Perceptions of Illinois, for driving, tend to one of two extremes: “Chicago gridlock” or “endless cornfields.” My home state may be known more for hot dogs and pizza, but there are opportunities for fun drives. Especially when it comes to off-roading trucks. Although the majority of trails are sized for ATVs or dirt bikes, there are places to break in your new AEV’s winch. Here are 4 of the best.
The Cliffs Insane Terrain Off-Road Park
Located in Marseilles, this park enjoys a well-reviewed reputation for some of the best off-roading in Illinois. Spread out over 300 acres, it’s also one of the few parks in Illinois that accommodate both trucks and non-trucks. There are a wide range of trails to choose from, regardless of off-roading experience. The park even offers a guided tour to help potential off-roaders in choosing a route.
The trails feature many natural obstacles: logs, boulders, hills, and puddles. The terrain is mostly mud, so prepare accordingly. Then again, you’re going off-roading: getting dirty is practically a requirement.
Two Rivers Jeep Club
The TRJC is located in Pittsfield, but accessing its trails is more difficult than The Cliffs’. For one, all the trails are located on private land. And two, you need a Jeep to become a club member. The club also limits itself to 250 members.
But that’s not due to snobbery. The TRJC claims to be the largest Jeep club in the US that still maintains its own trails. The club has 13 trails at the moment, and limiting membership helps protect the trails from too much damage. Members spend a lot of time working with the private landowners to keep trails groomed. The TRJC also often volunteers its time to help the landowners with their land outside the trails.
These trails vary in difficulty, with some being described as “darn near impossible” by the club. If you’re an Illinois resident and own an off-road-ready Jeep, consider checking the TRJC out.
River Road Rally Park
A relatively new park located in McHenry, it’s already been featured in Four Wheeler magazine as an excellent off-road park. It’s only open on select weekends, and doesn’t have things like concession stands like The Cliffs.
Instead, there are 30 acres of mud and rolling hills. The park has been expanding over time and does offer compressed air on hand to refill your off-roader’s tires. It’s back-to-basics muddy goodness.
Redbird State Recreation Area
Technically, Redbird isn’t located in Illinois: it’s in Dugger, IN. But it’s included on this list for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s fairly close to the Illinois-Indiana border. Secondly, it’s listed in Jeep’s Badge of Honor program.
The Badge of Honor program is entirely run by Jeep and FCA. Jeep owners register with an app and can browse a selection of trails all over the US. Some are designated as Badge of Honor trails. How these designations are made is unknown, but it’s likely a combination of technical difficulty, beauty, and historical significance. Once a trail is completed, Jeep sends you a free hard badge that sticks onto your Jeep for sweet off-road trail cred.
As of last year, there are only 49 trails designated with the badge. And 4 of these are in Redbird alone. That’s worth a trip over the border.