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 thebackpacker.tv video on this trail.