In east central Illinois--just minutes from Springfield, Decatur, Champaign, Effingham and surrounding communities--the Eagle Creek/Wolf Creek sites, facing each other across the central portion of Lake Shelbyville, provide the perfect setting for outdoor recreation, natural relaxation, and luxurious accommodations for a day, a weekend, or even longer. Four miles southeast of Findlay, the sites encompass 11,100-acres of water, 250 miles of shoreline and large tracts of carefully maintained indigenous woodland ideal for camping, hiking, horseback riding, snowmobiling, fishing, water skiing, pontoon boating, windsurfing or just plain bobbing and drifting on the glittering expanse of the lake itself. In addition to the small, friendly wooded campgrounds and the action on the lake, large herds of deer frequent these areas and are always an exciting and inspiring sight. Portions of the park have been cleared of physical barriers and are accessible to disabled visitors.
Challenging trail in distance and elevation gain in the middle of the otherwise flat Great Plains. Vast majority of trail is moderately deep in the woods and away from civilization but not particularly scenic. Depending on your "eek" reflex, you may want to avoid this trail from late spring to late summer due to epidemic tick population. I use this trail as a training location for backpacking trips.
The Chief Illini Trail follows the western edge of Lake Shelbyville between Eagle Creek State Park and the USACE-operated Lone Point campground/boat launch. The trail is 11.3 miles in total length with parking lots located every few miles, allowing hikers to modify the length of their hike if they wish. White blazes painted on trees mark the path. The trail is mostly wooded with sugar maples, white oak, red oak, chinkapin oak and paw paw trees in the upland slopes. Heavy flooding a few years ago washed out several of the foot bridges that cross over wet areas in coves and ravines. During late fall this was not an issue but during spring or summer the trail may become impassable or require some off-trail hiking to bypass the obstacle. At approximately three miles from the Lone Point trailhead, some old farm equipment is located a little ways off the trail. With nice views of the lake and the somewhat demanding and rugged terrain, the trail gives the sense of being in a place further from central Illinois.
Chief Illini Trail is a rugged 11.3 mile hiking trail located in Central Illinois near Findlay, Illinois in Eagle Creek State Park. Others might disagree with my review of the trail overall; but, I thought the trail was both impressive and an endeavor with 50+ lbs. packs as a conditioning hike for a pending 13 day backcountry trek to Philmont Scout Ranch in July. The trail does need some work which is actively being addressed by the Army Corps of Engineers. I recommend beginning at the Eagle Creek Trailhead and Hiking to Lone Point Campground. The campgrounds in this park are extremely well maintained. The trail offers nice canopy and timber depth that with the exception of a few brushes with homesteads will give you the feeling of being in a much deeper environment married with some beautiful scenic brushes with Lake Shelbyville. I definitely recommend this trail; rugged and primitive, but most definitely worth it. I would not, based on the way we approached out hiking of this trail, consider it a leisure trail... it is a very versatile trail... whether you are just looking to take a long stroll or you are out for a healthy and demanding workout, this trail can accommodate.
Things are about to change on the Illini Trail in a big way: on June 30, it becomes the pilot project for Illinois Trail Corps, a civilian conservation service + volunteer model for repairing and building trails in our state. In five weeks, we'll knock out much of the reroute and repair that Illini desperately needs. We'll be posting updates and pictures to Facebook (http://facebook.com/trailsforillinois) and Twitter (@Trails4Illinois #ILtrailcorps).See http://trailsforillinois.org/ILtrailcorps to find out more!
We just hiked an hour in and an hour back out, at a pretty quick pace, but we have plans to hike the whole thing in the next month. If you start at Eagle Creek SP, like we did, you will need to cross the road from where you park to find the trail head. Trail maintenance is lacking, but not surprising considering our state's finances. We actually LOVED this trail, and felt like we were way out in the timber for once instead of just off the road. There were a few spots that we had to hunt for the orange tags tied around the trees, to mark the trail.
I give this trail only two stars because it was in poor condition. There were several areas where trees had fallen over the trail and trails thru standing water. But the most serious issue was the ticks. The wife and the dog and I were covered with over 100 ticks. It was ridiculous. Avoid if possible