In the middle of a sea of cornfields, you can find Illinois’ largest state forest, the Sand Ridge State Forest. This sprawling 7,200 acre forest is comprised of native oak-hickory woodlands, rolling grasslands and dense pine plantations, not to mention the unique sand prairies that the state forest is named after. The now wooded ridges in the park were once towering sand dunes, resulting from a prehistoric dry period. You and your pupper can explore the diverse flora and fauna in this park through a variety of recreational activities that are sure to get Fido’s tail wagging.
One of the most pawpular ways to explore this area is through the hiking trails. There are 44 miles of marked trails that wind throughout the park, ranging from an easy 1.5 miles to a challenging 15 miles. The trails pass through quiet, dense forests, and sometimes the surface is sand. There have been complaints about ticks, so be sure to check yourself and your dog when you get home!
On your travels you will see some flora and fauna that are more commonly associated with the southwest that the midwest, including cacti, badgers, and pocket gophers. If you’re a bird watcher don’t leave your binoculars at home! The Sand Ridge State Forest is a nesting area for a wide variety of neotropical migratory birds.
If you and your pooch want to spend a night under the stars, you’re in luck! Pine Campground has 27 sites with vault toilets, fire rings, water, and parking. The Oak Campground features council rings for organized group camping too. For the true wilderness experience, you and your canine travel companion can hike into one of the backcountry sites located along the trails. Be sure to bring your own supplies, including food and water for your pup, and pack out what you packed in.
If you and your fur family are just here for a day trip, you can make use of the Turkey Pass Picnic Area, just north of the Pine Campground. A pawfect place to kick back and relax, this space features tables, grills, water, a shelter, and toilets.
You and Fido will lose yourselves in the beauty of the huge Sand Ridge State Forest.