Distance for Days

There is no question that travel and tourism trends have changed recently, making outdoor adventures very popular, and a natural place to be socially distant. Downstate Illinois is home to everything from wetlands and ravines, to lakes and nature preserves that are great for visitors of all ages!

If you're a true outdoor enthusiast that enjoys everything from camping, hiking and biking to fishing and even sailing; then Carlyle Lake is the spot for you! Carlyle Lake is the largest man-made lake in Illinois, accounting for 25,000 acres.

Carlyle Lake in Carlyle, IL

Photo Credit: @cooleyfamphotos on Instagram

If you're looking for a hiking trip to last a full day or even a weekend, Monroe County is the place to get a away from it all. Paul Wightman Subterranean Nature Preserve is one of the easiest hikes, with a wide trail loop that is only about a mile long — but offers great views of wildflowers and more. Further north in Monroe County lies Salt Lick Point Land and Water Reserve, which is comprised of three different trails. The observation point from the Salt Lick Trail provides you a birds-eye view of everything within miles. You can even see the St. Louis Arch from here!

For a more advanced trail, Fults Hill Prairie Nature Preserve starts out with a nice long jaunt up the bluff — but once you get to the top, the views of the river bottoms are well worth the effort!

Fults Hill Prairie Nature Preserve in Downstate Illinois

PC: Bryan Hadley

When it comes to great scenery with good accessibility for wheelchairs and strollers, look no further than Arlington Wetlands in Madison County. This short trail features a boardwalk that allows visitors to walk right through the wetlands and get an up-close experience of this amazing ecosystem.

Arlington Wetlands in Madison County, Downstate Illinois

Tucked away in southeast Randolph County lies Piney Creek Ravine, one of the true hidden gems in southern Illinois to take a hike. Amazing views of bluffs, creeks and canyons here are enough to take your breath away — but the icing on the cake is the rock art. Piney Creek Ravine is home to the largest collection of prehistoric petroglyphs and pictographs of anywhere in Illinois, landing Piney Creek Ravine on the National Register of Historic Places! 

Piney Creek Ravine in Randolph County, Downstate Illinois

PC: @kalilynnmusic on Instagram

Located on the banks of the Wabash River in southeastern Illinois, Beall Woods State Park in Wabash County attracts visitors from around the world who are interested in experiencing one of the few remaining tracts of virgin timber east of the Mississippi River. At Beall Woods, visitors can see trees 120 feet tall and more than 3 feet in diameter.

Beall Woods State Park in Wabash County, Downstate Illinois

PC: @phillipsfamilyadventureteam on Instagram

For one of the most picturesque scenes of summer, visit Sam Parr State Fish and Wildlife Area in Jasper County. One of the best times to go is late July to early August when seemingly endless fields of sunflowers are in bloom. As you may imagine, this is a very popular spot for family photos and Instagram enthusiasts alike!

Sam Parr State Fish and Wildlife Area in Jasper County, Downstate Illinois

PC: @briannajohnson01 on Instagram

For more outdoor adventure travel ideas, click here!

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