Best Places to Hike This Fall in Southwest Illinois

COVID taking a toll on your mental health? Take a walk.

The Great Rivers & Routes region has the perfect prescription to help work off some of that pandemic stress with off-the-beaten path hiking trails sure to restore your equilibrium and keep you physically and mentally healthy at the same time.

Here are just a few places where you can escape and enjoy the peace and tranquility of nature.

Forest Bathing

You've probably heard of the Japanese wellness trend called 'Forest Bathing'. It is basically reconnecting with nature through all your senses. Of course, it also means leaving your must-have electronic devices behind in order to do it effectively. And then you just walk and let your five senses guide you through the nature trails of the region. Let your eyes, nose, ears, feet and mind absorb nature as you walk.

There's no better place to do this than at the Watershed Nature Center in Edwardsville. Trails are open from dawn to dusk. Explore the more than 40 acres of wetlands, woodlands and grasslands. Be prepared to share the trails with local wildlife.

Beaver Dam State Park Lake

Or take a leisurely drive up to Beaver Dam State Park, just south of Carlinville and immerse yourself in nature. The park has about 8 miles of hiking trails that circle the lake and wander through the heavily wooded areas. Listen to the birds and enjoy the crunch of leaves underfoot as you stroll through this restful state park. Horseshoe Lake State Park near Collinsville has four miles of hiking trails through the natural vegetation of the park.

Stress Relievers

Some days there is nothing like a good brisk walk to restore our balance. There are a multitude of trails that are sure to challenge you both mentally and physically.

The Nature Institute in Godfrey has amazing views of the Mississippi River from its vantage point atop the limestone bluffs. The trails are rated from easy to difficult and are 3 miles in length. Enjoy magnificent views of Beaver Falls, the largest waterfall on the property, along with forests, restored prairie and a savanna habitat. The trails are open from dawn to dusk through December.

Lake Lou Yaeger Route 66 Biking Trail

Litchfield's Lake Lou Yaeger's Route 66 Hike and Bike Trail has 6.6 miles of trails that can range from easy to moderate for hikers depending on the chosen route. Flat terrain and steep downgrades are highlights of the trails.

Looking for a relatively short but challenging hike? Willoughby Heritage Farm and Conservation Reserve trail system has both. There are over 3.5 miles of trail at the Collinsville site. Some trails along the Mississippi Valley bluff line are steep and rugged but worth the trip.

There are hundreds of miles of hiking trails in the Great Rivers & Routes region. Find out more here!