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Top Eight Hikes in Champaign County (plus Five More Nearby!)

By Hannah Brzozowski

One of my favorite past times is hiking. I think it's for a couple of reasons...One is that it costs a grand total of $0. The other reason is that I feel God's presence while out in nature. All throughout the Bible, the writers speak about our Creator and His creation. Rocks are used as an example of what the church will be built out of. Grass fading away can remind us of how fleeting life is. The beauty of the lily tells us how we can trust God with our basic needs. The mountains represent the strength of our God. The mustard seed is used to represent just how little faith can make a big difference.

The images are endless. One of the best ways to meditate on these images is to actually see them! However, since I live in Illinois, I can feel like there aren't enough mountains or rushing waters to visit.

That's why I wanted to write up this list. I've found quite a bit of trails in Champaign County and although none of them include mountains, I can guarantee that there is beauty to be discovered and moments with God that are waiting for you out on the trails. You just have to take some time to go and explore a bit.

*Special thanks to my dog, Mr. Albert, for being the model in most of these photos.

1. Homer Lake

He who made the Pleiades and Orion and changes deep darkness into morning, who also darkens day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out on the surface of the earth, the Lord is His name. Amos 5:8

Distance: 3.6 miles

When I first went to Homer Lake, I was disappointed. It was muddy and we parked in the wrong parking lot. But once, I finally decided to give it another shot and explore a bit more, I was pleasantly surprised! There are trails throughout and picnic tables. Whenever I've gone, it's not busy. I've had many times with God here - whether it be sitting by the lake or worshipping out in the fields.

The only downside is that you can't walk the entire perimeter of the lake. I've made the mistake of thinking I could just keep walking through the bushes and I wouldn't recommend it (neither would my dog!).

If you're looking for a decent size body of water within 20 minutes of Champaign, this is a great option.

My favorite hike here.

2. Kaufman Lake

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. Luke 12:27

Length: 2.3 miles

Nestled right in Western Champaign is Kaufman Lake. Some will just walk around the lake and think that that's the end of the hike but it's not. There is a "secret" passageway under the interstate and under/across the railroad track. Once you get there, you'll see some local "art" or "graffiti" whatever you'd like to refer to it as. It's pretty cool if you ask me. The trail will then lead you to another pond to walk around.

If you're looking for peace and quiet, I wouldn't go here since it goes right under the interstate but it's pretty cool to walk underneath the overpass! I also collected a beautiful bouquet of wildflowers while here.

Here's the link to the hike!

3. Busey Wood

Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice. Psalm 96:12

Length: 1.3 miles

If you live in Urbana, why not check out Busey Wood, located right by the water park? Its boardwalks and long bridge to enter make it unique. There's a river that you can hike next to and lots of little paths but it's impossible to get lost since it's such a small area.

If you go here in the summer, make sure to bring mosquito repellent! There are a lot of wet areas so the mosquitos love it.

Want to check out Busey? Here's the link to the hike!

*FYI, dogs aren't technically allowed at Busey Wood.

4. Meadowbrook Park Trail

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. Isaiah 40:8

Length: 4.3 miles

Meadowbrook is located in Urbana and is a local favorite. With a playground, a paved walkway, and art sculptures, there are always people enjoying Meadowbrook. On a summer evening, you can even spot a whole family of deer that lives here. We once saw about twenty deer one evening!

Since I love dirt paths, I love the paths that go throughout the meadow. It feels like you're discovering something new every time you go. You can also take different routes on the paved paths as well.

This is one of our go-to hikes since it's so close by but if you go here on a nice day, you'll find that everyone else in Champaign County is there too. So if you're looking for solitude, go somewhere else.

5. Lake of The Woods: Buffalo Trace Prairie

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows;

he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. Psalm 23:1-3a

Length: 4.1 Miles

Lake of the Woods was similar to my first experience at Homer Lake. I drove to the wrong parking lot! My favorite hiking at Lake of the Woods isn't near the lake at all. It's actually across the street at Buffalo Trace Prairie. Here you'll find wide open spaces and a forest. There are some pretty awesome, sketchy bridges throughout the hikes. Be careful with your dogs because mine actually fell off of one of them because it was narrow (he's totally fine!). I also discovered a waterfall while here on a hike with my parents a few weeks ago!

Whenever I've gone on this hike, there are fewer people, so it's a great place to breathe in the fresh air and pray.

Do you want to check out Lake of the Woods? Check out this link for the trail head!

6. Allerton Park

“For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands." Isaiah 55:12

Owned by the University of Illinois, there are a few different trails at Allerton. The Orange Trail goes right by some sculptures and stairs, which is a pretty cool place to take pictures! It's about a mile long and can get crowded on nice days.

But if you're looking for more woods, you should check out the McDonald Family Loop. Here you'll walk along the Sangamon River and see squirrels running up and down the trees. This hike is 2 miles but you can veer off onto others to make it longer if you'd like!

On some hikes, I can get scared being a woman walking by myself but here, I felt safe enough to turn off my music and just listen to the sounds of nature for a bit. Just me, my dog, and God. If you're looking for some peace and quiet, go here.

7. River Bend Forest Preserve

On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. Psalm 145:5

Length: 2.5 miles

Located in the middle of corn fields, this is the perfect place to go and meditate on the Word of God.

There are a few different trails to explore and you can fish here too if that's your thing. This is one of the best places in Champaign County to watch the sunset!

Here's the link to my favorite trail here!

8. Middle Fork Forest Preserve

Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. Daniel 12:3

Length 3.5 miles

I just discovered this one while writing this blog and I had to go check it out. We went on a sunset hike and then looked up at the stars for a bit. Middle Fork is an International Dark Sky Park so it's the perfect place to look up at the stars. We also saw about twenty deer as we walked through the forest. The only downside is that it is about 45 minute drive from Champaign.

Other trails outside of Champaign County to visit:

Drive Time: 60 minutes

Length of Hike: 10 miles

Other activities: Swimming, Boating, Fishing

Drive Time: 45 minutes

Length of Hike: 2.6 miles

Other activities: Kayaking, Paddle Boarding, Fishing, Tubing, Camping, Biking

Drive Time: 60 minutes

Length of Hike: 3.5 miles

Other activities: Fishing, Small Boating

Drive Time: 75 minutes

Length of Hikes: Various

Things to see: Waterfalls, Giant Boulders, River, Suspension Bridge, Camping

Note: There is a $9 fee per car to get in.

Drive Time: 75 minutes

Length of Hike: 6 miles (various hikes available)

Other activities: Fishing, Boating, Camping, Swimming, Hunting, etc...

Wherever you go, enjoy the creation that God has given us and thank him for it!

Are you looking for community? Or a Home Church? We'd love for you to check out Anchor! Click here to find out more about us.

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