Mississippi Palisades State Park: A Galena Trip, Part 2

For our final park-specific post of the year, we wanted to highlight what ended up being one of the most special places we’ve been, and go back in time to the other park we visited on our Galena trip. That park was Mississippi Palisades, named for the steep cliffs that border the Mississippi River.

We spent the night in Savanna, IL so we could get up bright and early to enjoy the park first thing. We’d visited Apple River Canyon State Park the day before, and knew we wouldn’t be able to handle the very long and more difficult trails that pass landmarks that the park is known for. Despite this, we knew that somehow we wanted to get some views of the river. So we come up with the plan to start at the south entrance, stopping at the various overlooks accessible by a short walk from the road, and finally parking by the north entrance to tackle one of the easier trails.

The first thing we saw was a pack of wild turkeys, walking along the side of the road. I got really excited, not just because it’s always exciting to see animals while we’re out, but also because I was finally able to take some decent photos with my new camera. We also passed a Smokey the Bear sign, letting us know about the moderate fire risk.

Passing the turkeys, we drove up the steep road to reach the main overlooks. The three we stopped at were Lookout Point, Oak Point, and Louis’ Point. All three offered fantastic views of the Mississippi River. These were unquestionably the most amazing views we saw during the 13 weeks we spent hiking. It was a little chilly out that morning, but that didn’t affect our attitude at all, we were both having so much fun, even if this part was more driving than walking.

Still, we had to keep moving so we parked by the trailhead for High Point Trail. The full path including a branch called Rock Top Trail would have been nearly 4 miles. Despite it being one of the easiest options in the park, we knew we wouldn’t be able to finished based on the hills alone. The reason High Point is one of the easier choices is because a good amount of it is paved, but that didn’t end up mattering very much. It was completely covered in leaves, so we had to watch our step just as much as any other trail, even if we knew we wouldn’t have anything major like jutting rocks or downed trees to navigate.

As far as the actual hiking experience that day, it was nice enough, but kind of anticlimactic compared with the river views. Had we gotten to the end of the trail, we would have seen another overlook, but we felt like it was ok to miss this. Regardless, it was nice to spend the morning outside before heading into Galena.

We wanted to briefly talk about the town as well, because that’s where I first pitched this project to Stephanie. It’s a fun town to visit for a weekend, but it is always crowded. It was so crowded that we had to park the car at Grant Park and cross the river to get to downtown Galena. We picked up macarons from Bread & Vine, and then got lunch at the Courtyard Restaurant in the Desoto House Hotel, known for being one of the most haunted places in town.

Finally, our getaway was coming to a close, so we finished with Massbach Ridge Vineyard in Elizabeth, IL. It had warmed up a bit, and was really nice to sit outside trying wines, and we would recommend doing the same on a sunny day.

Mississippi Palisades was an experience unlike any of the other parks we’ve visited and we will probably go back, just without visiting a different park the day before. Something we haven’t talked about yet was the experience of looking out and being wowed by nature. The closest thing we came to this before was either at Chain O’ Lakes with the rolling prairies, or Illinois Beach where you can see Lake Michigan. Being able to look at and be impressed by just a small part of the Mississippi River blew any other park experiences this year out of the water.

We want to go back sometime so we can attempt some of the harder trails. This park is actually known for its rock formations, but we can’t speak to them at all because of the terrain. Overall, we feel like more experienced hikers will get the most out of this park, but even people with less will enjoy driving to the lookouts. If you are heading out that way and were on the fence about coming, we would absolutely recommend it.

As a final note, winter weather has started to settle in, so we have finished hiking for the year. We will be starting up again in the spring, but we still have some fun stuff coming out this winter. Stay tuned for updates!

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