Shabbona Lake, surrounded by rolling farmland 60 miles west of Chicago, is known more for its fishing than hiking—it’s the Muskie Capitol of Illinois, after all. But, this 4.8-mile loop samples the rolling prairie and bottomland woods that characterize the 1,550-acre Shabbona Lake State Recreation Area .
Beginning at the Shabbona Grove picnic area on the 318-acre lake’s southwest corner, this route heads east along the earthen dam past the spillway. Turning north on the Tomahawk Trail, the trail winds in and out of dense woodlands, occasionally touching the lakeshore, but offering views of it along most of the route. At mile 1.4, tackle a short climb and a tight squeeze between a finger of the lake and a natural reed-filled fen on the left.
The second half of the hike passes the park’s 150-site campground, briefly parallels the road, and skirts a tree-peppered wetland before landing near the restaurant and bait shop—a great place to refuel before the final half mile to the trailhead.
Trails close occasionally during hunting season, call (815) 824-2106 for conditions and closure information.
-Mapped by Ted Villaire