Nature, Beyond the Cornfields

By Gabrielle Madewell

The small town of Lebanon, IL doesn’t offer very many places for one to venture outside and enjoy the scenery; unless of course staring at corn and soybeans is of interest to you. To combat this issue Students and Staff at McKendree have shared some of their favorite places, no further than two hours away from campus, where they like to spend their time outside; no cornfields included. Here’s a guide to hiking, biking and swimming around the area, as recommended by McK students and staff:

Elephant Rocks State Park

[2 hours from campus]

Bailey Forneris, a student at McKendree University, enjoys going on hikes around the Missouri area. Her favorite place in the area is Elephant Rocks State Park located about 2 hours away in Belleview, Missouri. Her advice for this trail would be to “pack a lunch if you go and keep your phone charged just in case of an emergency. There is no cell service and you’re literally in the middle of nowhere!” She also recommends checking out Johnson’s Shut-ins State Park, which is only 30 minutes from Elephant rock. “It’s a huge natural creek/reservoir you can swim in” she said. Also in this area, according to the Missouri State Park informational website, is the Braille Trail. It is “designed especially for people with visual or physical disabilities… [it] is the first of its kind in Missouri state parks and is designated as a National Recreation Trail.”

Hike 7

Photo courtesy of Bailey Forneris

Pyramid State Park

[1 hour from campus]

Joy Santee, an associate Professor of English at McKendree, enjoys many different outdoor activities, especially hiking and biking. One hike she highlights on her personal blog is a 10-mile hike she took at Pyramid State Park, located about an hour away, during the month of February. “Pyramid is a reclaimed mining site, so it’s full of little lakes” Santee Said. “In the summer, I saw fox, a snake, and deer, but today [in February], I see only birds, though I hear a few deer crashing through the woods. This site is popular during hunting season, but I’ve never seen another hiker here.” She also makes it a point to say “Pyramid has a number of walk-in camping sites that get almost no use as far as I can tell,” which may be a fun and easily accessible option for McKendree students to camp. Santee also recommends the book “60 Hikes within 60 Miles: St. Louis” for more information on hiking and walking trails around the area. The book can be purchased on Amazon for as little as $9.

Hike 5

Photos courtesy of Joy Santee    “This isn’t a demanding trail, but I enjoy it for the solitude and because once you start the long loop, you’re committed to doing the miles” Santee said.

Pere Marquette Park

[1 hour 30 min. from campus]


For more Hiking Marshall Cavit, a junior at McKendree, recommends Pere Marquette Park located in Alton, Illinois, about 1 hour and 30 minutes away. Pere Marquette, the largest state park in Illinois. It has about 10 different trailheads, ranging from easy to difficult, totalling to about 12 miles. He said that going in the fall would be ideal because of all the leaves changing color. Cavit also said that it is a family friendly park, and a great place to go hiking with kids since you can choose how difficult you would like the hike to be as well as how long you want to hike for. One piece of advice Cavit gives is to “bring more water than you think you need. I like to leave a Gatorade in the car as motivation to get back.” He also recommends checking out the visitor center because of their interactive and interesting wildlife exhibits as well as more information on the regions topographical features. Pere Marquette also offers bike rentals for $10 per hour or you can pay $40 for the whole day. If you want to bring your own bike, the Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail runs “20 miles along the Great River Road” according to the Pere Marquette Lodge & Conference Center.

Hike 2

Photo courtesy of Pere Marquette Lodge & Conference Center

Grafton Zipline

[1 hour from campus]

Kelsey Delisle, a sophomore at McKendree, recommends something a little different than going hiking or biking. Instead, she encourages students to go to the Grafton Zipline located about an hour away from campus. It is priced around $70 to $80, depending on what day of the week you visit. However, there is a discount applied when you bring a group of five or more people. Although it’s a bit more expensive than your average outdoor activity, it’s a fun and memorable experience. She said the fall would be a great time to go since you’re surrounded by trees that would be turning to different shades or orange and yellow. It is conveniently located around different places to eat, shop, or hang out by the Mississippi River. She recommends eating at The Loading Dock because it has a nice view of the river and occasionally, on weekends, there’s live music. Delisle said that even if it’s just for a drive along the river, Grafton is a place with a long road to cruise on with an amazing view. If you’re looking to sign up online for reservations, you can check availability on their website and reserve a date and time. For same day reservations, you can directly call them at (618) 786-9477 to reserve a time frame.

Hike 4

Photo courtesy of Kelsey Delisle

Hawn State Park

[1 hour 30 min. From campus]


Emily Berry, a student at McKendree, recommends hiking White Oaks Trail at Hawn State Park. The hike is located about an hour and a half from campus and is a good spot for hikers looking for a trail that isn’t too easy or too difficult. “It was a 3.5-mile hike; Wear sneakers, bring bug repellent, and a hat. It was so adventurous- out in the middle of nowhere,” she said. She also recommends going in the spring when it’s starting to get warm outside, not too muggy, and everything is blossoming. The hike is entirely surrounded by large trees and rocks, making the trail secluded and peaceful. Berry said “we barely ran into people so it was very serene.” According to Missouri State Parks website, Hawn State Park has 4 different hiking trails, ranging from easy to difficult. White Oak Trail is a moderately difficult trail and is centered in the middle of a mixed hardwood and shortleaf pine forest.

Hike 6

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