Mainstream Adventures

When You Constantly Push Your Limits You Will Never Reach Them

Jackson Falls Is A Beautiful Hidden Swimming Hole

Southern Illinois boasts some of the best hiking in the entire Midwest. This is a good thing if your a nature enthusiast. With so many awesome attractions in one area, it becomes easy to overlook a few from time to time.

In this area of Shawnee National Forest, the Rim Rock Trail and Garden of the Gods demand most of the attention, however there is another place that should be part of your travel plans.

Jackson Falls is one of the best waterfalls in all of Illinois.  During the 5 mile hike to get to the base of the falls, you can also see two other waterfalls, along a beautiful canyon.

During the summer months, Jackson Falls is one of the most popular swimming holes in the state.  But what’s even more stunning is the rocks that surround this area. There are numerous sandstone bluffs and freestanding boulders.

The area is also a popular place for rock climbing.  In fact, there are 60 climbing locations to choose from, each about 50-60 feet in height.

Jackson Falls is located in Shawnee National Forest at Glen St Falls Rd, Simpson, IL 62985

Garden Of The Gods Has The Most Beautiful Rock Formations In The Entire Midwest

While you may feel like you’ve reached the top of the world at Garden Of The Gods, this beautiful park is actually found at the very bottom of Illinois. These stunning rock formations are more than 320 million years old, and have been carved out by the elements over the years, forming some of the most extraordinary rock formations known to man.

Easily the most popular attraction at Shawnee National Forest .  This garden of sandstone sculptures and vast untouched wilderness was fittingly named Garden of the Gods.

The park contains a variety of plant and animal life, adding to the scenic beauty of the Shawnee Forest. Garden of the Gods covers more than 3,300 acres of forest throughout the Southeastern Illinois counties of Saline, Pope and Hardin. There are also plenty of trails for backpacking and horseback riding, allowing nature lovers a welcome tour of what this rugged environment has to offer!

Among the 5.5 miles of interconnecting trails, the most popular is Observation Trail.  There are also magnificent bluffs which drop more than 100 feet down, but provide breathtaking views of the forests below and beyond.  Some of the more popular rock formations surrounding the cliffs acquired titles such as Camel Rock, Mushroom Rock and, one of the first formations named, Anvil Rock.

The park and its campsites are open year round. Pharaoh Campground has 12 campsites all outfitted with fire pits, picnic tables, toilets and drinking water. A $10 fee is required for camping.

With its massive pillars of sandstone and scenic bluff overlooks, Garden of the Gods is one of the most inspiring views in the Midwest.

Garden Of The Gods is located in the Shawnee National Forest in Hardin, Pope, Saline, and Gallatin counties of Illinois

This Underrated Park Has Two Of The Midwest’s Most Beautiful Waterfalls!

When it comes to Illinois hiking, most of the attention is turned to Garden of the Gods, and Starved Rock State Park.  While those are both great parks with excellent hiking and beautiful attractions, there is another state park just down the road from Starved Rock, that is just as beautiful and has several amazing waterfalls of its own.

This picture was provided by Tonya Kay Boyd Photography

Matthiessen State Park is located just 2.5 miles south of the famous Starved Rock!  Matthiessen is a paradise for those interested in geology, as well as recreation. Visitors can expect to see beautiful rock formations in addition to unusual and abundant vegetation and wildlife. All of this, along with park and picnic facilities, make Matthiessen State Park a popular choice for an outing.

This picture was provided by Tonya Kay Boyd Photography

Canyons, streams, waterfalls, prairie and forest combine to delight visitors at Matthiessen State Park.  One of the  main attractions is, Lake Falls, this is a man made dam with a 65-foot-tall waterfall!

This picture was provided by Tonya Kay Boyd Photography

The main hiking trails are separated into two sections by a 45 foot drop from  the upper dells to the lower dells.  The trails navigate you through the limestone canyon, and feature stunning sites, including a cave, towering bluffs, and several waterfalls.

This picture was provided by Tonya Kay Boyd Photography

Matthiessen State Park is the perfect place to enjoy the great outdoors without having to fight the crowds over at Starved Rock. Come visit Matthiessen State Park and find out why it’s considered one of Iowa’s best kept secrets!

Don’t Miss:  While visiting the park be sure to walk thru the cave passage located in the lower dells area, that leads to the waterfall pictured above.

Lodging:  The Starved Rock Lodge has two different lodging options, a  rustic hotel room in the Lodge or a charming log cabin in the woods. The Lodge has a variety of rooms to choose from.  Ask about the pet-friendly cabins, two-room cabins or cabins with a fireplace! Relax and unwind in the indoor pool, hot tub and sauna!

Pit Stop:  The Back Door Lounge is a great place to fuel up before a hike or cool off with a locally brewed craft beer.

Extended Play:  For an added bonus, stop by nearby Starved Rock State Park, and check out 14 more waterfalls and several deep canyons, located just 3 miles North of Starved Matthiessen State Park.

Logistics: Matthiessen State Park is an Illinois state park located a few miles south of the more famous Starved Rock State Park. The main entrances to both parks are located on Illinois State Route 178, the entrance is located at 2500 IL-178, Oglesby, IL 61348

Travel Smart:  Before venturing into the woods, be sure to pack sunscreen, bugspray, and plenty of snacks and drinking water.

To view more amazing pictures of Illinois best State Parks click here:  Tonya Kay Boyd Photography

This Epic Park Is Known For Its Spectacular Waterfalls and Breathtaking Views

When its comes to beautiful scenery, very few parks in the Midwest can compare to Starved Rock State Park.  Whether you enjoy hiking along the nature trails or viewing the many spectacular overlooks along the Illinois River, recreational opportunities abound.

In 1966 Starved Rock State Park was named a National Historic Landmark, and now boosts more than 13 miles of well marked hiking trails, 18 canyons, and 14 different waterfalls!  There are also several scenic overlooks found throughout the park.  The best times to see waterfalls are in the spring when the snow and ice melt or after a heavy rainfall.

This beautiful park attracts over 2 million visitors a year and is consistently listed as the number 1 attraction in Illinois.

Picture is owned by Joseph Johanesse

In the Midwest, oftentimes hiking is limited to the Spring, Summer and Fall, as the cold weather keeps most off the trails in the winter. At Starved Rock, winter hikes offer amazing views of frozen waterfalls, and the ice covered trees, resemble a winter wonderland.  There is also Ice climbing on the frozen waterfalls, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing.

Picture is owned by Vicki Valpatic

From picnicking to fishing to boating, from horseback riding to camping to enjoying winter sports, there’s so much to do that you’ll want to come back again and again.

Picture is owned by Em Lackas

You will know it the minute you enter the park, as you wind your car through the towering trees.  Starved Rock State Park is a world apart from anything else in Illinois!

Don’t Miss:  While there are 14 different waterfalls at Starved Rock and they are all beautiful in there own way, 6 of them really stand out above the rest.  The falls found in St. Louis, French, Wildcat, Tonty, Ottawa, and Kaskaskia Canyons must be seen to be believed.

Lodging:  The Starved Rock Lodge has two different lodging options,  a  rustic hotel room in the Lodge or a charming log cabin in the woods. The Lodge has a variety of rooms to choose from.  Ask about the pet-friendly cabins, two-room cabins or cabins with a fireplace! Relax and unwind in the indoor pool, hot tub and sauna!

Pit Stop: The Back Door Lounge is a great place to fuel up before a hike or cool off with a locally brewed craft beer.

Extended Play:  For an added bonus, stop by nearby Matthiessen  State Park, and check out two more gorgeous waterfalls located just 3 miles south of Starved Rock State Park.

Logistics:  Starved Rock State Park is situated along the south bank of the Illinois River, less than 100 miles from Chicago, at 2668 E 875th Rd., Oglesby, IL 61348.

Travel Smart:  Before venturing into the woods, be sure to pack sunscreen, bugspray, and plenty of snacks and drinking water.

 

 

Family Fun Awaits At This Gorgeous Waterpark Campground

One of Iowa’s most popular campgrounds the Lost Island KOA is a perfect combination between camping and a resort style vacation.  The campground is conveniently located across the street, from the Lost Island Waterpark.

The campground features 148 RV sites, 8 tent sites, and 13 cabins are available for rent.  Electricity is provided at all sites.

Outside the water park are two challenging 18- hole mini golf courses, appropriately decorated with native vegetation, volcanoes, rapids, dinosaur fossils, and a skull pit!

The water park has 14 different water slides, from body slides to twisting tube slides.  There is also a lazy river and wave pool!  Thrill seekers will love the lost soul falls water slide.  No matter what your interests are, The Lost Island is a perfect location for a unforgettable family getaway.

Don’t Miss:  The 4th of July firework show.  On Labor day there is a cardboard boat building competition.

Logistics The Lost Island KOA is located at 4550 Hess Rd., Waterloo, IA.

Best Time:  The summer months are always the best time to visit a water-park campground, but even more specifically I suggest visiting over the 4th of July weekend.  The firework show over the lake, is something that will leave memories for years to come.

Pit Stop:  The Galleria De Paco,  restaurant serves a large variety of delicious food, from New Zealand everything from lamb chops to dill poached salmon, and much more.  If you’ve ever wanted to visit the Sistine Chapel, but you just don’t have the money for a trip to Europe, the Galleria De Paco is the perfect place for you.

Extended Play:  After a fun filled day on the water slides you can test your racing ability on the go-cart track.  Monaleo’s Speedway is one of the longest go-kart tracks in the Midwest.  If you have a need for speed, then fasten your seat belt…you’re in for the ride of your life.

Travel Smart:  As you can expect the campground is an extremely popular destination in the summer.  Reservations are a must.  When spending time outdoors be sure to pack sunscreen and bug spray.

Spend A Day At One Of The Midwest’s Most Unique Parks!

Pickle Springs is a 180-acre natural area that is registered as a National Natural Landmark. This hidden gem is one of Missouri’s best kept secrets, and is located just 13 miles from Farmington.

This picture is owned by Carol Turner

The park is known for its unusual rock formations, wet weather waterfalls, spectacular canyons, and wide range of plant species. Pickle Springs is without a doubt one of the most diverse natural areas in Missouri.

Some of the interesting geological features include a natural double bridge that holds up a shelf of sandstone, narrow slot canyons, giant sandstone blocks, (known as Hoodoo’s) and of course Pickle Springs flowing out of a sandstone wall. Not only is the park known for its unique geology found throughout. The natural area is also home to more than 250 species of vascular plants, including many rare species that are considered relics

This picture is owned by Terry Mays

.With so much to see and explore in the area, it’s no wonder that Pickle Springs is often referred to as a geological wonderland. From the scenic waterfalls to the breathtaking views, to the mysterious rock formations found within, it’s easy to see that Pickle Springs is unlike any other natural area in Missouri.

Don’t Miss: The Trail Through Time is the most popular attraction at Pickle Springs. This 2 mile long hiking trail will provide you with an unforgettable trek past ancient rock formations. For this hike I would plan to spend about two hours on the trail, to fully explore this gorgeous park.

Best Time:  My favorite time to visit is right after a good rainfall, the park really seems come alive, and the waterfalls will be at full strength.

Logistics:  From the junction of Highways 32 and W in Farmington, travel east on Highway 32 for 5 miles, then turn right (east) on Highway AA. Follow Highway AA east for 1.7 miles to Dorlac Road (gravel). Turn left (north) onto Dorlac Road and drive 0.4 mile to the parking lot on the right (east) side.

Pit Stop:  After a day of exploring stop into 12 West in nearby Farmington (just 7 miles away) for a delicious meal!

Extended Play:  Stay for the weekend and visit Hawn State Park, located just  11 miles away.  Hawn State Park has an excellent campground, or you can get a room in Farmington at one of their motels.  For more lodging options click here.

Travel Smart:  Whenever venturing into the great outdoors, I always pack sunscreen, bug spray, snacks and drinking water.  Remember to check weather conditions before heading out and always let someone know where you plan on hiking.

For more information on planning your trip visit:  https://discoverfarmingtonmo.com/

 

 

 

Spend A Day On Beautiful Lake Okoboji

 Lake Okoboji is part of the Iowa’s great lakes, and covers more then 3,847 acres.  The natural beauty of the lake makes it a popular destination for boating, water skiing, sailing, and swimming. The lake is also one of the most popular fishing destination in the state. There is literally so much to do on Lake Okoboji, I could write an entire book  just on this one location.

Arnold’s Park is the center of the Iowa great lakes resort.  In 2012 the amusement park was selected as one of the fifteen best in the region by Midwest Living magazine.  There is a ride for everyone at Arnold’s with a wide range of kid and family rides available.  The thrill seekers in your group will love the Legend, believed to be the 13th oldest wooden roller coaster in America.  Arnold’s Park also has 2 different go- kart tracks known as the Raceway. There is also the Queen II cruise ship, which is a great way to view the lake in style.

Images from David Thoreson’s copyrighted photographic collection.

Another attraction on Lake Okoboji is The Iowa Guide Service.  The Iowa guide Service is one of the most sought after fishing guide services in the entire region.  During your fishing trip, you will cruise the lake in the comfort of a Crestliner 2050 Raptor powered by Mercury 250 Optimax with Humminbird electronics.  They cater to both families on vacation, as well as the serious angler. Your fishing trip will be loaded with fun and you will have a great chance to catch big bass, walleye, pike, and maybe even a giant muskie.  For more information click here.

One of the best attractions on Lake Okoboji is the many options for recreational water sports.  There are several different outfitters in the area renting everything from pontoon boats to paddle boards.  So no matter how you choose to spend your time on the lake, your sure to have an amazing time!

Don’t Miss:   Play a round of golf at Pirate’s Cove Miniature golf course.  Pirate’s Cove is an award winning 18 hole mini golf experience that will provide fun for the whole family.

Logistics:  Lake Okoboji is located in Dickinson County in Northwest Iowa.

Best Time:  The summer months are a perfect time to visit the Iowa great lakes.

Pit Stop:  My favorite restaurant in the area is Kazarelli’s at Millers Bay.  Weather your looking for delicious bar food or a gourmet meal, this is the place to go. Visit their website by clicking here.

Extended Play:  The Iowa guide service is now offering a Fish n Fun Family Pac. This awesome package includes 4 hours of Iowa’s best fishing, and after a picnic lunch, 4 hours of water sports! Take your pick between tubing, skiing, and wakeboarding.  For more information click here

Travel Smart:  Lake Okoboji is one of the most visited locations in the state, for a more personal experience plan your visit on a weekday, and avoid visiting on holiday weekends.

A Trip To Johnson’s Shut-Ins Will Make your Summer Complete!

Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park is one of the most unique state parks in the region. Not only is it an excellent spot for hiking and camping,but its most famous for its epic natural waterpark!

This picture is owned by Matthew Montgomery

During the summer months, the Shut-Ins transforms into a tropical oasis that is perfect for swimming, and even has a natural rock waterslide. Visitors come from miles around to splash, and swim in the cool clear water that this swimming hole is known for.

This Picture is owned by Jeffery Berkbigler

A shut-in is an Ozark term used to describe a river that is confined within a deep narrow channel. There are close to a hundred Shut-ins in and around the St. Francois mountain region of southeast Missouri.

This picture is owned by Lonnie Edgecomb

The Johnson’s Shut-Ins Trail is the most popular hiking trail in the park. This is a 2.5 mile moderately rated loop trail. An off chute from the trail leads you to an observation platform over the clear waters of the Shut-Ins.

Picture is owned by Shella Embree

Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park is also a great place to camp with both basic and electric sites available. Forgot to pack the tent? The park also has a limited number of camper cabins available for rent. There is even a special use camping area, which is perfect for scout and youth groups, and can accommodate groups up to fifty.

The unique wilderness qualities and geology of Johnson’s Shut-Ins and the neighboring St. Francois mountains make this park a special place to visit. The rugged character provides the perfect backdrop for hiking, camping, exploring, splashing around or just relaxing!

To plan your trip, visit: https://discoverfarmingtonmo.com/

This Underrated Missouri Town Should Be On Everyone’s Bucket List!

Just one-hour south of St. Louis on the edge of the beautiful Ozark mountains you will discover Farmington, Missouri. This quaint little town is surrounded by nine of Missouri’s most scenic state parks, challenging golf courses, an extreme off-road recreation area, hiking trails, and fifteen award winning vineyards and wineries. No matter your interests Farmington is the perfect destination!

Hawn State Park

One of the most popular sites in the area is Elephant Rocks State park. Elephant Rocks is one of the smaller state parks in the area with only about 150 acres to explore. However, there is so much to see and do you could spend an entire day hiking, climbing, and playing within the park. A favorite attraction at the park, is the Elephant Rocks for which the park is named. The Elephant Rocks are a series of boulders that look just like elephants lined up in a circus train. The largest stands over 27 feet tall and weighs in at 680 tons. This massive rock formation, has earned the moniker of Dumbo and is a popular attraction for children and adults alike.

Picture is owned by Kenny Dillingham

Another attraction in the area is Pickle Springs Natural Area. Pickle Springs is a 180-acre natural area that is registered as a National Natural Landmark. This hidden gem located just 13 miles outside of Farmington, is known for its unusual rock formations, wet weather waterfalls, spectacular canyons, and wide range of plant species. Pickle Springs is without a doubt one of the most diverse natural areas in Missouri.

Picture is owned by Midwest Hiking

It’s no secret that some of the best hiking locations in the Midwest can be found in the Missouri Ozarks, and Hawn State Park is certainly near the top of that list! The best way to explore the park is on one of its three named hiking trails! The Whispering Pines Trail is one of the most popular in the entire United States. There is also a gorgeous campground that lies beneath a canopy of lofty pines, and includes both basic and electric sites. 

Hawn State Park This Picture is owned by Doug Neidholdt

Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park is often referred to as a natural waterpark, and is a popular place to cool off during hot summer days. This unforgettable swimming hole is a must see for adventure seekers and nature lovers alike. Cool clear blue water, smooth rock waterslides and spectacular geological formations make Johnson’s Shut- In one of the most popular destinations in the region. There are also great campgrounds on-site and numerous well maintained hiking trails.

Picture is owned by Matthew Montgomery

St. Joe State Park is located in the heart of the old “Lead Belt” of southeast Missouri where much of the nation’s lead ore was mined for more than a century. Today, St. Joe is Missouri’s third largest state park, featuring four lakes, two swimming beaches, equestrian trails, a hiking and bicycling trail, a water trail and picnic sites, as well as two campgrounds. The highlight however is the more than 2,000 acres set aside for off road vehicle riding. These trails make St, Joe the premier off road course in the state.

St Joe State Park

Whether you are seeking a peaceful walk through the woods, a challenging trek in the Ozark Mountains, an off-road adventure, or even a relaxing visit to one of the many charming wineries you will discover it just outside Farmington.

This picture is owned by Justin Smith

Don’t Miss: The Bonne Terre Mine, is located just 20 minutes from Farmington, and is the largest fresh water dive resort in the United States! Bonne Terre Mine offers a variety of activities for the whole family including boat and walking tours, school group tours, scuba diving in the mines’ vast water system, and much more! 

Lodging: In Farmington, you can choose from a variety of locally owned and managed hotels that offer wonderful amenities and friendly hometown service. All of the hotels are located close to area attractions and just a short drive away from Missouri’s most premier wineries, beautiful state parks, and fabulous golf courses. For more information on local lodging, click here.

Pit Stop: Enjoy a picnic lunch and a glass of award winning wine or brew in the beautiful saltpeter cave, located beneath Cave Vineyard at 21124 Cave Road STE. Genevieve Mo.

Extended Play: Take in a round of golf in the moonlight at Pallo’s Par 3 Golf Course. With state-of-the-art lighting which fills the night sky, Pallo’s brings a new aspect to the game of golf.


Logistics: Farmington is located in St. Francois county, 60 miles south of St. Louis, in the southeastern corner of Missouri.

To plan an unforgettable weekend in Farmington visit: https://discoverfarmingtonmo.com

This Epic Park in Missouri Is The Perfect Place For A Weekend Adventure

It’s no secret that some of the best hiking trails in the Midwest can be found in the Missouri Ozarks, and Hawn State Park near Farmington is certainly near the top of that list!

Rolling hills of pine, massive oak trees, sandy bottom streams, sandstone canyons and cliffs all come together at Hawn State Park, to create one of the most scenic landscapes in Missouri. This amazing park offers visitors a scenic and peaceful setting where they can hike, camp, picnic, and enjoy the great outdoors.

Dreaming of a night under the stars? The campground at Hawn State Park is the perfect place for your next family camping trip! The campground lies beneath a beautiful canopy of lofty pines, and includes both basic and electric sites. There is also a special use camping area, which is perfect for scout or youth groups, and can accommodate groups up to fifty.

The best way to explore the park is on one of its three named hiking trails! The Whispering Pines Trail is one of the most popular in the entire Midwest. This 9.75 loop trail is a favorite for seasoned hikers, and offers breathtaking views! There is also the White Oaks Trail, and the Pickle Creek Trail, that combine for 5.8 miles, and are perfect for those looking for a shorter hike.

Hawn State Park is located at 12096 Park Drive Ste. Genevieve, MO 63670-8121 For more information visit: https://discoverfarmingtonmo.com/

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