is a river and even a small waterfall.
You’ll want to wear your boots though.
Areas of the trail are often muddy and there are a few smaller streams that you may have to traverse.
But even still, this is one of the best hikes in Illinois.
Experience Beautiful Views While Hiking In IL On The Glacial Park Loop Trail
Some of the best hiking in Illinois for beginners can be found at Glacial Park.
Glacial Park is a little under 2 hours outside of Chicago, and it’s got some of the best hiking near Chicago.
The park has 5 miles of trails, and the main trail is the Glacial Park Loop Trail.
The Glacial Park Loop Trail loops most of the park.
It is paved and rated as an easy hiking trail in IL.
As you hike on the paved trail you’ll get scenic views of prairie lands, an oak savannah, and delta kames.
It’s also a great place for bird watching and you can even bring your horses and take the horseback trail.
Try A Moderate Hike In Illinois On The Ferne Clyffe Waterfall Trail
If you’re up for the challenge, I suggest trying hiking in IL on the Ferne Clyffe Waterfall Trail.
You can find the Ferne Clyffe Waterfall Trail in the Ferne Clyffe State Park, which is in Southern Illinois.
The trail itself is a 1.3-mile loop that is a pretty popular trail.
That is because it has some beautiful scenery.
It is a rugged trail, so it is rated as fairly moderate.
However, once you reach the waterfall, you’ll find it was worth the effort.
Go Hiking In Illinois On The Olin Nature Preserve Beaver Trail
The Olin Nature Preserve Beaver Trail is located in the John M. Olin Nature Preserve.
You can find it right by the border to Missouri, in southwestern Illinois.
The trail itself is 2.3 miles long and is a full loop.
Along the loop, you’ll get to see a beautiful waterfall.
The trail is rated as moderate because there are some steep portions.
As well as steep portions, there are also a couple of creek crossings.
So this is another Illinois hiking trail where you’ll want to wear your boots.
But if you’re up for a little challenge and a little adventure, then this is one of the best hikes in Illinois.
Packing List When Hiking In Illinois
If you are searching, here are some tips on how to pack lightly when packing for hiking in Illinois.
A concealed travel pouch may be one of the most important items you bring along when on your hikes in Illinois. It is always important to protect your personal information. Identity thieves are everywhere.
This unisex RFID blocking concealed travel pouch is lightweight and comes in several colors. It has lots of organization to give you peace of mind. You can place it under your hiking clothes next to your body to carry your ID safely.
If you have a pouch already that does not come with the RFID protection, as I do, these RFID sleeves are the perfect solution.
If you are planning on taking a lot of pictures with your phone you will definitely want to consider an external charging battery. This Anker high-speed phone charging battery is the exact one I carry with me on all of my trips.
I like that it holds its charging capabilities for several uses so I do not have to worry about it while out and about, and if I forget to recharge it at night, it will still be good to go the next day.
My daughter gifted me with this FugeTek selfie stick and tripod setup for my birthday. I absolutely love it! It is made of lightweight aluminum and is so easy to use.
It has Bluetooth connectivity and is a breeze to use for taking Insta-worthy selfies while discovering island getaways in the US.
I never much believed in using packing cubes when traveling. That is until I tried them. Now I am hooked. These are the exact cubes I use to stay organized when I pack for a trip!
You will want to bring your own refillable water bottle with you.
I never leave home on a trip without my Bobble filtration bottle. The 18.5-ounce size is perfect for your adventures and it fits nicely in the pocket of a backpack.
Perhaps you are traveling a long distance and packing space is a premium in your suitcase, or in your car. Then this set of collapsible silicone foldable water bottles would work well for you. Would not take up much space at all.
You will want a backpack or daypack with you to store snacks, your water bottle, phone, extra clothes, etc.. during long hours of hiking in IL. No matter the time of day or evening.
This foldable water-resistant backpack would be great. And it comes in many different colors.
There are so many great trails for hiking in Illinois, hiking in the Midwest!
No matter what skill level you are at, you can still experience stunning views at any one of these Illinois hiking trails.
Any of these destinations would make for a spectacular Midwest weekend getaway.
Make sure you plan ahead, check the weather, and pack a lunch before you head out on your next adventure while hiking in IL!
I’m sure you’ll have a great time when you explore these spectacular hiking trails in Illinois!
Here are some other great options for hiking in the Midwest.