The days are getting cooler, and soon the trees will be turning vibrant shades of golds and red. So pack some snacks and head outside to experience Clinton County on a leisurely hike or bike ride.
Carlyle Lake area is a great place for both hiking and biking, with marked trails that are well-maintained. Park at the Carlyle Lake Visitors Center, Here you can pick up the multi-use Prairie View Trail. The relatively flat 10-mile trail makes it easy for all levels, and provides some of the prettiest scenery around. You’ll pass through habitats that include lake, forested, agricultural fields, restored prairie and wetlands. A 1.3-mile section, the Kaskaskie River Walk, located below the Main Dam, follows the river and crosses over a pedestrian bridge. Interpretive displays explain the history of this stretch, once part of the Goshen Trail. Visitors will also cross over the General Dean Suspension Bridge, which was built in 1859 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
801 lake road, Carlyle
On the west side of Carlyle Lake, you’ll find Eldon Hazlet State Park, 3,000-acre site that offers a multitude of hiking trails. Two of these are ½-mile, wheelchair accessible paths. View waterfowl and shorebirds along the Wetland Educational Trail as it winds past a pond and moist-soil habitat. Interpretive signs offer tidbits of information on what you’re seeing. The interpretive Bluestem Trail, meanwhile, heads through a three-acre restored prairie where you could see more than 50 species of native plants.
For a bit longer hike, choose the one-mile Pawnee Trail, which runs along the high ridge overlooking the lake or the Illini Trail, a 1.5-mile accessible trail that winds through a restored prairie and then loops around the Homer Guthrie Fishing Pond.
The longest of the trails at 2.5 miles is the Kaskaskian Trail, named after the Native Americans who inhabited the valley over 1500 years ago.
Eldon Hazlet State Park
20100 Hazlet Park Road, Carlyle
The best biking trail in the area is the Carlyle Lake National Recreation Trail, a 10.3-mile multi-use trail that connects the city with the Carlyle Lake Project. This makes an enjoyable ride, taking you through a diverse and scenic wildlife habitat.
These next few weeks should be gorgeous weather here, so grab your hiking boots, load the bikes on the car, and head to Clinton County for some fresh-air fun.