I found Govern Dodge on a recommendation from a friend who heard it was a good place. My friends and I were looking for a place to camp and hike that was not too far of a drive from Chicago yet had campsites that felt like you were in the woods. The Friends of Governor Dodge site is great since they have photos of all the sites. There's also other things to do in the area like Cave of the Mounds, House on the Rock and a Frank Lloyd Wright house, none of which we ended up seeing but I would like to another time.
You pass the Don Q Inn on the way to the entrance of Governor Dodge and it's hard to miss with the airplane sitting out front of the barn style inn. It looks and sounds from reviews a quirky place to check out if you have the time.
The drive to Governor Dodge was beautiful with all the hills and fall leaves. Upon driving into the park it looked like a very well maintained park. Cost: $17 for campsites and $10 vehicle fee. We camped at Twin Valley Lake campgrounds since that is the only one open at this time of year (Oct.). The walk-in sites had already been taken, which was what I originally wanted so we got site 283 right near the non-flushing toilets. The campgrounds were very nice considering how large it was, the trees spaced things out enough that you felt you had enough privacy and we didn't mind all the campers and RVs since the trees blocked them most of the time. We had a nice view from our site too. Twin Valley has potable water, flushing toilets and showers too. They provide recycling :). The only trash and recycling disposal is at the entrance to the camp.
After we set up out tents we went for a short hike. We checked out the Lakeview and Mill Creek trail. Both trailheads start near a picnicking area that seems very nice for familys and large groups. The Lakeview trail was easy and had a few nice views. The Mill Creek has some tiresome hills that got us sweating and we got a little confused for a bit since it turned into a paved trail for a little bit. After that we headed back to make dinner and turn in.
The next day started off very cold but warmed up once we got on the trail. We headed toward the Cave trail which we accessed from the Meadow Valley trail head entering near the Lakeview area from the day before. It wasn't crowded but we did see a good amount of people and everyone was friendly. We realized after seeing what other people were wearing that we were a little over dressed. There were some good hills that got us hot at different points. When we got to the Cave trail part the signs told us not to enter the cave since the bats were hibernating. But the entry point was very small and I don't know if I would have gone in anyways. It wasn't really what I would call a cave, even though by definition it qualifies, to me it's more like two rocks that fell on each other creating a dark space for things to live in. When I think of caves I think of crawling down into them and seeing stalagmites, but I guess I didn't go in so maybe those were there. Other than the disappointing cave part the trail itself was great with rocks to climb on, hills and beautiful views. The hike ended up be bout 3 hours so we ate lunch at the picnic grounds right by the lake.
Next we headed to Stephen's Falls which wasn't really a falls since the lack of water and it being fall the water was not really flowing it was really just trickling. We started to head toward the Lost Canyon Trail from there but it started to rain so we headed back to the car. It was really coming down for a good hour where we contemplated leaving, but once it cleared up we decided to stay. We headed over to the Pine Cliff trail which was once again a workout. This trail you have to hike single file, unlike some of the others. I really enjoyed this trail.
Last we headed back over to Stephen's Falls to try the Lost Canyon trail again. There are some nice rock formations to check out. Where the trail splits we took the shorter route to the right, which I wish we had taken to longer route since it was pretty short and part of went by the main road.
I would definitely come back here.
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