For those who think central Illinois is one big corn field, Sand Ridge State Forest will come as a very pleasant surprise. The forest is an island in a sea of agriculture. Just minutes southwest of Peoria, this 7,200-acre, the largest of Illinois’ State Forests, boasts sweeping expanses of native oak-hickory, extensive plantations of pine, sprawling open fields, grasslands, and completely unique sand prairies.


Sand Ridge is one of my favorite places to get into shape, and test new gear out. Sand Ridge has over 65 miles of trails. But the unique aspect of this state park, is the real backcountry feel you get while never being that far away from your exit. Most of this park consists of trails that intersect with each other.

I have hiked this park both in the summer heat, and the winter cold. But the best time is in the late fall, or when we get about 5 inches of snow. With all the pine around you, lighting a camp fire couldn’t be easier.

Be prepared however to hike in deep sand. That is one reason I like training there. With remote backpacking sites, this is a great place to spend time and get to know your pack, and gear. It’s also a place to get some miles in.

Check out the trail map here

Go to the DNR website for additional information.

P.O. Box 111
Forest City, IL 61532

Check out video on this trail.


Feel free to contact me at any time. Started Backpacking in 2003 and have never looked back. My all time favorite hike was last April when I hiked the Sycamore Wilderness Canyon. No trails, no signs, just wilderness and a 3,000 foot steep drop into the Canyon. I ran out of water my third day. Why? There was no water in the Canyon. You can check out my video on the "" page. Thanks for dropping by.

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  • […] if (vbc) = ‘hidden’; = ‘#fff’ }); }); today Sand Ridge State Park trackback from post […For those who think central Illinois is one big corn field, Sand Ridge […]

  • Very cool video Was a little scared in the begining but awesome all together. It is a beautful park even though it is near Manito. : )

  • I have trail ridden at Sand Ridge for years and years. I have always found it to be a nice, safe, fun park. The beauty and trail diversity always outweighed the fact that the equestrian camp has few amenities. However, they seem to have implemented or enforced new rules though that make the park not as enjoyable for many of us. For others, it may not a problem?? We have been searched, had alcohol seized and have been ticketed for having alcohol at our camp sites. I have been told we are not the only ones and that this happens to everyone now. I’m talkng about a small group, 2 couples, quietly chatting while enjoying a glass of wine or a beer with dinner at night. The park ranger took our cooler and wrote tickets. I have heard of others experiencing the same thing there in the last few years. We were not loud or raising any sort of comotion. Just sitting in lawn chairs, talking, cooking and enjoying a couple adult beverages after a long day of horse back riding. They have also quit allowing day users to park in the equestrian area and now have to use the overflow lot which has almost no shade. The park has really gone downhill under the new managment decisions. For a park with almost no equestrian amenities, there are other places to go with equally good riding that are more user friendly.- 2012

  • Wow! Unless there has been a rash of bad stuff happening at the park, not sure why they are being so strict. I took people there to do some basic backpacking 101 trips. In fact, I had never even seen a Ranger walking the grounds there.

  • It seems to only be in the equestrian areas and I do believe they were having some trouble with locals in the area. The typical state approach seems to be reprimand all rather than punishing the few. It’s a wonderful park to train colts, to ride in the winter or when it rains alot. It’s too bad that they took this approach though because there are dozens and dozens of former users that wont ever visit it again under these management rules. We are older, educated professionals who like to ride, camp and have a drink or two in the evenings, we were treated like drunken criminals out to whoop up the town! This has happend on several outing to several different people, not just us that evening. It’s really a shame. Until this, I had camped and rode the trails for over 20 with no problems ever.