At 1,235 ft (376 m), you might think that summiting Charles Mound, Illinois’ highpoint, is a simple matter. You’d be both right and wrong.
Charles Mound sits in Northwest Illinois, snugged up against the Wisconsin border, hours from any major airport. It is possible to fly into Dubuque Regional Airport (DBQ), which has daily commercial airline service to and from Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD).
Charles Mound, Illinois Highpoint Slideshow:
Otherwise it’s a long drive through the beautiful Driftless Area (one of the best names of a region). Rolling farmland and winding country roads are the main feature as noticed from a car, but this is an area worth exploring.
Another difficulty in summiting this highpoint is the fact that it is on private property. Public access is granted only on the first full weekends of the months of June, July, August, and September, so planning is a must.
In the old days, one could drive nearly to the highpoint, parking and walking a slight rise in the gravel driveway to the highpoint itself. Now it’s mandated to park near a gate on North Charles Mound Road and hike in, a round trip of approximately 2 miles.
For the most part, the hiking is not strenuous, though there is definitely a few steeper areas that can be difficult for little legs and old lungs. About half the path is in shade, which is nice on a hot day. Be sure to use insect repellent and check for ticks!
Interesting note: While Charles Mound is the highest natural point in Illinois, the actual highest point is the Willis/Sears Tower, a 110-story, 1,450 foot (442.1 m) skyscraper in downtown Chicago.
Directions to Charles Mound: