Fall, with its kaleidoscope of colors and crisp temperatures, is a great time of year to enjoy activities out of doors. It is a time of year that is between seasons of extreme temperatures, when a light jacket or sweatshirt is needed in the northern parts of the United States.
There are some great places to explore in Northern Illinois whether one wants to hike in the woods or spend time walking through quaint shops in the small historic town of Galena, Illinois.
The first place to discover is Rock Cut State Park (http://www.stateparks.com/rock_cut.html) on Hwy 173 just North of Rockford, Illinois. Here, one will find two quiet man-made lakes. One is called Pierce Lake and is used for fishing and boating activities only. The other (Olson Lake) is used for swimming and for a small fee the beach can be used in the Summer months. Near the entrance to the park, one will find a nature area with native prairie grasses and birds. As one continues down the narrow road into the park, one comes to a “Y” in the road which makes a giant circle around the lake. At one end of the lake is a campground with three different classes of camping facilities, including a cabin to rent. The campgrounds have showers and running water and may be used year round, though some facilites and amenities do close in the Winter. On the other side of the lake is a boat rental area where one may rent canoes and paddle boats for one’s enjoyment on the water. Surrounding the lake are several picnic areas as well as a walking path through a somewhat dense forest where Fall colors are abundant and beavers may be spotted on the East end. There are a total of over 40 miles of walking paths within the park.
Another great place for Fall hiking and fall color observing is Starved Rock State Park (http://www.stateparks.com/starved_rock.html) in North-Central Illinois just near the junction of I-39 and I-80. It is well known in the state for its hiking trails, eagle watching, and waterfalls (Spring and early Summer). There are many miles of hiking trails through the sometimes dense forest, which are beautiful in Fall when most of the leaves turn brilliant oranges, yellows, and reds. Many or these trails lead to canyons or sandstone rock cliffs that were formed many many years ago. Some of these have waterfalls flowing over them in the Spring to early Summer. There are days in October that are designated as Fall Color days and in February the eagles nest high in the branches along the river and can be seen in multitudes. One of the main hiking trails in the park takes one to the top of the cliff (starved rock) where one can look down and see the Illinois River below. There are no camping facilities, but there is a lodge, picnic area, and visitor center where snacks and treats can be enjoyed.
Finally, for those who do not enjoy long hiking trails, there is a town named Galena (http://www.galena.org/) in Northwestern Illinois, just a few miles East of the Iowa state line and a few miles South of the Wisconsin state line. In this quaint little town, one can find stores of all kinds including a smokehouse and wine shop where samples are usually abundant. Along with the shops, one will find several restaurants, hotels, churches, and a ski resort South a few miles that also offers year round fun. It is on the Galena river which in Spring run-off can overflow its banks, hence the large floodgates at the entrance to the town. It is famous for having several war generals pass through, including General Ulysses S. Grant of Civil War fame as well as being the 18th President of the United States. It was in his house in Galena that he got the news that he had won the election and can be toured daily (http://www.granthome.com/.
So, whether it be miles of hiking trails in the beautiful forest areas and outdoor activities in the crisp air, or shopping in quaint shops that interest you this Fall. Come enjoy Northern Illinois. You’ll be rewarded by the unexpected.