Hiking in Illinois

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of June 13-19, 1996
Grand Teton guides
Preparing for Manitoba
Fat-tire rides in Crested Butte
Hiking in Illinois
Paddle trips with kids
Four Corners mountain biking

Hiking in Illinois
Question: I'm looking for a good week-long hike in Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, or Northern Tennessee. I understand the John Muir Trail is a good choice. Could you tell me of any other good trails in the area?

J.P. Howley
Louisville, KY
[email protected]

Adventure Adviser: A good bet in southern Illinois is the 146-mile River-to-River Trail that runs from Battery Rock on the Ohio River, through the Shawnee National Forest, to Devil's Backbone Park on the Mississippi. With all the rolling hills, lakes, and rocky bluffs along the way, you'll feel more like you're hiking Missouri's Ozarks than Illinois's flatlands.

Take ten to 14 days to trek the trail's footpaths and dirt roads, or cover a smaller slice in five to seven days, like the premier section that starts at Garden of the Gods Wilderness and stretches southwest, past the Lusk Creek Wilderness. Fat-tire-phobes beware: Mountain bikes are allowed on many sections of this trail, except in wilderness areas. An especially popular stretch is the ten-mile ride from Camp Cadiz to High Knob, five miles east of Garden of the Gods. Before heading out, call the River-to-River Trail Society (618-252-6789) for information and shuttle options. They also sell a trail guide with topo maps and detailed route descriptions for $20.

Another good place to load up on maps and info is the Shawnee National Forest Headquarters in Harrisburg (800-699-6637). If you're planning your trip for the fall and have southern Indiana in mind, consider the Knobstone Trail, a 58-mile trek that snakes through hardwood forests along the parched Knobstone Escarpment. Start at Delaney Park and hike the whole thing in a week, or, if you have less time, pick a shorter section--there are trailheads every 15 miles. Keep in mind that when I say parched, I'm not kidding: The Knobs are so dry that people who live in the area have to truck in their water, which means that, as a hiker, you'll need to schlep in all your own H20 or cache it at road crossings along the way. Indiana's Division of Outdoor Recreation (317-232-4070) will send you a free waterproof topo map of the trail if you're nice. Or call Delaney Park--about 90 miles southwest of Indianapolis off Indiana 135--at 812-883-5101 for more details. Before you go, check out other trail descriptions in "America the Hoofable" in the Destinations section of our April 1996 issue.

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