The Kankakee River State Park may be better known for the river in its title, but there are more than 10 miles of trails that make this a good location for trail runners and hikers looking for a new destination.
What Makes It Great
The state park sits on 4,000 acres in Kankaee and Will counties, basically covering both sides of the river with some additional acreage along the Rock Creek. With several camping facilities and a boat launch, the park is designed more around the bait-and-bullet crowd than for trail running. But that shouldn't dissuade you from giving it a try. The trails along the river are quite scenic and only an hour or so southwest of Chicago.
Trails on the north side of the river are designated for hiking and biking, while those to the south are horses and snowmobiles. For trail runners the best of the lot may be the 3-mile loop trail along Rock Creek, which features some great views of the limestone canyons in the area and a waterfall. You also will have the chance to cross one of the tallest suspension bridges in Illinois designed for foot traffic. You’ll get a good view of Rock Creek from about 75 feet up.
The river trail starts in the Davis Creek area of the preserve and travels adjacent to the Kankakee River for 10.5 miles to the west side of the park. There’s plenty of shade along the mostly tree-covered banks of the river. The 12-mile equestrian trail on the south side is used for snowmobiling in the winter, but when there’s no snow it makes for a good winter running challenge. Check out a map of the trails here.
Park origins The park started with a donation of 35 acres from Ethel Sturges Drummer in 1935. Commonwealth Edison donated another 1,715 acres in 1956, and additional land in 1989. In the 1890s, many Chicagoans were drawn to the area by the Custer Bowery Amusement Park, but that had closed up shop by the 1920s. But the river was still a popular spot for summer vacation cottages.
Who is Going to Love It
Runners looking for a place to get back to nature will enjoy the trails at the Kankakee River State Park. There are ample bathrooms and water fountains along the route, so it’s a good destination for a long run.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Parking at the Kankakee River State Park is easy, with entrances and parking lots at several places along the trail. You can start at the Davis Creek area, which is just off of County Road 224W (unfortunately the names of the roads in the area are like this, and difficult to remember). Open from sunrise to sunset.