Take a Hike! Best Spots to Stretch Your Legs

Lace up the hiking boots and head to the miles and miles of walking trails found in the Great Rivers & Routes region of southwest Illinois.

Spring is inching closer -- you can smell the fresh scent in the air. Now is the perfect time to consider a road trip to the Great Rivers & Routes region in southwest Illinois. Just minutes from downtown St. Louis, there is a land of outdoor adventures and fun just waiting. And really, aren't we all yearning for an outdoor adventure and a breath of fresh air.

So lace up the sneakers, air up the tires on the bike and get outside for a journey and a much needed getaway along the miles and miles of paved trails available throughout the Great Rivers & Routes region.

Experience for yourself the panoramic views along the 85 miles of paved trails in Madison County. From the Route 66 community of Staunton down to the banks of the Mississippi River across from St. Louis, Madison County Transit has developed looped and stand alone trails.

If getting back to nature is more your idea of a hiking adventure, discover the miles of stunning natural trails that cris cross the region on or near the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway. Choose your outdoor experience from the list below!

Nature & Hiking Trails

Audubon Center at Riverlands 301 Riverlands Way, West Alton (636) 899-0090 Five different trails run throughout the Riverlands Mirgratory Bird Sanctuary. Trails range from 1 to 3 miles long. Bring along your binoculars and discover why this area is part of the birding super highway called the Mississippi Flyway.

Lake Lou Yaeger Recreation Area
4943 Beach House Trail, Litchifield (217) 324-5832 A variety of hiking and biking trails are found at Lake Lou Yaeger, a Route 66 natural recreation area. Enjoy an adventure along the 6.6 miles the Route 66 Hiking and Biking Trail at the lake with its unpaved and marked trails complete with bike repair stations along the way. For a more gentle walk, enjoy the views at Shoal Creek Recreation area which has native prairie, lake shorelines and woodlands.

Horseshoe Lake State Park 3321 Highway 111, Granite City, IL 62040 (618) 931-0270 Four miles of hiking trails wander through the natural vegetation at Horseshoe Lake State Park.

Beaver Dam State Park 14548 Beaver Dam Lane, Plainview, IL 62685 (217) 854-8020 Located in Macoupin County 7 miles southwest of Carlinville and situated in an oak/hickory woodland, Beaver Dam State Park offers a variety of recreational opportunities on its 750 acres. Approximately 8 miles of hiking trails within Beaver Dam State Park encircle the lake, lead past the marsh, and extend through various wooded areas in the park.

Gordon F. Moore Park
(Currently Closed to the Public) 4550 College Ave., Alton (618) 463-3580 Walk among the trickling streams of the Oriental Garden Trail or The Nature Institute’s Prairie Trail. Stop and smell the roses in the Nan Elliott Memorial rose Garden.

Lavista Park to Clifton Terrace Park 241 W. Delmar, Godfrey (618) 466-1483 This 1-mile trail along the river bluffs winds through beautiful wooded areas and alongside a creek as it makes its way down to the waters of the Mississippi River.

The Nature Institute 2213 S. Levis Ln., Godfrey (618) 466-9930 Hiking trails in this 300-acre nature preserve follow small streams, upland forests and the steep limestone bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River.

Willoughby Heritage Farm 631 Willoughby Ln., Collinsville, IL 62234 (618) 977-0941 Willoughby Heritage Farm takes you back to farm life in the 1940s - complete with barns, tractors, a Craftsman-style farmhouse, hiking trails travel through the farmland with winding paths, bridges, and scenic vistas. and 30-acres of wildlife preserve.

H & B Bremer Wildlife Sanctuary 194 Bremer Lane, Hillsboro, IL 62049 (217) 532-2339 The Bremer's 203 acre farm is now a wildlife, bird and nature sanctuary. There are a variety of habitats within the sanctuary, including oak-hickory uplands, wooded ravines, grasslands and wetlands. Many species of wild flowers, shrubs, grasses as well as wild turkey, song birds and other wildlife reside at the sanctuary. Stroll the grass trails which are open dawn to dusk.

Robert E. Glazebrook Community Park 1401 Stamper Ln., Godfrey (618) 466-1483 Three miles of walking trails throughout this 120-acre park featuring two ponds and lots of scenic views. In the fall check out the Great Godfrey Corn Maze.

McCully Heritage Project R.R. #1, Kampsville (618) 653-4687 More than 15 miles of trails wind through the 940 acres of this scenic wonderland in Calhoun County. Access to horseback riding trails is available with advance arrangements.

Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge HCR 82 Brussels (618) 883-2524 This federal refuge is an important link for migrating birds. The Gilbert Lake Trail is the perfect place to view wildlife in the floodplain forests.

Biking & Hiking Trails in Madison County

MCT Bluff Trail New Poag Rd., Edwardsville Travel along the Great American Bottoms‘ ancient bluff line on two miles of paved trails on the SIUE campus.

Confluence Bike Trail Alton to Granite City This 20.5 mile paved trail follows the Mississippi River from Alton to Granite City. Stops include the National Great Rivers Museum, Lewis & Clark Confluence Tower and the Lewis & Clark State Historic Site. Be sure to bike or hike across the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge for breathtaking views of the river.

MCT Goshen Trail Edwardsville & Glen Carbon Ten tunnels and a 175-foot bridge highlight this 8-mile trail connecting Troy to Edwardsville/Glen Carbon area trails.

MCT Nature Trail Edwardsville & Granite City This well-traveled 15-mile paved trail winds through woods, spans area creeks and is a favorite hang out for local wildlife.

MCT Nickel Plate Trail New Douglas to Pontoon Beach Stretching over 28 miles across farmland, woods and urban areas, this combination paved and limestone trail passes near Glen Carbon’s Miner Park and the Edwardsville Children’s Museum.

MCT Quercus Grove Trail Staunton, Hamel, Worden, & Edwardsville Historic Route 66 communities are connected with this 18.9 mile paved and limestone trail. Start in Staunton in the north and end in Edwardsville. Maybe stop in at Weezy’s in Hamel for refreshments or Yellow Dog Café & Bar in Worden.

MCT Ronald J. Foster Heritage Trail Glen Carbon Explore the historic community Glen Carbon along this paved 12 miles trail. Highlights include the Glen Carbon Covered Bridge and connections to local parks

Schoolhouse Trail Troy to Madison, IL15.5 mile asphalt trail which showcases old-growth forests, fields, Collinsville neighborhoods and Horseshoe Lake State Park along with a diverse array of scenic views.

Watershed Trail Edwardsville Situated on Edwardsville's oldest railroad alignment, this trail passes the Watershed Nature Center and is a 1.3 mile paved walkway.

Hiking Adventures Along the Rivers

Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail
There's nothing like a stroll or bike ride along the 20 miles of paved trail along the Mississippi River between Alton and Grafton. Soaring 300-foot limestone bluffs line one side of the trail while the banks of the Mississippi River line the other. Enjoy the views and Mississippi River experience.

Pere Marquette State Park
in Grafton 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 ParkThis 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.