I know what you're thinking, and when I saw the word "ridge," I was like, "pshhhh, this is central Illinois, they don't even have hills here." But they do. The area around Charleston, IL, is actually quite hilly, thanks to glaciers and to the erosion from the Embarras river. Fox Ridge State Park takes advantage of that by providing some of the most exciting hikes this close to Champaign-Urbana.

At just over 2,000 acres, there is plenty of space to explore here. Hunting is permitted in some areas of the park, and the river and its tributaries offer ample opportunity for fishing. There are more than 8 miles of equestrian and hiking trails, and these can even be used for cross country skiing in the winter. The Eagle's Nest trail will take you to the top of a high bluff, either through the woods or by ascending several flights of stairs. From there, you can look out at the Embarras river, a view that's probably prettier in the winter when there is less foliage. You can also walk through the woods or along the riverside. On a fall afternoon I spotted several red-headed woodpeckers and a pileated woodpecker, as well as five or six white-tailed deer.

Fox Ridge also has several picnic shelters that are available for rent as well as a couple of playgrounds. There is also a campground with showers open from April-November.