Charles Mound (Illinois State Highpoint)

Charles Mound, Illinois

Trip Date: Saturday, June 1st, 2019
Last Updated: Monday, June 10th, 2019
By Ricky Holzer

Hike Information

Rating ★★★★☆(4/5)
Overall Difficulty Moderate
Navigation Difficulty     Easy
Distance 2.5 miles roundtrip
Time 1.5 hours
Terrain Hilly, 300 feet of elevation gain
Best Seasons Summer
Family Friendly Yes
Dog Friendly No
Accessible No


Hike Summary

**This hike is on private property and only accessible on certain days each year, historically the first weekend of the month in June, July, and August. Check for access dates before going.**

Charles Mound marks my 11th state highpoint, which, despite its relatively easy hike, is a difficult accomplishment solely because of its access restrictions. Unlike the similarly unremarkable, farm adjacent highpoints in neighboring Iowa and Indiana, the Illinois state highpoint is in a surprisingly pretty area, filled with rolling hills and picturesque farms. Located only a half-mile from the Wisconsin border and rising to 1235 feet above sea level, Illinois is so flat that technically Willis Tower in Chicago is higher by 800 feet. Check this highpoint off your list and make it a weekend trip, visiting some of the beautiful state parks in the Driftless Area along the Mississippi River, including the highly photographed Mississippi Palisades State Park.

The trail starts as an old access road, now overgrown with weeds as pictured below. Shady oaks line the sides, providing relief from the hot summer sun. Though the path is straight and flat, it's a peaceful walk as the leaves rustle in a warm breeze.

The overgrown old road that serves as a trail

The overgrown old road that serves as a trail

You emerge from the woods onto a gravel road gently ascending Charles Mound. On your left, a pond punctuates the agricultural scene, as pictured below. To your right, you see a farm field with a barn at the top of the hill. Along the side of the field, you pass the original parking area, signifying you only have a quarter-mile remaining until you reach the top.
Algae blooms on a small pond along the road

Algae blooms on a small pond along the road

As you near the barn, looking behind you down the sloping field yields a view of the surrounding countryside. Contrasting the flatness of much of rural Illinois, the rolling hills here are quite pretty.
The beautiful agricultural landscape of western Illinois

The beautiful agricultural landscape of western Illinois

After a little more uphill walking, the gravel road enters another shady area and approaches the farmhouse. The highpoint of Charles Mound is just before the house on the right side of the road, clearly labeled with the printed poster as pictured in the first image below. (Note: do not continue towards the house or disturb its residents). Several concrete blocks with metal USGS survey markers confirm that this is indeed the highest point. Behind the poster, two chairs and a guest registry allow you to relax for a second and enjoy the view of farmland in the second picture below. In the guest registry, notice how far other visitors have traveled just to climb this hill in rural Illinois!
The sign at the top of Charles Mound marking the elevation

The sign at the top of Charles Mound marking the elevation

The view from the summit of Charles Mound

The view from the "summit" of Charles Mound

Whether this is your 1st or 50th state highpoint, Charles Mound is one of the many unique places you will visit on your highpointing journey. Connect with me using the social media links below and share your adventures!

Important Information

It's important to remember that this hike is on private property, and the owners have the right to prohibit access entirely. Be respectful, just as you would in your best friend's backyard. Dogs are not allowed, and access is only permitted during daylight hours. This hike is doable for kids, and I saw several families during my visit. Typically, the property is only open the first weekend of each of the summer months, though they have been open on a weekend in February in the past -- visit for dates. Bug spray is an absolute necessity; the gnats made my hike almost unbearable. Given the limited access dates, you will definitely see people, many of whom travel from all over the U.S.


Charles Mound is smack in the middle of farm country and isn't close to any cities. Use the Google Maps link below to navigate from wherever you may be. After meandering through farm country on country roads, you'll know you've found the right place when you see the gate and sign pictured below.

The sign at the gate leading onto the property

The sign at the gate leading onto the property

Google Maps Directions

Parking, Fees, and Facilities

Parking is free! Be respectful and ensure you are not blocking any driveways with your vehicle. There are no facilities here or nearby.

Nearby Hikes

Wide open river views at the end of the trail
River Route
Apple River Canyon State Park, Illinois
The view of Bellevue and the Mississippi River and bluffs from the overlook
Overlook Trail
Bellevue State Park, Iowa
The small pond and metal sculptures in the butterfly garden
Quarry Loop
Bellevue State Park, Iowa
The wide trail heading uphill into dense forest
High Point Trail and Rock Top Trail
Mississippi Palisades State Park, Illinois

External Links