Category Archives: Off-Road Illinois

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Bike Trails Feature Image

As warmer temperatures roll in, so do bikers, eager to get their wheels back out and put in miles towards another season. Whether you’re an avid cyclist or just looking for a leisurely afternoon ride, there is always somewhere new to explore. Bike trails around the state offer experiences that range in difficulty, from the easy ride to the intense climb, there’s a trail for every rider. So what are you waiting for? Hop in the saddle and get going!

Rolling agricultural fields, reclaimed strip mines, ravines, rocky streams and wooded bluffs dominate the northern half of the Tunnel Hill State Trail in Vienna. With 47.8 miles (one-way) of crushed gravel surface, extended inclines and dark tunnels, this trail is a difficult one. But if you’re up to the challenge, don’t pass up this Southern Illinois gem.

Tunnel Hill State Trail 1

Tunnel Hill State Trail

The southern half of the trail explodes with scenery that includes bottomland woods, ponds, streams and marshes. The trail, which winds through seven towns, even touches upon a handful of ghost towns that faded into the landscape after the trains here stopped running.

Tunnel Hill State Trail 2

Tunnel Hill State Trail

 

And in the opposite direction of Tunnel Hill, head up north to the Fox River Trail in St. Charles, 32 miles of biking, hiking and, in the winter, cross-country skiing featuring the scenic trails of the Fox River. Make this ride as easy or difficult as you like. There are plenty of spots to pull over and enjoy the scenery or snap a selfie, like the Carpenters Dam, Fox River Shores, Tyler Creek, Voyageur Landing, Shoemaker Nature Center and Fabyan Forest Preserve.

Fox River Bike Trail

The Fox River Trail in St. Charles

 

In Chicago, one the most popular outdoor spots is The 606, celebrating its first birthday this summer. This 2.7-mile rails-to-trails path is one of the newest additions to the city’s green space with gardens and parks lining the trail. Enjoy a more leisurely ride along this path, and in the warmer weather, expect to see lots of dogs, children and people enjoying the trail and various summer events.

The 606 - Courtesy of The Trust for Public Land

The 606 in Chicago (Photo credit: The Trust for Public Land)

 

Along the western edge of the state, cyclists nationally and internationally ride the 62.5 mile stretch the Great River Trail that runs from the Illinois Quad Cities to Savanna, Illinois. This trail isn’t just for the biking enthusiast. The whole trail system measures 10 feet in width to allow bikers and walkers plenty of passing room.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ben Butterworth Parkway

 

From panoramic river views and wooded trails, to prairie areas, backwaters and marsh areas, riders will also enjoy the scenic view and unique towns that call the banks of the Mississippi River their home.

These trails are also part of the Mississippi River Trail (MRT), a 10-state network of bike trails and bike-friendly roads that lines the Mississippi River from its headwaters in Minnesota all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico.

– Illinois Office of Tourism

Winter Adventure Feature Image

This week, we asked our Instagram followers to share photos that surround the theme “winter adventure.” Check out a few of our favorite shots from around the state below! Be sure to follow us on Instagram for upcoming weekly challenges. Share your best photos with us by tagging #EnjoyIllinois and your photo could be featured.

For more unique Illinois destinations, events and attractions check out EnjoyIllinois.com.

1-25 Springbrook Praire Forest

We kicked off this week’s “winter adventure” challenge with this gorgeous photo of Springbrook Prairie Forest by @dupageforest.

Blackwell Lake, Warrenville- (at) nicu2001

Shout out to @nicu2001 for capturing this fiery sunset at Blackwell Lake in Warrenville!

Country Lane Woods (at) genevievebook

We love this shot of a pup exploring icy Country Lane Woods by @genevievebook!

Fabyan Forest Preserve (at) jlishamer

How awesome this is this black and white shot of Fabyan Forest Preserve in Geneva by @jilshamer?

Following coyoyte tracks in Lake County(at) irishvikingdesigns

Instagramer @irishvikingdesigns went exploring in Lake County and captured this cool shot.

Lake Michigan (at) pretzelbuns

Stunning shot of icy Lake Michigan in Chicago from @pretzelbuns!

Oak Street Beach Sunrise (at) norafio

We can’t get enough of this sunset shot over Lake Michigan at Oak Street Beach in Chicago from @norafio!

Rock Cut State Park(at) hcotten13

Instagramer @hcotten13 had a winter adventure at Rock Cut State Park outside Rockford.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

Winter Getaway in Shawnee NF  Feature Image

With more than 280,000 acres of diverse landscapes and 403 miles of hiking trails, the Shawnee National Forest is a perfect destination for a weekend away with friends or a romantic getaway with that special someone. In the cooler months, this must-see location offers adventure seekers and nature lovers a new, more intimate perspective of the beautiful, wintery outdoors of Southern Illinois.

From the rustic tree houses to stay in and the unparalleled outdoor adventures, here are the top attractions for a weekend getaway in the Shawnee National Forest:

Little Grand Canyon Trail
Take an exploratory hike for a break from the holiday frenzy. Feel the crunch of the crisp leaves beneath your feet as you travel along the 3.6-mile trail through rock walls, eroded sandstone canyons and craggy bluffs as you meander to the Little Grand Canyon itself. The Little Grand Canyon offers a 365-foot climb from the canyon floor and a panoramic view of the Big Muddy River and the Mississippi floodplain.

Instagramer (at) sarahdesign01 captured this amazing shot on a winter hike through the Little Grand Canyon Trail!

Instagramer (at) sarahdesign01 captured this amazing shot on a winter hike through the Little Grand Canyon Trail!

Garden of the Gods
No trip to Shawnee National Forest would be complete without a scenic hike to the Garden of Gods. With fewer leaves, the cooler months expose the dramatic rock formations and highlight the textured cliffs, offering a unique perspective of the forest. The breathtaking view from Garden of the Gods makes for the perfect destination for photographers and hikers.

Instagramer (at) theroadandandrew captured this amazing shot of the trees dusted in snow against the protruding bluffs.

Instagramer (at) theroadandandrew captured this amazing shot of the trees dusted in snow against the protruding bluffs.

Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour
Thrill seekers can elevate their weekend by soaring through the Shawnee National Forest on a Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour. Open Saturday and Sunday from December to March, you can experience the beauty of the wintery forest by zipping through its exposed bluffs and valleys.

Fly through the terrain of the Shawnee National Forest on a tour of eight zip lines and three aerial suspension bridges. (Photo courtesy of Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour)

Fly through the terrain of the Shawnee National Forest on a tour of eight zip lines and three aerial suspension bridges. (Photo courtesy of Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour)

Timber Ridge Outpost & Cabins
After a day of adventure, get cozy in an authentic log cabin or a unique treehouse nestled in the hills of the Shawnee National Forest. Surrounded by the beautiful woods, enjoy taking in the tranquility of being off the beaten path. Open year round and supplied with heat, there’s no reason not to enjoy the winter season outdoors.

This White Oak Treehouse was built from a 200+ year old White Oak and sits 20 feet in the air.

This White Oak Treehouse was built from a 200+ year old White Oak and sits 20 feet in the air.

For more trip inspiration, visit EnjoyIllinois.com.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

Expedia Feature Image

It might be frosty outside, or even snowing, but that’s no excuse to stay cooped up inside this winter. Regardless of the weather, there are adventures to be had from hotels in Springfield to state parks along the Illinois River, so that’s why Expedia.com turned to Enjoy Illinois. We wanted to know some of the best places to stay and play in the “Land of Lincoln” this winter, so we rounded up a list of accommodations and nearby activities that’ll keep you feeling warm and toasty.

Photo 1

Expedia.com and Enjoy Illinois teamed up to bring you top tips for embracing the chilly temperatures this winter.

Stay at The State House Inn and Glide Across the Ice
Cozy up at The State House Inn during your stay in Springfield. The hotel’s complimentary breakfast will fuel you up for the day’s adventures, while the pillow-top mattresses and duvet comforters will send you off to blissful sleep. The accommodation is just a few miles away from the Springfield Park District. As soon as the temperatures drop below freezing and the “no skating” signs disappear, break out the ice skates. The lagoons at Lincoln, Washington, and Southwind parks transform into outdoor skating rinks, so you can throw on your ski gloves and show off your Olympic-worthy axels.

Photo 2

Carve Up the Slopes at Chestnut Mountain Resort
Pack your bags for a stay at Chestnut Mountain Resort, a ski-in, ski-out lodge, in Galena. This hotel invites you to warm up in the sauna, grab a bite to eat at the on-site restaurant, and beat the high score in the arcade game room. While you’re visiting, venture outside and carve up the fresh powder on the slopes, which are just feet away from the lodge. Boasting the largest terrain park in the Midwest, the ski resort features more than 25 rails and 19 runs. Pull some tricks and get some air on the ramps or shred down the black diamond trails.

Make a Splash at KeyLime Cove Indoor Waterpark Resort
Invite your kids along for a getaway at KeyLime Cove Indoor Waterpark Resort in Gurnee, north of Chicago. This hotel offers a little something for the whole family, with six in-house restaurants, an on-site spa, and even an arcade. Perhaps the best part of all, though, is that you can pretend it’s still summertime at the resort’s indoor waterpark. Swirl around the Hurricane Vortex, shoot through the 500 foot long waterslides, and float down KeyLime Creek. From the adult-only spa areas to the massive water play structure, this park is the answer to all your winter blues.

Photo 3

Get Adventurous at Starved Rock Lodge & Conference
Stay in the heart of the great outdoors with reservations at Starved Rock Lodge & Conference Center. Choose a room in the lodge or go for a cabin, and then sip hot cocoa at the Veranda with a view of the state park. The accommodation also features a café, lounge, and dining room, which are perfect for unwinding after exploring the local trails. During your visit, tap into your adventurous side, and ice climb the waterfalls in the state park. Climbers must sign in and out of the park office and bring their own equipment, though. If the conditions aren’t right for ice climbing, cross country ski in the picnic area, winter hike, or simply check out the frozen waterfalls.

Don’t let a little chill in the air keep you from venturing to Illinois this winter. You know what they say, “there’s no bad weather, just bad clothing,” so wrap up tight and get ready for a winter wonderland in the “Prairie State.”

-Written by Expedia Staff Writer

Feature Image Size USE THIS ONE

This week we challenged our Instagram followers capture “leading lines” from around Illinois to share with us. Leading lines are lines within an image that lead the viewer’s eye to another point in the image. Check out a few of our favorites below! Be sure to follow us on Instagram for more weekly challenges. Share your best photos with us by tagging #EnjoyIllinois and your photo could be featured next week!

For more unique Illinois destinations, events and attractions check out EnjoyIllinois.com.

_dannyphoto_

Instagramer @_dannyphoto_ took this amazing “leading lines” capture.

zacheisenhauer

Snowy Southern Illinois capture by Instagramer @zacheisenhauer.

nvahey- lake street

We love this photo of the Chicago CTA tracks by Instagramer @nvahey. Thanks for sharing!

edsonsoares- Chicago street

The tracks above and its shadow below lead your eye to the center of the photo! Photo: @edsonsoares

jenhawleyprice

Snowy train tracks in Lemont. Picture by @jenhawleyprice.

jcstales- Evanston Hospital

How cool is this photo of Evanston Hospital by Instagramer @jcstales?

jess.adrienne

Great capture leading to the Trump Tower in Chicago! Photo: @jess.adrienne

smooth_jb - Lyric Opera of Chicago

Unique twist to our “leading lines” challenge by Instagramer @smooth_jb.

-The Illinois Office of Tourism