You are here
Jim Edgar WMA offers 73 miles of trails including views such as this.
Hiking in and around Springfield, Illinois, undeservedly gets a bad rap. Situated between the Appalachians to the east and the Rockies to the west, most outdoor enthusiasts imagine walking through endless flat cornfields.
Au contraire mon frère. Hiking within the sphere of Illinois capital city presents trails among glacial carved lands, across wildflower laden prairies, within the rocky depths of the Sangamon River Valley and back into history, to walk where Lincoln did.
Take a minute and follow me as we scan the Central Illinois hiking horizon, while gazing from Blue Mound, a fun hike itself. Looking from the observation deck, fields, farms, forests, and towns stretch to the horizon, including where we stand at Griswold Conservation Area.
In Springfield itself, several converted railroad grades, including the Wabash Trail, have been turned into trails offered lake views and streamside scenery in rich woods. The Lick Creek Preserve is a wooded oasis with singletrack paths near Lake Springfield. Carpenter Park spreads along the banks of the Sangamon, with a spider web of nature trails at a historic recreation destination.
Looking for a major getaway? To the west, Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area contains over 16,000 acres of hills, bottomlands, forests, lakes, prairies, and farmland, a large contiguous area for recreation such as hiking, boating, and fishing. It has a total of 73 miles of trails for the outdoor enthusiast, where alluring lakes make for wildlife rich hike settings, as well as high hills that open surprising vistas. You can camp here, too.
Hit the trails at some greater Springfield state parks. New Salem, the recreated village of Lincoln’s early days. Walk beside clear streams and wooded hills, a far cry from cornfields. Other state parks hold still more destinations, like the Lakeside Nature Trail, which circles a spring-fed lake. The Hickory Lane Trail offers a wooded escape at Sangchris Lakes State Park. Bring your hiking shoes and your boat -- the Salt Creek Trail snakes along a canoeable stream at Edward Madigan State Park.
The nearby Decatur area has some excellent hikes. Explore Fairview Park, with its big trees. Rock Creek Conservation Area is a real gem. The Lookout Trail explored an historic homestead, along with genuine Illinois prairie. The River Trail is a personal favorite. It roams prairies, passes huge old growth trees, then travels along dark and mysterious bottoms along the Sangamon River. It even has some history too, passing an old spring bottling plant and mill site. Down south, the Lincoln Prairie Trail is a shining example of a rail trail that makes the most of its setting.
So hiking near Springfield is far from flat, and boring. Open your mind, lace up your shoes and explore this trail gem of the prairies.
Read more about hiking in Springfield, Illinois, in Johnny's latest book, Best Easy Day Hikes Springifleld, Illinois.