Dead River and Dunes Loop Trail

EASY 5 reviews

Dead River and Dunes Loop Trail is a 2.5 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Zion, IL that features a river and is good for all skill levels. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round.

2.5 miles 16 feet Loop

kid friendly



nature trips

scenic driving



cross country skiing




wild flowers


no dogs

Illinois Beach provides excellent hiking opportunities. The southern part of the park features 5 miles of trails, The Dunes trails including a 2.2-mile Dead River loop trail with a graveled surface. Stretching leisurely for 6.5 miles along the sandy shore of Lake Michigan in northern Illinois, Illinois Beach State Park encompasses the only remaining beach ridge shoreline left in the state. Illinois Beach is a unique and captivating natural resource for all to enjoy. It was created by the titanic forces of glacial advance and retreat and the steady winds that swept across expansive Lake Michigan. The park has dunes and swales with sprawling marshes, forests of oak and vast arrays of animal life and vegetation. The 4,160-acre park, consisting of two separate areas, offers ample opportunities for swimming, boating, picnicking, hiking, fishing, camping and just appreciating nature. More than 650 species of plants have been recorded in the dunes area alone, including dozens of types of colorful wildflowers. Prickly pear cactus thrives in large colonies in the dry areas, and the wet prairies are carpeted with a wide variety of grasses and sedges. Large expanses of marsh in the swales support dense stands of cattail, bluejoint grass, prairie cordgrass, reed grass, big bluestem and sedges. The sandy ridges are crowned by black oak forests with an open, savanna-like appearance. Several kinds of fragrant pines, introduced a century ago, also prosper in the southern area. Just north of these pines is the Dead River, a stream blocked by sandbars much of the year, forming an elongated pond. When the water finally rises high enough, it breaks through the sandbar and drains the surrounding marshes. The abundance of aquatic plants and fish flourishing in this changing environment belie its name.

3 months ago

Short trail, but really beautiful in July. Loads of wildflowers.

mountain biking
4 months ago

Sensational, Beautiful Lake County at it's absolute best. Like the single track path along the dead river,South of the park's trail bend, and out to Lake Michigan!
( Great old park now in "dis-repair" due to the State's budget crisis. Don't need the stupid DNR's annual "burns" which kill all the small wildlife and baby oak trees

3 years ago

We hiked this trail on the only sunny day in a week of floods and more rain in IL. The trail was the highlight of our stay at IL Beach State Park Resort - to which I'd give only 2 stars. Here's what we enjoyed:


Sounds of tree frogs simmering,
Grunting geese are glimmering.
KEV in, song of chickadee
AB by too, we all agree.

Breezes sigh through dead oak leaves;
Pussy willows bas-reliefs.
River flows like crackled glass;
Redwings call from prairie grass.

Kildeer court in strip-ed view;
Muskrat skims the river slough.
Kinglets flash their ruby crown
For the female looking down.

White tail deer beside the trail,
Harvesting the dunes and swale.
All these gifts, a sunny day
Hiking offers such display!

3 years ago

I hiked this trail in light rain with a bit of hail. It is an easy, lovely hike through mixed habitat. You follow the Dead River for the first half of the hike. There are great views on this leg. At the midway point you can split onto the Dunes Trail northbound or head out to the coast of Lake Michigan eastbound , or continue on the Dead River Loop westbound which will bring you back to the parking lot. There is a lot of downed timber due to recent storm activity and the old growth trees are perfect for woodpeckers, owls, and other cavity nesters.

4 years ago

Great trail!