Outdoor Fun in Southwest Illinois

It's not called 'The Great Outdoors Inside the Midwest' for nothing!

The Southwest Illinois landscape is perfect for adventuring in nature- with four distinct seasons, diverse plant and wildlife species, sprawling riverscapes, sparkling lakes, and a variety of recreational facilities- find yourself and get lost in pristine middle America!

Hiking and Nature

What’s more relaxing than a walk in the woods?

Take a forest hike at the largest state park in Illinois at Pere Marquette State Park near Grafton. Take a wooded walk through McCully Heritage Project, Shoal Creek Conservation Area, LaVista Park or The Nature Institute for interaction with area wildlife like songbirds, cotton-tailed rabbits, and white-tailed deer. Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge, Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary, and the Ted and Pat Jones Confluence Point are fantastic places to get some exercise and observe native and travelling bird species like herons, egrets, pelicans, and wintering American bald eagles.

The Watershed Nature Center in Edwardsville provides a pleasant wetland walk and Horseshoe Lake State Park has walking trails that wind around a large lake. For a grassland walk, go to the Heartland Prairie near Gordon F. Moore Community Park or the Route 66 Prairie to see sprawling fields of Midwest wildflowers scattered with butterflies.


Southwest Illinois is a thriving national destination for biking of all kinds. Madison County Transit (MCT) Trails offers over 130 miles of interlinking trails.

Take the Route 66 Bike and Hike Trail for a twist on the classic American road trip, the Sam Vadalabene Trail alongside the beautiful Great River Road, the Great Rivers Bird and Bike Trail for a ride with wildlife, or one of nine more trails in the region crossing bridges, meandering through tunnels, pedaling through verdant farmland and zooming along beautiful waterways! Don’t have a bike of your own? Try out a rental through Pedego Electric Bikes, Covered Bridge Bike Rentals, or even take a tour through Crossroads Bike Tours!

Looking for something a bit more challenging? State Street Trails BMX in Alton provides a practice dirt track for bicycle moto-cross and riders can utilize the Brighton BMX Track during non-race days! Don’t forget your safety equipment!

Did you know? Southwest Illinois holds two large cycling events annually: the Edwardsville Rotary Criterium bike race and the Tour De Donut, a satirical race stylized after the Tour De France- but with extra sugar!

Boating and Fishing

Southwest Illinois is a prime region for boating and fishing- located at the confluence of the Mississippi, Missouri, and Illinois Rivers, find fantastic river fishing and boating at places like Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge, Pere Marquette State Park, Hurricane Diamond Island, and Rip Rap Landing.

Need gear to get started? Check out Bluff City Outdoors for poles, tackle, and bait or call Grafton Harbor Boat Rentals for tritoon day rentals!
Southwest Illinois is also host to many fully stocked freshwater lakes- bring your pole to Lake Lou Yaeger, Beaver Dam State Park, Lake Hillsboro, Otter Lake Park, Coffeen Lake State Park, Glenn Shoals Lake, Long Lake, or Gillespie Lakes for a chance to reel in small and largemouth bass, black crappie, bluegill, and more!

Did you know? Alton Illinois is home to the annual Catfish Classic, a tournament of professional fishermen that pursues the legendary giant blue Mississippi catfish – the largest -- weighing in at a whopping 77.61 lbs!

Outdoor Action

For those who want something exciting to do outdoors, Southwest Illinois has you covered. Explore the region on horseback go horseback at Pere Marquette Riding Stables or bring your own hooved companion to the Lake Lou Yaeger Equestrian Trails. Soar through river bluffs with Grafton Zipline Adventures and take a ride on the Alpine Coaster.

Rise to new heights with rock climbing at Pere Marquette State Park, offering over sixty separate climbing routes. Or break out the skateboard at Litchfield Skate Park, Wood River Soccer and Skate Park, or Hellrung Park. Strategize a battle plan at Mission Ready Laser Tag or Bing Field Paintball and Airsoft Park or zoom around the track at the Gateway Cartplex.

For motocross enthusiasts RIDE Organic Moto Complex offers professional dirt tracks for recreational dirt bike use- buy a day pass and hit the motocross, sand, short, enduro, and peewee moto tracks, as well as several miles of wooded trails.

Did you know? Southwest Illinois and the Midwest are summer national motocross destinations- professional riders travel cross country to access the area’s professional and practice tracks!

Swimming and Water Parks

Feeling that Midwest summer heat? Cool off at one of the region’s swimming pools or waterparks like Raging Rivers Water Park, Collinsville Aqua Park, Litchfield Memorial Pool, or the Edwardsville Glen Carbon Community Pool. Bring the kids to the Alton Splash Pad, Leon Corlew Splash Pad, or Glazebrook Park Splash Pad to play or bring the whole family to Milnot Beach on Lake Lou Yaeger for lakeside fun- the large recreation area has giant inflatables, a sandy swimming beach, snack bar, swings, and toys for all ages!

Whether you’re searching for a sunny retreat for the day, a place to entertain the kids, or something to get your heart racing, Southwest Illinois is the place to reach the great outdoors! Check out more outdoor events at Great Rivers and Routes here!