River Route

Apple River Canyon State Park, Illinois

Trip Date: Saturday, June 1st, 2019
Last Updated: Tuesday, July 30th, 2019
By Ricky Holzer

Hike Information

Rating ★★★☆☆(3/5)
Overall Difficulty Easy
Navigation Difficulty     Easy
Distance 1 mile roundtrip
Time 30 minutes
Terrain A few hills
Best Seasons All
Family Friendly Yes
Dog Friendly Yes
Accessible No


Hike Summary

On the far northwestern corner of Illinois, you'll find the small Apple River Canyon State Park, home to a quiet riverside picnic area and a few short hiking trails. It's a nice place to stop if you're planning on visiting Charles Mound, the highest point in Illinois, or the scenic Mississippi Palisades State Park. The River Route Nature Trail showcases the canyon and visits a part of the river away from the park roads.

The trail starts on the south end of the parking area heading uphill. At the top of the hill, you can turn right to visit the wooden viewing platform pictured below. Unfortunately, the view is obstructed by trees and vegetation during the summer.

The viewing platform at the top of the hill

The viewing platform at the top of the hill

Once back on the main trail, follow the signs for the River Route Nature Trail, not the other trail leading to Tower Rock. The path leads downhill into the canyon, and at the bottom, you'll have a view of the rocky western bank of the Apple River, as pictured below.
Rocky canyon walls on the Apple River

Rocky canyon walls on the Apple River

The remainder of the trail follows the river, and the landscape looks much like the lush, shady scene pictured below.
The forested trail adjacent to the river

The forested trail adjacent to the river

The trail ends abruptly in an open spot by the river, as pictured below. You can sit here and enjoy the gentle sounds of running water. When you're done, simply head back the same way you came.
Wide open river views at the end of the trail

Wide open river views at the end of the trail

There's not much to this hike, but it's a good activity before or after a picnic in the park. Connect with me using the social media links below and share your adventures!

Important Information

Dogs are allowed on leash. This short hike is perfect for the whole family. You can hike here every season, allowing you to experience the park in four different ways. This park is far from major population centers, so it won't be particularly crowded.


From Chicago, take Interstate 90 west towards Rockford. Take the exit for Interstate 39 South, then continue straight onto U.S. Highway 20. Stay on U.S. Highway 20 for about an hour, then turn right onto Illinois Highway 78. Turn left onto Canyon Road, and continue as the road veers left into the park and turns into Canyon Park Road. Park on the right near the building.

Google Maps Directions

Parking, Fees, and Facilities

Parking is free! There are restrooms and a picnic area near the parking area.

Nearby Hikes

The sign at the top of Charles Mound marking the elevation
Charles Mound (Illinois State Highpoint)
Charles Mound, Illinois
The wide trail heading uphill into dense forest
High Point Trail and Rock Top Trail
Mississippi Palisades State Park, Illinois
The Twin Sisters and the Mississippi River beyond in the late afternoon sun
Sentinel Trail to the Twin Sisters
Mississippi Palisades State Park, Illinois
The view of Bellevue and the Mississippi River and bluffs from the overlook
Overlook Trail
Bellevue State Park, Iowa

External Links