This was our second trip to Prairie State Park. Our prior trip was in November 2013; you can read the full review of that trip here as well as see photos.
Unfortunately, I had a glitch in my AllTrails app, so the track won’t be uploaded, but our total miles was just about 12.
On the previous trip, I had mentioned that one of the biggest negatives was that there were so many different maps for this place and none of them seemed accurate, so we stopped at the visitor center and picked up another map, which was totally different than the other ones. I’ve scanned it in, and you may save it from below.
The last time we were here, it was rather wet out and the ground was very mushy. I thought that was a drawback at the time. This time, the ground was frozen and hard. I thought that would be better walking; however, I was wrong. Most of the trails are covered with buffalo crap and/or tracks, so while the ground was frozen, it was not a flat, solid surface so the going was actually very difficult. Your feet were being constantly twisted around. I experienced quite a bit of pain. It was a very challenging hike even though the terrain is overall easy. So that being said, I have to say that going when the ground is soft may in fact be more beneficial at this park. Normally, I would say the total opposite.
When we left, there were 4 other cars in the parking lot and while we didn’t see anyone else out on the trails, I was surprised to see that many cars.
I would like to see this place in the late spring when everything is in bloom but will have to rule out going there when the ground is frozen. Too hard on the feet.
We started out at the visitor’s center and walked south on the gravel road. My plan was to start on the Gay Feather Trail, go to the Coyote Trail, and cross back to the east side of the road; however, that plan quickly changed when we couldn’t find the trailhead for the Gay Feather Trail. Since it was a short trail anyway and we had already hiked the Coyote Trail on our previous trip, we scrapped that idea. So we headed east onto the Drover’s Trail. We were on the far south side of the loop, heading east. We remained heading southeast, crossed the railroad tracks, and took the south side of the Sandstone Trail. Staying on the south side of both of the loops, we took the connector to the Path of the Sky People trail. Here you will cross a gravel road. This trail is short but relatively unused. The bison were not in this area at this time. I’m not sure how long it’s been since they have been here, if ever. There isn’t even a complete fence surrounding this area. Maybe it’s been relatively recently purchased by the state. Either way, this place is completely deserted. We stopped for lunch…quickly nonetheless. Another drawback to this place is that there is no where to sit down. It’s the ground or standing. We did bring our foam pad so we could sit down and eat. After lunch, we finished this trail and took the connector back to the Sandstone Trail. This time sticking to the northern side. Once again, the views are incredible here….you can see forever, but the frozen ground with all of the bison here just make it so hard walking on. You are just constantly twisting your feet side to side.