Come Explore Pere Marquette State Park
Put on those hiking shoes and plan to spend a day enjoying the wildlife and scenic views that can only be experienced at Pere Marquette State Park, a sprawling natural area nestled on the banks of the Illinois River! (Please note camping, both tent and RV, is not allowed at this time due to planned upgrades to the camping facilities.)
With nearly 8,000 acres of scenic beauty, the park is one of the most picturesque and beautiful locations on the Illinois River. As the largest state park in Illinois, visitors enjoy all it has to offer including: hiking, biking, fishing, horseback riding and scenic drives.
Pere Marquette State Park Visitor Center
The Pere Marquette Visitors Center is located at the entrance of Pere Marquette State Park. The Visitors Center has several displays telling the story of the famous explorers Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet. Visitors can also learn about the evolution of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. Maps of hiking trails and reservations for the campgrounds can also be obtained at the center. It also has a three-dimensional map of the park, and numerous displays and exhibits featuring wildlife habitat, local history, geology and the ecology of the Illinois River. In the winter, the center is the starting point for numerous eagle tours from late December through February.
For one of the most scenic view of the Mississippi River, visitors love hitting the trails at the largest state park in Illinois. With eight different trails from which to choose, visitors can encounter more than 230 species of birds and a number of wildlife indigenous to the region – deer, beaver, river otters and wild turkey.
The Goat Cliff Trail at Pere Marquette State Park: The difficulty level of this trail is easy to moderate and extends for one and 1/2 miles. Hikers stand on the Cap au Gres Fault and pass by underground springs gushing out from under the trail. It ends at McAdams Peak, where hikers can gaze into three different bodies of water and see an Indian burial mound nearby.
The Dogwood Trail at Pere Marquette State Park : This trail is a short 1/2 mile trip that loops hikers from the visitors center, past a scenic outlook of wetlands and the Illinois River and back to the visitors center. Pawpaw, sugar maple and sumac trees sway overhead hikers.
The Ridge Trail at Pere Marquette State Park: This is a 1/4 mile long trail and because of its steep upward slope is the most difficult. It also ends at McAdams Peak. At this spot, visitors have a unique opportunity to look down at the American Bald Eagles rather than up at them.
The Ravine Trail at Pere Marquette State Park: Running along the Ridge and Dogwood Trails, this 1/2 mile route cuts deep into the land and circles through the prairie. During the fall, this is a great place to search for elephant ear, puffball and moral mushrooms. Little bluestem, big bluestem, Indian grass and side-oats grama prairie grass also grow in this area.
The Hickory Trails, Fern Hollow, Rattlesnake and Oak Trails at Pere Marquette State Park: These all connect to one another and total five and 3/4 miles of hiking trails. They are more secluded than the other trails and cut through the oldest forest areas of the park. It is common to see deer, turkey and some of the many 230 types of birds in this tranquil and isolated part of the park.
Twin Mounds is a great stop along this trail system. It provides a dramatic panoramic view of the surrounding park and the 372 feet below. On a clear day, the St. Louis skyline and Arch is seen far to the left. All trails at Pere Marquette State Park are open year round. Call the Pere Marquette State Park Visitors Center at (618) 786-3323 for additional information on the trails.
Visitors can begin their adventure on the scenic byway at Pere Marquette State Park. For one of the most scenic view of the Mississippi River, visitors love hopping on a bicycle and pedaling their way along the river on the 22-mile Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail from Pere Marquette to Alton. Didn’t bring your bike? Pere Marquette Lodge & Conference Center has bike rentals for guests.
There is a launch ramp on site which leads directly onto the Illinois River.
The park offers about 20 miles of equestrian trails with a parking area for trailers on Graham Hollow Road. The trails to the west of Graham Hollow are open year-round. The trails east of Graham Hollow will be closed during certain seasons of the year.
Pere Marquette Riding Stables is open for trail rides every day except Tuesday, weather permitting, from May through October. For more information or to make a reservation, call (618) 786-2156.
Where to stay
The centerpiece of the park is the massive lodge and cabins. Built in the 1930s, the lodge has a distinct flavor of native stone and rustic timbers. The most prominent feature of the lodge is the 700-ton fireplace in the Great Room Lobby along with the life-size chess board and pieces.
There are 72 rooms available with 50 Lodge Rooms and 22 Cabin Rooms. The Lodge offers guests an indoor pool and sauna along with an exercise room and beautiful views from many of its rooms.
Elegant dining services are available for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Lodge is famous in the area for their family-style fried chicken dinner and Sunday brunch buffet.
Several camping options are available at Pere Marquette State Park. However, many of the campgrounds are being upgraded and will not open until November.
• Class A (80): Sites have electrical hookups only, with a sanitary dump station, drinking water, and a shower building available on the grounds. Sites 2-30 are available for reservation from May through October. The nearby Class B tent camping area also has access to the shower building.
• Two Cabins: Sleeps max number of 6 people each
For more information on camping at Pere Marquette State Park, click here.