Rock Cut State Park in Rockford, Illinois will have cross country skis available for rent on Christmas Eve. Store owner Jim Talkington said they got a dozen or so calls for Christmas Eve, so they decided to open up. Jim also mentioned that they will remain open throughout the holiday season during the week in order to cater to returning college students. They usually only rent on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
The Rock Cut concession is located at the Lone Star Café. The café is about three miles south of the main entrance located off of Illinois 173, which is a mile from the I-90 exit. It is only about 80 miles from Chicago.
Once you enter the park drive straight. There will be a parking lot that will come up on the right immediately after passing through the entrance gates. Take note of this parking lot. They have good trails here and you will want to return.
After a mile there is a three way stop. A yellow sign will guide visitors to the concession and rental that is straight ahead (last year it was to the right). Then there is a fork in the road about a mile down from the stop sign. Take a right at the sign that says “fishing pier.” You will cross a bridge and then the Lone Star Café will show up on the left as you circle around Lake Pierce.
Rentals are $20.00 for four hours and $12.00 for children. They can also be taken offsite for a charge of $30.00 for the day. They can be returned the next morning. Rentals include boots, skis, and poles and are top quality Fischer skis. The author tried out a pair yesterday and enjoyed the trails at the entrance to the park, the snow conditions, and the quality of the skis.
There are lessons available at the park for cross-country skiing on Sundays and in January they will offer them on Saturdays as well. All instructors are PSIA (Professional Ski Instructor Association) trained.
Rock Cut State Park has become the leading cross-country ski area in the state. No other area in Illinois boasts the trail system and facilities that are found here. They also have a trail map which is a welcome addition to the park this year.
After skiing, or in between trails, hang out at the Lone Star Café. Have some hot tea or some chili while enjoying the views of beautiful Lake Pierce. If you are lucky you might even spot a bald eagle out the window.
The concession also rents out ice fishing equipment and snowshoes. Adventure travel does not take a winter hiatus thanks to Jim and the Lone Star Café.
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