By LMQC Outside blogger Wade Ellett
Fall is the time to stretch your legs and your horizons as we journey just a little farther, get a little more dirt on our boots, and see what we can find. Check out these 4 spots that are about an hour’s drive from the Quad Cities.
Albany Mounds State Historic Site, Albany, IL:
You may recognize the name of this spot, because I’ve mentioned it briefly before! Last year, I included it in my summary of hiking the Great River Trail, but only recently did I return to more thoroughly explore it. And this time, I brought friends!
The Great River Trail bike path cuts through the 205 acre site, but you’ll find better views of the mounds, hills, and prairie flora by stepping off the pavement and onto the trails.
This is pretty easy hiking, but it’s a wonderful way to spend a few sunny hours on the weekend.
There are about 50 remaining burial mounds at Albany Mounds, but they’re not always easy to spot. On average they’re 3 feet in height and 40 feet in diameter; check out this map to see their location, and keep an eye out for the informational signs.
Though this is a great spot to enjoy hiking, cycling (only on the paved bike path), or taking your 4-legged friend for a walk, please keep in mind that these are burial sites, and should be treated with respect.
Dorrance Park Forest Preserve, Port Byron, IL:
With only 81 acres, Dorrance Park is the smallest of the Rock Island County Forest Preserves. Don’t let the size fool you, there are excellent trails here, and FORC has been doing great work developing the area for off-road cycling. In fact, they’ve actually completed a new section since my visit, and are hoping to complete the loop this year.
Whether you decide to pedal or explore on foot, remember to be alert and safely share the trail!
Despite its location in the Middle of Port Byron, we saw few people in the park, and ran into no one on the trails at all. We saw more deer running through the hardwood trees than we saw people during our visit.
The new trails are going to need both foot and cycle traffic to compact the earth, so if you need a spot to hike or bike for an hour or two, consider a visit to Dorrance Park.
Mines of Spain State Recreation Area, Dubuque, IA:
Okay, I admit, this spot is a little more than an hour away. Trust me, it’s worth the drive!
Near Dubuque, you’ll find an interesting mix of the great outdoors and Iowa history here. You can learn about the native people, the role that lead mining played in the area’s history, and more at the E.B. Lyons Interpretive Center.
You can also set out on one of the many trails that Mines of Spain has to offer; altogether, this State Recreation Area boasts 21 miles of maintained hiking trails!
Explore forests and prairies, or follow the old logging roads to beautiful limestone bluffs and scenic overlooks.
There’s enough trail that you could spend days hiking, so make sure that you’ve got enough time to explore. We found ourselves enchanted by the limestone walls, and I think you will too!
Johnson-Sauk Trail State Recreation Area, Kewanee, IL:
Another great spot that blends history and nature, Johnson-Sauk Trail, is another great place to spend a day or two!
Near the entrance of the park, you’ll come to Ryan’s Round Barn.
Completed in 1910, and added to the National Register of Historic Places on December 31, 1974, this is the largest round barn in the state of Illinois.
According to the National Register nomination, the barn stands nearly 61 feet high, with a 74 foot diameter. Others claim that the barn stands 80 feet high and has a diameter of 85 feet.
No one is willing to let me climb it to measure, so I leave that for others to determine! What I can tell you is that the main floor is home to an awesome collection of historical agricultural equipment. Tours are available, and donations are welcome.
If you’re less interested in the barn, then stay outside and enjoy the park’s offerings!
You can camp or stay in a primitive cabin here, as well as rent row boats, paddle boats, and kayaks. You can also explore 4 miles of trails leading along the lake, through the prairie, and into the hardwood forest.
All the trails connect at one point or another, so they can come together to form an eight mile loop around Lake Johnson.
No matter what you’re interested in, you’ll find lots to do here!
Summer may be drawing to a close, but the good times outside don’t have to stop. Make sure you’re still making time to enjoy being active in the great outdoors. Hit up one of these spots for a great day of adventure in nature.
Have I missed your favorite spot? Tell me about it in the comments! I’ll see you on the trail, everybody!
|Meet Wade Ellett, Let’s Move Quad Cities Outdoor Blogger. Wade is an outdoor adventurer who shares his passion for QC outdoor adventures here! Read his other posts by clicking here.|