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  Sand Ridge - State Forest   

West-Central Region

P.O. Box 111
Forest City, IL 61532

Site Map Hiking Picnicking
Camping History Snowmobiling
Directions Horseback Riding Trails
Hand Trap Range Hunting  

NOTICE - Prior to igniting any prescribed fire a horn will sound 3 times to notify any person within the burn unit they must exit the area within 45 minutes. A second horn will sound three times 15 minutes after the first, indicating 30 minutes to exit area. In addition, notification to the public will be reflected in handouts, hunter fact sheet, hunter windshield card sign-up web page, Sand Ridge State Forest web page, and Sand Ridge telephone answering machine.

For those who think central Illinois is one big corn field, Sand Ridge State Forest will come as a pleasant surprise. The forest is an island in a sea of agriculture. Just minutes southwest of Peoria, this 7,200-acre forest, the largest of Illinois' state forests, boasts sweeping expanses of native oak-hickory woodland, extensive pine plantations, sprawling open fields, grasslands and completely unique sand prairies. For a refreshing, invigorating taste of unspoiled nature and an opportunity to experience truly unique environment, Sand Ridge State Forest is ideal.

The area is the result of a prehistoric dry period when more desert-like conditions existed. Today it remains one of the few places in Illinois that supports an intriguing variety of plants and animals more associated with the southwest than the Midwest, including badger, silvery bladderpod, pocket gopher and prickly pear cactus, to name a few.

The raw, undeveloped expanses of hardwood and pine blanketing the panoramic vistas contain miles of outstanding hiking, backpacking, snowmobiling and horseback riding opportunities. Hunting of deer, turkey, pheasant, quail, dove and squirrel is permitted. A hand trap shooting facility and an archery range are available.

For the dedicated outdoors person this is an island of opportunity to experience the diversity of Illinois. For the day visitor, the forest offers picnic facilities and the chance for immersion in nature in the Henry Allen Gleason Nature Preserve. Enjoy the pristine sand prairie in a protected area closed to vehicles, domestic animals and hunting.

A bird watcher's paradise, Sand Ridge State Forest also is an important nesting area for a great variety of neotropical migratory birds, such as ovenbird, indigo bunting, veery and scarlet tanager.


Fifteen thousand years ago the flood waters of the last glaciation period receded down the Illinois River valley leaving a vast deposit of sand from near Pekin to past Beardstown and as far west as San Jose. A subsequent period of extreme dryness and warmth invited plants and animals of the southwestern states to extend their range. Shifting winds sculpted 100-foot-high sand dunes evident today as the now wooded ridges for which the forest is named.

In 1939, 5,504 acres of this forested tract was purchased by the state to be managed by the Division of Forestry as an experimental forest. The Civilian Conservation Corps planted pine trees to control erosion and demonstrate the viability of growing a commercial tree crop in sandy soil. The current 2,492 acres of pine plantations produce sawlog-size timber for Illinois' future needs. The native oak-hickory forest is selectively utilized for a firewood cutting program. Firewood collection is allowed at specific periods during the year.

In 1971, the Division of Land Management took over management of the site and the area became known as Sand Ridge State Forest. Today, the forest covers 7,500 acres--3996 acres of native oak-hickory forest, 2,492 acres of pine and the rest in open fields and sand prairies.



What better way to spend the day than to load up the car with the family for an old-fashioned picnic. The Turkey Pass Picnic Area is located on Cactus Drive just north of Pine Campground. Tables, grills, water, a shelter and pit-vault toilets are provided. Groups of 25 or more must have a Group Use Permit or may reserve the shelter using Reserve America.


If you and your family are interested in a rustic setting for camping, Pine Campground is the place for you. It contains 27 Class "C" sites featuring water, pit-vault toilets, fire pads, and a place to park two vehicles. Oak Campground provides open space, water, pit toilets and council rings for organized group camping. Horseman's Park offers a staging area for equestrian camping and horseback riding activities, and has hitching rails, water, pit toilets and a shelter area. Oak Campground and Horseman's Park have shelters and campsites that can be rented by using the Reserve America Web site. If you are unable to reserve a campsite for the date you want, contact the site at (309) 597-2212 or by email. Back-country camping is available at 12 primitive sites along 55 miles of trail providing a true wilderness camping experience. Users must obtain a permit from the forest headquarters prior to back-country use.

Groups of 25 people or more must obtain a Group Use Permit from site staff. Activity Permits are required whenever a non-traditional use of any facility is requested and/or any activity that might increase potential liability to he Department.

Pine Campground Photo Gallery

Oak Campgound Photo Gallery

Horseman's Campground Photo Gallery


Equestrian Trails

Horseman's Park Campground offers Class C camping for the equestrian community. The 50 miles of trails and more than 120 miles of fire lanes offer the average equestrian excellent opportunities (Equestrian Regulations). For a horse to cover all the trails and fire lanes, it would take a good weekend's worth of riding. Fire pads, hitching rails, picket-line posts and pit-vault toilets are provided for visitor use. A shelter for day use can be reserved using Reserve America.

Day use for the equestrain community is provided at Mockernut Meadow Day Use Area, which has fire pads, tables and teathering posts. The brome grass provides a great cover for horses and sand to meet the day-to-day demand. Water buffalo keeps the horses watered and a hand pump across the road to the south provides water for human consumption. Horses are not allowed in the hand pump area.

Hiking Trails

Forty-four miles of marked trails, ranging from 1.5 to 15 miles each, and 120 miles of fire lanes offer unequaled opportunities to the hiker, backpacker, horseback rider or snowmobiler.


A person can take advantage of 26 miles of designated trails when there's at least 4 inches of snow. The trail head is located at the Oak Campground and the trail is open 24 hours a day.


An abundance of deer, red and gray fox, coyote, squirrel, raccoon, quail, pheasant, woodcock and dove make this an ideal location for hunting. Check the Sportsman's Digest and the Annual Digest of Hunting & Trapping Regulation for requirements and shooting schedules. Sand Ridge Hunter Fact Sheet | Oakford Hunter Fact Sheet

Sand Ridge Sportsman's Digest | Oakford Sportsmen's Digest | Sparks Pond Sportsman's Digest | Henry Allen Gleason Sportsman's Digest | Revis Hill Prairie Sportsman's Digest | Windshield Card Web Page | Controlled Hunting Web Page

Hand Trap Range

A hand trap facility is open all year, except during the upland game season, for visitors interested in shooting trap. Rifles and handguns are not allowed on the hand trap range. Remember to put spent shells and other liter in it's place. Register at the forest headquarters and check the regulations before shooting.


From the west, east or south: Follow IL Rt 136 to Mason County Road 2800E and turn north. Continue in a straight line for about 6 miles, through the village of Forest City. This road will turn to the west and become Mason County Road 2300N and will lead you directly into the forest. From the north, follow IL Rt 29 south out of Pekin to the Manito Road, turn west and go to Manito, about 20 miles. In Manito, watch for the sign for Mason County Road 2500N and again turn west (right). In about 6 miles you will have entered the forest. From either entrance, follow our clearly marked signs to the facility or destination of your choice.

For more information contact site personnel at Sand Ridge State Forest, P.O. Box 111, Forest City, IL 61532 or by phone at 309-597-2212 or by fax at 309-597-2240 or by email.

For Your Information

In 1962, a forest fire burned more than 1500 acres of Sand Ridge. Please be very careful with smoking materials and campfires. Report all fires to the forest headquarters immediately. The fire lanes and trails are closed to all motorized traffic.

  • While groups of 25 or more are welcome and encouraged to use the park's facilities, they are required to register in advance with the site office to avoid crowding or scheduling conflicts.
  • At least one responsible adult must accompany each group of 15 minors.
  • Pets must be kept on leashes at all times.
  • Actions by nature can result in closed roads and other facilities. Please call ahead to the park office before you make your trip.
  • We hope you enjoy your stay. Remember, take only memories, leave only footprints.
  • For more information on tourism in Illinois, call the Illinois Department of Economic Opportunity, Bureau of Tourism at 1-800-2Connect.
  • Telecommunication Device for Deaf and Hearing Impaired Natural Resources Information (217) 782-9175 for TDD only Relay Number 800-526-0844.

Parks & Recreation

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Springfield, IL 62702
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