You may know Rockford, but have you checked out these five unexpectedly cool hidden spots throughout our region? This summer is made for everything outdoors! We encourage you to adventure outside this summer and see what the 815 truly has to offer!
Rockford Railroad Pedestrian Bridge
One of Rockford’s best kept hidden secrets is the railroad pedestrian bridge near the Embassy Suites on South Main Street. This 800-foot railroad bridge crosses the beautiful Rock River and is open to bikers and walkers.
The bridge gives access to parts of the river that people have never had access to. It’s a great place to take a cool selfie or simply a spot to see Rockford from a different angle.
How to get there – Take South Main to Race Street. Parking is located near the bridge.
Beattie Park Mounds
Ever been to the quaint Beattie Park nestled along the shores of the Rock River? If you have, did you know that there are three different types of Native American mounds at the park? These unique mounds were built during the late Woodland period, around 700-1100. The mounds were created by Native American tribes as a place of gathering, peace, and burial. And indigenous people still meet there. Isn’t it cool to think about all of the unique history Rockford has?
How to get there - N. Main St. between Park and Mound Aves., Rockford, IL
Colored Sands Forest Preserve
When you visit Colored Sands Forest Preserve just north of Rockford, there will be no shortage of wildlife and wildflowers that are sure to draw your attention. Because of its sandy soil and unique geology, the 306-acre preserve supports many plants, and their associated wildlife, that are not found anywhere else in the county.
There are 2.8 miles of hiking trails and scenic overlooks with outstanding panoramic views of the pristine Sugar River.
Colored Sands Forest Preserve is known for its birds and the bird banding station at Sand Bluff Bird Observatory. The Sand Buff Bird Observatory operates a bird banding station on weekends through the spring and fall. Visitors can observe the birds being banded.
How to get there – 10602 Haas Road, Rockton, IL
Kishwaukee Gorge North
Kishwaukee Gorge (North) Forest Preserve is a hiker’s paradise! It offers diverse woodlands, prairie openings and rugged ravines. This preserve is home to a restored prairie, deep forest with large, statuesque twisted oak trees, and steep-sided gorges leading down to a peaceful opening on the Kishwaukee River.
Enjoy nearly three miles of relatively easy hiking trail consist of mowed grass around the prairie, and a rather rugged dirt path in the forest. The trail becomes a bit challenging when climbing the steep, man-made steps along the side of the gorge – but the destination is well worth it!
How to get there - 4643 Blackhawk Road, Cherry Valley, IL
Ferguson Forest Preserve
Ferguson Forest Preserve’s 529 acres provides valuable wildlife habitat and is home to several threatened plant species and about 150 species of birds. Located at the confluence of the Sugar River and Pecatonica Rivers, it is one of the best migratory bird locations in the county. A diversity of waterfowl can be seen; including Sandhill cranes, and several different species of ducks. Bald eagles, owls and songbirds are often seen here.
Ferguson Forest Preserve is a prime spot for observing waterfowl and wading birds during spring and fall migrations. In spring a frog chorus calls fill the air and in summer the prairie blooms with an array of native flowers and shelters nesting grassland birds.
How to get there - 8602 West Winslow Road, Shirland, IL
Have you ever walked a Labyrinth? The Womanspace Labyrinth in Rockford is a great place to start! This unique, hidden gem is free and open to the public daily during daylight hours. The Labyrinth has been used for many spiritual traditions for over 4000 years. Its circuit design is modeled after the Chartres Cathedral labyrinth in France and its many turns reflect the journey of life, with its change and transition, rites of passage and cycles of nature.
So, if you’re feeling stressed or worried or just need a place to “unwind the mind,” we encourage you to stop by the Womanspace Labyrinth. Enjoy peace and relaxation right here in Rockford.
How to get there – 3333 Maria Linden Drive, Rockford,