November 7, 2015

Rock Cut State Park (October 2015)


Rock Cut State Park, Illinois
Northeast of Rockford, IL
42.356584, -88.979647

October 24-25, 2015
Saturday: Cloudy, chilly, 40-50 degrees
Sunday: Sunny, 50-60 degrees; chilly in the morning


We visited this park and campground for a single night. We're definitely coming back.
Semi-secluded campsites with power and RV-driveups are dug into the forest line. Our surrounding grove kept our campfire to ourselves, but we could still hear our community of neighbors. Firewood was available from the concessions shop for about $4.50 a bundle. This was convenient but also required, as campers are currently prohibited from bringing firewood in or out of the camp. The ash borer beetle is causing a good number of problems, and park rangers want to keep this forest separated from the threat.

A large, human-made lake rests in the center of the property (Pierce Lake), named after an IL state representative. The reds and oranges of the fall trees edged the entirety of the lake. This tree-lined shore created a colorful contrast as it was sandwiched between the vivid blue lake and sky in the sunny midday. A small boathouse, baitshop, and café combo called the concession sits on the edge of the southern part of the lake with a large balcony seating area that pushes off into the water. We were satisfied with the biscuits and gravy at the café, but were happier with the warm cup of creamy hot cocoa the café host handed us. The concession's flush toilets were a nice amenity. There's some literature on the park available at the concession as well.

There is a large system of trails of varying difficulty on the western side of the park. Maps are available at the concession. A large, paved nature trail hugs a creek around the park, which starts at the dam outlet off the main road (there's parking there). Many branching dirt trails head up hills and gave us a greater nature experience. We took the first dirt trail we saw, marked "normal." After hiking up a dirt path, a great expanse of multicolored fall trees welcomed us as we walked above the forest canopy.

I was carrying my basic day pack with my camera and lenses, field guides, and lots of water.

Points of Interest


Things we did
  • Pierce Lake
  • Campgrounds (we stayed at Prairie View)
  • Prairie Restoration Area
  • Concession / Lodge (with café)
  • Trail system throughout the west part of the park
    • See map below for the trail portions we hiked
Things we missed
  • Fishing on the lake (boat landings throughout)
  • Boat rentals
  • Equestrian access and trails
  • Many of the hiking trails
  • Swimming area (east of park, Olson Lake - no swimming in Pierce Lake)


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Resources


Google Map of our hike

Photos are embedded in points of interest that we visited (click on orange diamonds)

Flickr Album (hover to find slideshow controls)

Rock Cut State Park
Clicking on a photo will take you to the photo on Flickr

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