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Cache River and Heron Pond State Natural Areas

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Heron Pond Preserve

Cache River and Heron Pond State Natural Areas is a 7 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Belknap, Illinois that features beautiful wild flowers and is good for all skill levels. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Distance: 7.0 miles Elevation Gain: 282 feet Route Type: Loop

dogs on leash

kid friendly


nature trips


bird watching



wild flowers



After trying to get across that blasted creek twice, we decided to enter from the north at the Wildcat Bluff Access. There's a nice walk above it all before going down to the Little Black Slough loop. We sidetracked to the other side of the creek just so I could say I did it all :) It's a 90% clear and wide trail, but be warned the walk back up to the parking lot can take it out of you.

13 days ago

I mark this as buggy, but it’s summertime in the south so ... duh. The creek was too full for us to cross to see Little Black Slough. We turned around after traveling up what looks like an access road for a bit not realizing it was the Marshall Ridge Access. Still a nice hike.

We had a great time here, but couldn’t get to the connecting trails due to high water. The boardwalk was fun. We saw a cottonmouth and a copper bottomed water snake. The one mini loop we did at the pond was rather overgrown and not recommended. Hopefully it won’t rain this week and we’ll finish it.

3 months ago

very nice and peaceful. Did this trail a month after my c-section with a baby strapped to my chest so very easy trail. we did encounter a cotton mouth and rattle snake though.

8 months ago

Great trail, was like being in the Everglades. Also saw the state champion cherry bark oak on a spur trail.

8 months ago

excellent hike with lots of good stuff to see. Ground is really flat.

8 months ago

Lots of great wildlife and nature through the Cache River Wetlands, great trail for running and hiking. I can see there being snakes in the warmer months here, but not today. Highly recommended!

Great trail

9 months ago

It is a nice trail but I highly recommend being alert at all times. We encounter 2 gravel bumps at the beginning of the the trail and right on the other side of the second bump a cottonmouth snake was coiled. I am extremely lucky I was walking a few feet away and it didn’t feel threatened. I had not seen it and stepped on it I am sure my story would be different right now.

Fri May 31 2019

We got here early and had the place to ourselves. So beautiful and peaceful. My favorite part was the boardwalk area. There were a lot of bugs on the rest of the path.

Wed May 01 2019

This trail was great! It was an easy walk and had great scenery. Definitely planning to come back in another season!

Wonderful trail. Had to turn around due to time but plan on coming back to explore more. Beautiful scenery. Watch out for snakes in the trail. Seen a big cottonmouth snake when I walked around a turn!! Be careful!

Mon Feb 18 2019

nice hiking trail beautiful scenery can be snaky in the summer.

Sat Feb 02 2019

Very nice trail. Easy to walk on and very wide. Very beautiful scenery! Would have loved to explore more but had to turn back due to high water over the trail. Looked for other ways to cross but the creek was way to wide. Plan on coming back to explore and see more of this beautiful swamp land!

Tue Jan 01 2019

Worth the stop. My wife and I pulled off here to stretch our legs on a long drive and were surprised at how pretty it was. There is a beautiful large bridge at the start and if you stay to the left and go out on the spur trail is the main beauty for me. There is a very large parking lot and We will be back anytime we drive through.

Sat Nov 17 2018

We only hiked to swamp and then on to oak tree and back. About 1.5-2 miles round trip....Beautiful hike!

Mon Oct 08 2018

Great hike into a Cypress swamp, has nice boardwalk into the swamp and past the largest Oak in the state.

Tue May 29 2018

The first part of trail follows the muddy Cache River so not so pretty but the sound of water and birds is beautiful. We did see yellow warbler. Hugging the 1200 year old tree was fun. Heron pond was an amazing sight. We did see cottonmouth snakes in the water which was creepy.

Sun May 13 2018

Rrrrr! Gerrr!

Sun Nov 12 2017

Really neat place to go and see

Fri Oct 13 2017

The Heron pond was neat to see. there are railings up to walk over it so that you don't step in it. The rest of the trail could be hard to follow since the leafs cover the trail in the fall. we tried following the wildcat bluff signs, but got cut off at the waters and was unsure where to go. for the most part we kind of made our own trail. this trail is full of beautiful trees. lots of spider webs to be cautious about. be careful about the ticks also.

Sun May 14 2017

In this .gpx recording, we came in on the Marshall Ridge Access portion of the park map. We never came upon any boardwalks. I think if/when I go back, I will come in from one of the other access points (Heron Pond Access Point or Wildcat Bluff Access), as those parts seem more interesting. It was about a 2.5 mile hike out through this forest, and the cypress swamp loop was about .5 miles at most. I think this part of the park is under-used and not maintained well. There is one trail that would have been faster back but it was very overgrown, so we didn't take it.

Wed Apr 19 2017

Beautiful trail. Love cache river. Rent kayaks and take the canoe trail:

Sun Nov 06 2016

Beautiful cypress swamp!

Tue Sep 27 2016

Beautiful trail!

Sat Sep 24 2016

Very scenic trail, great for young hikers. Trail is wide and well marked. The boardwalk in to the trees is well worth the hike.

Wed May 25 2016

Very beautiful scenery, and the boardwalk was a really nice feature. The hike itself is easy and you can extend your hike by following the signs to the Little black slough.

Sun May 08 2016

I love coming to Heron pond. It's right down the road!

Sun Sep 06 2015

Very nice easy trail Heron pond was beautiful

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