Backpack the Yellow Trail at Sand Ridge State Forest

Sand Ridge State Forest - Search Nearby - Added by Jessie Landau

You'll be shocked you're still in Central Illinois while backpacking through Sand Ridge - sandy hills, prickly pear cacti, and a beautiful pine barren make this a spectacular outdoor oasis in the middle of the Midwest!

Park in Parking lot 2 on E. Co. Rd. 2300 N - from there you'll find the trail head for the Yellow/Red Trails. The Yellow Trail is the large 14.8 mile loop you'll follow for the whole trip. Start your hike by heading north on the trail; at this point the Yellow Trail is combined with the Red Trail. The Yellow Trail combines and intersects with the park's other trails along the way, so make sure to follow the Yellow blazes as you go - they are clearly marked at all intersections. Camping in the park is designated dispersed, and you'll pass several sites along the way, but I recommend hiking to Back Country Site 7 - which is just about halfway and is in the middle of a gorgeous CCC pine barren built in the 1930's. 

You might think backpacking in Central Illinois should be super easy, with flat trails - but the sandy conditions at Sand Ridge make even the flat stretches strenuous - combined with the hills of the Illinois River Valley, some parts of this hike can get pretty hard. Give yourself some extra time due to the sand.

Take some time to stop and observe the cacti and other unusual flora and fauna that live in the park. Thousands of years ago, receding glaciers left this large swath of sand making Sand Ridge a micro ecosystem that has conditions more similar to the Southwest than the rest of Illinois.  

Distance

14.8 Miles RT

Type

Loop

Activities

Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking

Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Forest
Wildflowers

Nearby Lodging

Springfield KOA

Rochester, Illinois

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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