If you are interested in short excursions, hiking, boating and fishing, there are a number of natural areas, forest preserves, forests, lakes and gardens in the vicinity of CU.
Below are some popular places in the order of distance (approx. depending on where you live) from Champaign and Urbana.
Within 25 Miles from CU
Lake of the woods (10-15 mi)
Address: #Main Entrance: 109 S Lake of the Woods Rd #Museum/Garden Entrance: 600 N Lombard (Rte 47)
The park opens at 7 a.m. year round, but closing times vary throughout the seasons. Visit their website below for more details.
"Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve is a popular site located in a rolling wooded area near Mahomet, Illinois. This beautiful preserve occupies almost 900 acres along the corridor of the Sangamon River. Highlighting Lake of the Woods are several well-known attractions: the Museum of the Grand Prairie (formerly Early American Museum), Mabery Gelvin Botanical Garden and Lake of the Woods Golf Course. The preserve also offers fishing, boating, hiking, picnicking, cross-country skiing, sledding, the HI-Tower Bell Carillon and observation area, building rentals and educational programs."
Lake of the Woods is a nice location for family photo shoots (the Mabery Gelvin Botanical Garden with the foot bridge by the falls is popular). The park also has several buildings that are rented out for wedding receptions, family reunions, and other community gatherings.
Homer lake (18-20 mi)
Address: Main Entrance: 2573 S Homer Lake Rd, Homer, IL
"Wildlife and natural beauty abound in the 814 acres at Homer Lake Forest Preserve near Homer, Illinois. From sledding when the snow falls to fishing and boating in the summer months, Homer Lake is a beautiful setting for visitors to get away for some relaxation. Homer Lake Forest Preserve has several significant historical connections. The county highway bordering the north end of the preserve was the horse trail Abraham Lincoln traveled when he served on the 8th Judicial Circuit. A Looking for Lincoln wayside exhibit now marks the location. The preserve also includes the 14-acre site once known as Homer Park, a popular "destination park" on the Salt Fork River in the early 1900s."
Sangamon River Forest Preserve (20-25 mi)
Address: County Road 600 East, Fisher, IL
"Sangamon River Forest Preserve, a 160-acre gem, offers a variety of natural features. The goal for this property is to restore the landscape as closely as possible to its original presettlement conditions. This preserve is an ideal setting for low-impact activities, such as picnicking, bird-watching, hiking and river fishing."
25 - 30 Miles from CU
Allerton Park & Retreat Center (25-30 mi)
Address: 515 Old Timber Rd, Monticello, IL 61856
River Bend Forest Preserve (25-30 mi)
Address: 1602 Mid America Road, Mahomet, IL
"This beautiful 280-acre site contains approximately 130 acres of clear water in two lakes, one of which is the county's largest lake. The area also includes 2.5 miles of forest along the Sangamon River as well as a 1-mile nature trail, and a 1.2-mile multi-use trail."
Kickapoo State Park (27-30 mi)
Address: 10906 Kickapoo Park Road, Oakwood, IL
has a variety of trails, all moderate to easy in terms of difficulty. The longest is a seven mile out and back trail that takes you through prairies, woods, and a few hills. There is good canoeing, picnic tables, and open areas that make good places for hanging out. You can also rent horses and go mountain biking.
"Where in Illinois can you go running or hiking, canoeing, fishing for trout, camping, hunting or scuba diving -- all against a backdrop of breathtaking natural beauty?"
30-40 Miles from CU
Clinton lake (30-40 mi)
Address: 7251 Ranger Road, DeWitt, IL 61735
"If you’re looking for the ideal place to drop your line and catch a record fish, look no farther than Clinton Lake State Recreation Area. Recreational opportunities abound at this 9,300-acre facility, just 3 miles east of Clinton in central Illinois. From picnicking, hiking and camping to swimming, water skiing and boating to hunting for upland game, people from all over the midwest flock to Clinton Lake to enjoy the great outdoors."
Kennekuk County Park (30-40 mi)
Address: 22296 Henning Road, Danville, IL 61834
"Founded in 1974, Kennekuk County Park is 3000 acres in size and is located five miles west of Danville. It is bordered on the west by the Middle Fork National Scenic River and the Middle Fork State Wildlife Area (3000 acres). Kickapoo State Park (3000 acres) is three miles to the south. These vast public ownerships (except Kickapoo) were purchased in the 1970's for the creation of the Middle Fork Reservoir. The project was never developed past the initial stages due to lack of funding and environmental opposition."
Forest Glen Preserve (35-42 mi)
Address: 20301 E 900 North Rd.,Westville, IL
"Founded in 1968, Forest Glen Preserve is 1800 acres in size. It is located seven miles east of Westville on County Highway 5. It is rated number three bSavanna Restoration Project Signotanically in Illinois and consists of beech-maple and oak-hickory forest types. There are four registered Illinois Nature Preserves within the park ( Duffin Woods, 200 acres; Forest Glen Seep, 11 acres; Howard's Hollow Seep, 30 acres), and Doris L. Westfall Prairie (40 acres). There is also a twenty-two acre savanna restoration area."
Middle Fork River Forest Preserve (30-40 mi)
Address: 3433 County Rd 2700 E, Penfield, IL
"Middle Fork River Forest Preserve contains 1,702 acres composed of old hardwood timber, reforested lowlands, grassy meadows, and in-progress prairie restorations. Rich in trails, Middle Fork contains one of the region's premier Waterfowl Management Areas, and it is also home to a favorite camping area, the Harry L. Swartz Campground.
Lake Vermilion County Park (35-40 mi)
Address: 2607 Denmark Road, Danville, IL
"Lake Vermilion is a 1000-acre lake located in Danville. It is a water supply lake and is owned by Aqua Illinois Inc. The Vermilion County Conservation District (V.C.C.D.) maintains the lease on the lake and manages the recreational activities."
Related pages: local parks and gardens in Champaign-Urbana for strolls and short walks.