By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer
Recently I was reading Backpacker magazine’s top lists of hikes around the U.S. They listed 3 of the top hiking places in Chicago: The Chicago Lakefront, Starved Rock and Kankakee River State Park. The lakefront is more of an outdoor mall these days than an actual hiking path, but it is a well known Chicago route so I give Backpacker that much. But I was surprised that they did not mention any of the fantastic hiking paths in the rest of the Chicago Area: Tinley Park, Herrick Lake, Palos, Waterfall Glen, Sag Valley, and about 30 more. If you get out of Chicago proper, there are scores of really quiet, well maintained forests, meadows and trails. I’ve been to Starved Rock a number of times, but had not yet to Kankakee. So, to verify Backpackers recommendation, my man and I bundled up our hiking gear and headed for Kankakee River State Park this past weekend!
Kankakee River. Image by Sue Shekut
The park’s trail system stretches for miles along both sides of the river. Hiking, biking and cross-country ski trails are on the river’s north side, while horse and snowmobile trails can be found on the south.
Kankakee River State Park Map. Image by Sue Shekut
On Sunday, we walked from a boat launch area on the West side of the park, over a suspension bridge, along a picnic area and then to Rock Creek trail where we climbed along the creek.
Kankakee Rock Creek Trail marker. Image by Sue Shekut
The 3-mile route along Rock Creek gives you a great view of limestone canyons and a smallish frothy waterfall. The park offers a bicycle trail that begins at Davis Creek Area and travels 10.5 miles of trails in the form of a linear trail along the river and with a loop in the west end of the park.
View from Rock Creek Trail, Kankakee. Image by Sue Shekut
This region is fairly flat with some nice hike-able cliffs and a few look out points along the river. But the Rock Creek Trail had some really steep paths along the way affording interesting lookouts of the clean clear water below.
On our way around the Rock Creek Trail we found a really lovely grove of pine trees. Walking into the trees we felt that special hush I often feel when I am in the presence of a grove of trees. It felt like a church or sacred space.
Pine forest along the trail in Kankakee. Image by Sue Shekut
No matter where we hiked, we could see through the water at every point! That water is clean–at least to the naked eye–and it’s a pleasure to be able to see such clear water in a local river.
Super clear water in Kankakee River! Image by Sue Shekut
At this point we had hiked about 7 miles and then got a bit lost finding our way back to our car which added another 2 miles to our hike. We took a wrong turn at fork in the trail and ended up by the stables.
Kankakee River Stables rents horses. Image by Sue Shekut
All told, according to my handy pedometer, we hiked 10 miles and still had another half of the park to explore on another day.
For directions, info on equestrian trials, biking, hiking, etc. click here.
A beautiful spot to relax in Kankakee River State Park. Image by Sue Shekut
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