Hidden Gems of Illinois

Lets face it…Illinois gets a bad rap. Being sandwhiched between two states with top notch state parks, Missouri & Indiana, Illinois parks can barely compete. And when most people think of Illinois, they think of the hustle and bustle of Chicago, but there are plenty of hidden gems throughout the state. This post will highlight a few and hopefully bring a bit of positivity to Illinois!

Piney Creek Ravine Nature Preserve – Ava, IL

This amazing area is home to prehistoric rock art and beautiful hiking.

Piney Creek (27)

Fults Hill Prarie Nature Preserve – Prairie Du Rocher, IL

This place provides panoramic views of the Mississippi River floodplain. I also loved how the rocky outcropping contrasted with the prairie landscape.

Fults Hill (7)

Chain of Rocks Bridge – Technically, Google Maps says it is in St. Louis, Missouri, but you access it from Illinois!

I love the history of this site and the ability to walk across the river!

Chain of Rocks (71)

Ferne Clyffe State Park – Goreville, IL

This park boasts two waterfalls and a huge shelter cave and it is easily accessible right off the interstate. Doesn’t get much better than this.


Cave-In-Rock State Park – Hardin, County

This place is so unique! You can’t really imagine the size of this cave until you see it in person!

Cave In Rock (25)

John Deere Historic Site – Grand Detour, IL

On a guided tour, we learned so much about the man, John Deere! I can’t believe he engineered the steel plow in Illinois!


Eldon Hazlet State Park – Carlyle, IL

I was really impressed with this state park and especially the campground. Located on Carlyle Lake, there are endless options of activities.


Lake Kinkaid Spillway – Gotham, IL

An easily accessible “waterfall” that is gorgeous.

Lake Kinkaid (47)

Giant City State Park – Makanda, IL

If you ask anyone which is the best state park in Southern Illinois, Giant City will most likely be the answer. The state park features amazing hiking and the iconic “Streets of Giant City”. Also, the campground is really nice.


White Rock Nature Preserve – Valmeyer, IL

This trail seems to be overlooked in favor of the Salt Lick Point Trail (which is equally as nice), but this trail is less visited and more peaceful!

I hope you like this list. Stay tuned for more posts like this!

Categories: Hidden GemsTags: , , , , ,


  1. Great synopsis of Illinois hiking!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the information & great psictures to enhance the interest!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Starved Rock and Matthiessen are also fabulous (but getting too crowded with not enough trail maintenance). Southern IL has so many amazing parks!

    Liked by 1 person

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