Summer Adventure : Rock Cut State Park

The image shows a cluster of flowers with big yellow centers surrounded by white petals on thin green stems.

#25hike of my 2022 52 Hike Challenge

Trail/Park: Pierce Lake Loop, Rock Cut State Park, Loves Park IL

This hike took place on the traditional territory of the Peoria, oθaakiiwaki‧hina‧ki (Sauk) & Meškwahki·aša·hina (Fox)Bodwéwadmi (Potawatomi)Myaamia, Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, Hoocąk (Ho-Chunk), Kiikaapoi (Kickapoo). I respect the histories, languages and cultures of these peoples, whose presence continues to enrich our vibrant and changing communities. Join me in learning more about the tribes and these lands, by following the links provided.

Trash Collected: 1 pound

The photo is filled with the Rock Cut State Park entrance sign. The name of the park is in uppercase block letters colored white. The letters are mounted on a brown wood background. The park address, 7223 West Lane Road is attached to the bottom of the sign. There are the tops of deep green trees behind the sigh with a blue sky and a few wispy white clouds behind the trees.

After hiking Devil’s Lake State Park in Wisconsin, I’d headed south to find a campsite for the night. In my last minute research I believed that Rock Cut State Park might be an option. I’ve passed by the park just outside of Rockford, IL and often thought it would be an incredibly busy park simply due to it’s location. Discovering there might be a few campsites available on a Saturday in mid-summer was a surprise to me. I was still skeptical as I passed by the giant sign at the exit from the highway. It’s the largest state park in Illinois at 3,000+ acres.

Checking in at the campground, I had missed securing the last tent site by just a few minutes so I took the electric site offered. The woman working the campground entrance was delightful and helped me get oriented to the park a bit before I left to find the campsite.

I was pleasantly surprised at the space between sites. While the site was surrounded with a thick stand of buckthorn, it offered the privacy I was hoping for as I settled in for the night. The next morning the sun had me up earlier than usual, though I felt well rested. Thanks to the early start, I decided to take in a hike before finishing the last leg of my road trip to Indiana. Having the time and opportunity to take in two hikes in one trip was yet another surprise of the weekend.

I decided on a trailhead near the Pierce Lake Beach as it looked to give me access to a trail which would have a variety of terrain. The day was going to be a hot one so the early start of hiking was perfect. I drove to the beach, parked, found the trailhead near the lake and took in views of Pierce Lake as I followed its shoreline. The trail moves between clear path through woods along the lake interrupted with large swaths of picnic areas. Knowing I needed to stick to the lake shore was helpful otherwise I could have easily lost the trail between the narrow green trail markers which were placed only at the edge of the wooded areas. After crossing through a few picnic areas, I kept watch for the trail intersection which would take me along a long, straight path nearly due south. Once on the straight segment of trail, I was surrounded again by woods. The only places I’d run into other people were near the lakeshore. I was able to enjoy the woods in solitude.

A few things I noticed as I made my way along the trails were the intersection markers often blending into their surroundings, larger interpretive signs with “You are Here” indicators were often a few hundred feet from the actual intersections and the trails vary from narrow paths wide enough for one person to broad trails allowing hikers to move easily side-by-side or passing each other. Near the end of my hike I passed by a dense area of vegetation only catching a glimpse of a trio of wild turkeys out of the corner of my eye.

Making my way back toward the busy beach area I knew this was a park I’d want to explore more and hope to make a return visit. Grateful for the last minute choice to stay and to hike, I was off to my final destination.

Next Post Preview: Settled into an extended visit with family in Indiana, I use a free day to explore one of the state’s larger State Forests.

GEAR: Granite Gear Crown 38 backpack, Marmot Kompressor Pack, Vasque Ultra Dry Waterproof Hiking Boot, REI Co-op XeroDry GTX Jacket, REI Co-op XeroDry GTX Pants, SheFly® Go There™ Pant, SPOT GEN3 Satellite GPS Messenger, Dueter Dirtbag, Kula Cloth, Leki Women’s Micro Vario Cor-Tec TA trekking poles, Nemo Dragonfly Ultralight Backpacking Tent,
Paria Thermodown 30 down quilt, Exped Ultra 7R Mat, Thermarest Z Lite™ Sleeping Pad, Thermarest Z Seat™, MSR Pocket Rocket Stove, GSI Pinnacle Dualist Cookset, MSR® IsoPro™ Fuel.

Want to know more about my gear selections? Head on over to Gear & Gadgets or check out my posts titled “Gear in Review”.


Photo of a group of hikers on a sunny day in a field heading towards a wooded area. The photographer has taken the photo from behind the group.

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