Explore the most popular camping trails in Illinois with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

The trail is short, but beautiful. There are benches along the trail to sit and enjoy the view. I went in March. The view in summer or fall would be even better.

Trail was really great, but it was really hard to find in the beginning. We went in the wrong direction and hit "no trespassing" signs after about half a mile. The trails are also not very well marked. It can also get pretty muddy in places.

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)!

We did this hike yesterday, starting at Rim Rock (we took the path to the far right (of the four options) and making our way to Pounds Hollow. We actually spent a little time at Pounds Hollow to take a break (up the bluff), then hiked back, where there is a small sign at the point of the three large bluff/ rock formation areas. We headed the opposite direction that we came from to ox-lot cave and wandered/ climbed around until we found a stone staircase. That led between the rock formations and toward a recently created or remodeled wooden staircase that takes you to the top of Ox-lot. We then took the upper trail back to the parking area. During our hike, we ended up with a distance of 4 miles and climbed the equivalent of 37 flights. It was an excellent time. Calling it a moderate hike/ trail is mostly accurate. I would say easy to moderate. I did take the time to climb up a few of the formations and experience different views. I would recommend it just to really take everything in. Recent rains meant the water was flowing nicely and there were very few people there, so you really got to hear the amazing, peaceful, serene sounds of nature!

SNF has done a wonderful job keeping this area up. The addition of walkways, benches, and bridges simplify the trail, but do not take away from the environment. Most is likely done as a protective feature for the natural areas and the hikers. This is a family friendly place. There were only 5 other families/ couples there when we left, only two others when we arrived.

Really lovely trail all along the way. Easy to follow except at the stream crossings. There are no bridges so if the water is up like it was for us you will need to wade. I built a rocky causeway to pass the first crossing upstream but the downstream crossing was much too deep and we had to get our feet wet. The spring is not visible from the trail and appears on the map to source several miles away which may be visible from another road which passes through that way(just by visual inspection on a map). The trail was easy to follow in most places though some spots we lost it due to sharp turns and lack of arrows indicating the proper path which caused us to do some unnecessary ledge crawling. The sentry bluff trail(Blue diamonds) travels along with part of the Natural bridge trail(Yellow Diamonds) close to the parking area where the natural bridge can be seen across the creek. However unless coming in a dry/low water season you will be getting your feet wet to see the natural bridge or to hike any trails on the other side of the stream. Both the entire length of the sentry trail we took and the finale of the natural bridge at the end were stunningly beautiful. A spraying water fall into the keyhole of the natural bridge gave rise to a small rainbow next to a a large snaking tree which climbed the height of the bridge into the canopy above.
Definitely well worth the visit. Better trail marking in places and bridges for stream crossings would make my 5 star review.

I only rate this as a moderate hike because of the distance. It is a very easy hike. The western side is the best part of the hike. I would hike counterclockwise to save the best for last. several backpack camps all with fire rings and tables. trail is easy to follow if you use their map.

9 days ago

Hiked the smaller loop today, beautiful wooded areas. Not bad for our first time out. Maybe next time we will follow th map!

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.

This Trail Is small VERY SMALL! but worth the stop it is listed in the Smothsonia as the top 50 in the USA! On Smithsonia.Com and top for Illinois very Beautiful place. if you trail it it dont take long but in my case it lasted for almost 9 hours .Put me in a Wilderness and I'll stay as long as possible and cry when I have to leave. There are a few folks walking around but I seem to be able to figure out where to go to get away from them plus I went in the middle of the week so that helps. beautiful place I was there in Oct 2017 for the fall colors PERFECT!!!!!!!!

Its a very pretty touristy Trail I didnt see much of anyone and really ever do but look at the time I go . I aint much of a people person when im on a trail so I stay away from them and pick my times according if Im visiting a tourist/Disney Style trail. I always park in down town Ottawa and Backpacked to the 1st Canyon Trail (Horse Shoe Canyon and then pack from there all the way to the end (Visitor Center/Inn/Bar) Then I pack my way back to Ottawa. I do this just about every year . I love winter pack-ins and enjoy camping outside in the winter-freeze(Less people) so this is always a good winter start to my new year. I usually do it sometime in the month of Jan. I stay on the trail( which is frowned on) but I believe and live !!NO TRACE!! so no-one ever knows I was there and thats not saying much because although it is frowned on that I renegade camp this area has got alot of trash from your so-called-nature-lovers who throw away just about everything they carry in on the ground as they walk through this park !!!!!! It makes me so angry!!!!! You came with it so leave with it !! Its lighter now!!! so carry it out! If campgrounds-Trails-Wildernesses-Forests and Parks had trash everywhere people would complain "Dont go there its a Dump!" WELL MY FRIENDS YOU ARE THE REASON IT IS A DUMP. Outside of that rant I really enjoy my 2-half day Pack-in during the winter here and yes as I move along I pick up the trash left behind by others .Its not enough I carry 47lbs of winter backpacking gear on my back I carry a bag of your trash to throw away as well. SHOW RESPECT ,LEAVE NO TRACE!

Nice trail. Ford's were flooded so were unable to hike some parts. Very clean and beautiful. not very crowed thus time if year. Favorite so far in this area. had lunch at lodge. Food was good. service so so. we would return.

Love this park! Beautiful bluff views of the river!

Did this last year but it was in the dry part of the season. Trail was easy to hike and a great starter for kids. There was a waterfall at the end of it but just trickling due to lack of rainfall so suggest just after a good rain. Easy access trails from the campsite and close to other trail heads. Over all ‘ relaxing’.

Go during the winter! Seeing the waterfall frozen over is amazing

road biking
22 days ago

Nice hike, rode bikes around lake on the roads also. Launched kayaks and paddled around the lake too. Camped at campground

For Illinois, this is about the best you can find for overnight backpacking trips. It is VERY hilly, the campsites are great as well. I went during winter, can't wait to go back during summer. About 3 hours from Chicago.

Gorgeous especially after a good rain! I thought we may never make it as fun as the kiddos were having playing in the creek on the way. Bluffs were gorgeous, too!

24 days ago

Visited this trail on a nice Sunday morning. Trail was nicely marked and cleared. Gave 3 stars because we weren't able to find the rock structures and there were constant gun shots towards where the rocks were so we turned around and left.

trail running
29 days ago

Remote, wilderness trail! Didn’t see another soul! Trail descends to the unique, spring-fed Hutchins Creek.

nice for as close to town as it is, easy to get to and not a bad hike unless the ground is soggy

Found a great cave on this trail

um hmmmm mother nature is a beautiful beast

1 month ago

it is a lovely place with wonderful views i give it the 4star for the average person a 3.5star for the more fit person would not recomend rainy season just cause of the valley's and a creek bed that you must cross

1 month ago

King Hollow Trail is a Forest Service trail that starts off the Godwin Trail. This is close to the river to river trail system. check this website out for detailed maps and information. http://rivertorivertrailhike.com/ No great scenery, but very quiet. Trail was in pretty good shape. But keep your map and compass handy as it isn't well marked. I didn't see anyone else on this trail. no water source till the end at the creek. I started on the east Godwin trail head and hiked west to the King Hollow trail. Hiked a mile east on King Hollow and camped off the side of the trail for the night. Hiked the rest of King Hollow in the morning. The end of King Hollow ends at one of the forks of Hutchins Creek. There is supposed to be another trail on the other side of the creek. I was trying to do a loop, but I couldn't the entrance, so instead of turning around, I bushwhacked and followed the Creek back down to the Godwin trail and hiked out. There is another trail that I ran into following the creek. It went along an old homestead, and you can see old farm machinery and an old car. I think most of these trails were abandoned roads from the 30's. Anyway there was a decent trail system in the two wilderness areas. I am going to make another trip down to explore the other trails i didn't hike on.

1 month ago

So pretty. Be prepared to cross the creek.

1 month ago

I have backpacked this trail in pretty all seasons, the best time I think is in the winter with snowshoes. But the great trail to try out new gear and prep for longer trails. I like to use it for testing out gear, the trail can be hiked in a day, however, you can hike it twice in a weekend.

The trail is not marked the best as some say it is, and most of the man-made structures like bridges, steps assists are pretty warned or just crap. Some parts of the trail are near private residents and they have several dogs that do roam and like to chase day hikers, backpackers. The trail starts out flat but half of it is up and down and side of the hills. If you have knee or foot problems probably better take it slow or go with a buddy.

Overall fun time and always an adventure. Except for the $10.00 for the permit. See ya'll out on the trail!

David "Hippie Hiker"

Amazing rock formations


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