Off the Beaten Path | Mississippi Palisades State Park
Let’s get lost in the woods
It’s no surprise that when Illinoisans or Iowans want to escape the city or just get lost in the woods, they head to Mississippi Palisades State Park. Just shy of thirty minutes from Galena and three hours west of Chicago, you’ll find a breathtaking state park that has some of the most gorgeous rock formations in the Midwest. This treasure of northwestern Illinois is located three miles north of the vibrant little river town, Savanna. Palisades State Park is old as the hills but as serene as it gets. Gorgeous winding and steep drives take you to incredible overlooking views of the Mississippi River and Iowa. The 2,500-acre State Park is rich in American Indian history and is the perfect place for a day-trip or weekend getaway.
Park Highlights: Mississippi Palisades State Park is located on the Great River Road National Scenic Byway which follows the course of the Mississippi River for 3,000 miles–from northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. The scenic route passes through 10 states and hundreds of river towns and is arguably the longest and most important scenic byway in America.
Rich in history
Before we dive into all of the must-dos in the park, here’s a little history. The word “Palisades” is used to describe a line of high, steep cliffs commonly seen along a river. The Native American pathfinders did as present-day hikers do – in coursing the bluffs, they took the paths of least resistance. You can literally trace the footsteps of all those who came before you, some of whom came this way nearly a thousand years ago.
The historic Twin Sisters, a pair of humanoid figures on the bluff tops, offer spectacular views of the Mississippi River. If you don’t feel like hiking to earn your view, there are plenty of overlooks with nearby parking so you can take the drive and easily picnic or take in the views without the work. Some of the overlooks are also handicapped accessible.
The state park is a great place to go hiking for the day or to camp out and spend an entire weekend. The park offers 13 miles of hiking trails that range from moderate to rugged and is one of the only places in northwestern Illinois that allows rock climbing. The limestone bluffs rise roughly 180 feet above the river level in some places though none of the climbs are that high.
Bring the dog
Mississippi Palisades is a popular place for campers and motorhomes and is also dog-friendly. Along with offering an impressive 241 campsites with Class A and B suites in both shaded and open areas, electrical hookups are available and showers and toilets are available from May – October. Travelers and locals flock to the state park each season to experience nature at it’s best. Brilliant hues splash the cliffs with color each fall and each spring and summer the valleys and slopes are in full bloom. In addition, the park is full of wildlife and offers prime bird watching. Many species of birds, wild turkeys, woodpeckers, and eagles make their home in the park.
Enjoy hiking more than 15 miles of trails and five breathtaking scenic overlooks at Mississippi Palisades State Park. So whether you are just taking a drive to take in the views or seeking adventure and want to climb the historic limestone bluffs, be sure to add Mississippi Palisades State Park to your itinerary.
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16327A IL Rte. 84
Savanna IL 61074