Jackson Falls Trail

MODERATE 81 reviews
#4 of 21 trails in

Jackson Falls Trail is a 3.8 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near McCormick, Illinois that features a waterfall and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

3.8 miles
387 feet
Out & Back

dogs on leash

kid friendly




horseback riding

nature trips

rock climbing






wild flowers




Jackson Falls trail follows the top of the bluff (southeast) around to the "dog leg" where you can walk into the canyon. Rock Climbing and Bouldering are favorite activities. Rock climbing and bouldering between three water falls.

3 days ago

This is one of my favorite places in the Shawnee National Forest. I have been here several times. This is a family friendly place. Although the trails are not well marked, there is a place to easily descend into the canyon to the base of the falls, although some climbing is required. It’s mostly just descending some large rocks. We typically take the upper rim (if you’re standing at the top of the falls facing the falls, go to the left) across to the opposite falls (not typically flowing well unless there has been a major rainfall) on the other side of the canyon and about 1/4 mile around, there is a moderately beaten path to an easily (if you’re in relatively good shape) descended rock formation that will take you into the canyon. This side is fun to walk around as well. We LOVE picnicking at the base of the falls. It is so peaceful. I highly recommend a sunny day after a decent rain. There are many people typically climbing and rappelling on the rock formations. I’d say there is something for everyone, if you’re able to do a little climbing (just from one stone to another- not anything requiring special equipment)!

12 days ago

If you cross the railroad tracks and go over to the Jackson Hollow side, the hike is even better. If you know where the other trails are in that area you can link them all together to make a nice weekend backpacking trip. It’s the best backpacking in the Shawnee. If you do Jackson Hollow stay near the cliffs. The trail is faint ever since they kicked horses out of that area. To cross the tracks, when the trail hits the tracks, turn left and walk down the tracks about 400 yards and you will see on the other side the place to cross into it. There is a large trail that runs down the bottom of the valley but you will want to get up by the cliffs. The Promise Land climbing area is over on that side of the tracks. My hike starts on the Jackson Hollow side crosses the tracks goes through the Jackson Falls area up the dog walk and back to our campsite. I’ve been hiking this area for about 50 years.

1 month ago

um hmmmm mother nature is a beautiful beast

2 months ago

There are at least 2 ways down without rappelling. Look for the emergency kits. The ways down are near those. It’s really cool to be challenged to get to the base. Also we found a rock carving from 1861 right near the trail!

horseback riding
3 months ago

Beautiful trail

3 months ago

My only complaint is that there isn’t a clear way marked on how to get to the bottom without rappelling. I’ll definitely go back. Beautiful views. And the nearby observation tower gives an awesome view of the surroundings.

4 months ago

The trail is a beautiful place, but if you don't know the trail itself it is very easy to get lost. In a couple of case while I was hiking trail #49 I came upon a sign nailed to a tree that said 49, however, I had three options of which way to go. Once I made the wrong guess and we got lost. As I said the trail is great, but the labeling of the trails is horrible.

5 months ago

Absolutely beautiful place. But the trails are not labeled consistently. Extremely easy to get lost, as I did, and ended up making an 8.5 mile hike out of a 4 mile hike.

5 months ago

The climbers, rock formations, railroad walk and scrambling all make for a very interesting hike.

5 months ago

Beautiful autumn hike.

5 months ago

Nice rocky hike with the family. Falls dry in August though.

7 months ago

Excellent place to go hiking and get away from everything

8 months ago

For a southern Illinois park, It was clean. Fairly maintained and relatively busy. Visit after or during a good rain and enjoy the waterfall, otherwise there isn't one. Some regular trails some equestrian and some combination of both. Nice rock formations which brings rock climbers from around the area. Moderate hiking fairly well marked. Parts kid friendly....parts not....over all pretty nice.

9 months ago

Paths weren't labeled at all. You could easily get lost.

10 months ago

beautiful hike steep hill but its paved. worth the trip from nashville

11 months ago

I usually walk through the campgrounds and sit by waterfall. I've seen numerous people jump off this waterfall or rock climb down. Wouldn't do that personally but to each their own.

11 months ago

all the reviews before me explains it all. Great place

11 months ago

This trail was fantastic. Lots of great view from the bluff and even better once you get below. Spent many hours here so that I could figure out exactly how the trail works. If you’re into climbing this is the place for you as well. Every boulder I saw had either bolts for top rope climbing or bolts up the face.

I read a few AllTrails reviews of people getting lost so I wanted to figure it out for myself. Conclusions are as follows:

Basically the "Jackson Falls" trail is a big U shape going along the top of the bluffs listed as trail #048 and there is an equestrian trail #049 that follows the inside of the U from below. I believe the 5.8 listed probably refers to completing the entire U. Coming from the parking lot you quickly arrive at the first waterfall. From there you can either continue to the right (which I'm sure many do based on how it is marked on AllTrails) or you could cross the creek and continue left. There are ways down on both tips of the U regardless of which route you choose but the trail ends more abruptly and has a clearer descent location than if you were to go to the right (if you go to the right I would suggest starting to look for a descent shortly after you begin seeing the railroad tracks). Both tips of the U are approximately 1.1 or 1.2 from the first waterfall.

The cooler part of the trek is when you descend and begin hiking #049. It was surreal to be hiking next to everything that I had just been admiring from above. The trail follows the bluffs around to the railroad tracks that you would see towards the end of your trek had you taken a right at the beginning. You can follow the tracks for a couple hundred yards and begin looking for your way back up to #48 when you come across a large rock with some spray paint on it. There are a few different places to scale back up in the area, some more difficult than others.

All in all I thought this was one of the better treks in Shawnee. I felt like every single time I came around a corner there was another impressive view. Please let me know if this helped you navigate! Cheers!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Perhaps the best hike in the immediate area. Nice falls, huge boulders, well worth the trip.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Wonderful trail!! Beauty the entire way through!

Monday, January 02, 2017

I took the opportunity to ring in 2017, by making a day trip to Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois. We rolled out of St. Louis at 7:30am and after a 2-1/2 hour drive, we were at one of the many trailheads to Jackson Falls Recreational Area. Finding the trailhead was easy using the AllTrails app, but what was not easy was navigating the countless trails in the area without a map. I committed a rookie mistake and did not have a map printed or downloaded, nor did i download a previous route to my GPS or phone, and the area has zero cell service for AT&T so getting any help on the trail was not possible. That being said, we felt pretty good as the trail we started following 48C was really well marked (we went right at the top of the falls, eventually the trail number changed and then eventually there were no markers at all. We kept hiking along the top of the bluff wall, knowing that eventually the topography would change and we could sneak along the base of the bluff to get to the bottom of the waterfall. We finally came to some old fence posts / trail markers and butt-slid and scrambled down a slope to the base of the bluff and picked up another trail that followed the base. The trail was half rock scrambling, and half guessing which way it went...but we pressed on always keeping the bluff to our left and using the trails when they were noticeble (very very few trail markings). The geology the hike along with all of the moss and ferns had already placed this hike among my favorite, but when we finally made our way back to the base of Jackson Falls (about 3-1/2 miles or so after we started) this hike shot up to my favorite Missouri or Illinois hike to date. What an incredible place to enjoy lunch.

As we were finishing up lunch, three people on horses (the trails in the area are mixed use, and you need to watch where you are stepping to avoid the horse crap that may be on the trail) came up along the base (it was amazing to see horses navigate the rocky terrain with ease). We were hoping there was a trail up at the base of the falls, but were told if we headed along the bluff in the direction we were hiking, it would be another 3+ miles before we could get up on the bluff, but there may be a way to scramble up the bluff near the second waterfall (but the rider indicated it had been years since he had been in the area, and wasn't sure). He was right, and once we found the second waterfall, we were able to scramble our way up with only one slightly hairy push on wet rock. All in all, this was an awesome hike, but go prepared. There are lots of holes, crevices, and rocks to roll ankles on, and the moss covered rock is slick as snot.

Difficulty: Experienced
Ascent: 634 ft
Descent: 660 ft
Max Elevation: 630 ft
Tags: hiking, Jackson Falls Recreational Area, Shawnee National Forest

Sunday, October 23, 2016

This was an awesome hike. It was marked well. It is very remote to get to. When we got there it was well populated with people primitive camping, rock climbing, and horseback riding. It did not feel crowded when we were hiking. There seemed to be lots of available areas with established routes if you are looking to rock climb. Burden falls road is also called county route 8. Glen street falls road is only called street road on my phone map. If you download the AllTrails app for you phone it is very helpful to find the area and to stay on the trail.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Sense of direction is needed but this place is incredible

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Two amazing waterfalls. Trail was confusing and became lost for a little bit but got out safe.

Monday, June 06, 2016

was beautiful! spent quite a while trying to find the trail head then finally just walked the road till I found some tiny trails leading to the .048 and it took a while to find my way down. ran into some awesome people that showed me a good spot to climb down just 25 ft on the west side of the little wooden bridge, I wasn't afraid to get lost, more so just noticing what side of the canyon I was on and remember that there's tons of little trails to the road on the east side. It was so breathtaking, I do agree the road is quite rough. I am an inexperienced 6 speed driver and it was a bit nerve racking but the view is more than worth it. trail sign's so need much improvement

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Amazing place, awful directions. Got lost for 7 hours and hiked 10 miles. It's such a shame, there is lots of trails, but the Ranger won't be bothered to clean up all the beer bottles and trash on the trails south near the lake. It's sad, this place has so much potential

Thursday, May 26, 2016

This place is amazing. That being said, with all the information I was able to get from 3 different guide books, we could've gotten dangerously lost. Entries/exits in and out of the valley were very hard to find. We had to backtrack a few times. Trails need to be better marked. We over shot the way out by quite a ways. When we finally did get out, we had to walk another mile on the road to get back to the truck. Thank goodness there were 2 people in different areas to help us along. Also, as of May 23, 2016, if you don't have a high clearance vehicle, don't attempt it. Overall the road in wasn't TOO bad but there were 2 spots that made me cringe even in my off-road Toyota 4x4. Also nowhere to back up or turn around.
Aside from all that- the trails were AWESOME. Lots of boulders and good trails. My favorite of all our hikes that weekend!!!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The waterfall itself was beautiful. But it was extremely confusing trying to figure out how to even get to the trail. The trail isn't clearly marked. We found the waterfall walking through, and we thought that we were going the same direction on our return, but we never saw the waterfall again. The trail needs to be better marked throughout. The rocks and trees and actual forest were beautiful though!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Awesome trail, just rather difficult to go down the road to get to it! It was bumpy, muddy and had huge ruts, I'm sure a 4x4 has no issues, but I did in a Jetta. It was worth the drive though!

Monday, April 04, 2016

A great trail for a Sunday afternoon. The hike was a little over 2 miles in to the Falls. Lots of rappelling going on and an easily marked trail with 048 bringing you in, but finding your way down the bluffs was a little difficult. Down the bluffs to 049 and you walk right in to the Falls. Will go back again, for sure.

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