Explore the most popular river 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.

Love this trail

First, this is a horse trail. Watch where you step! Also be aware and give them a wide berth. If you’re good with that, this is a fun short hike.

Several larger ponds and lots of woods make this a scenic hike. Tons of wildlife here and if you walk back into the woods a little, sit down on a log, and be still, you’ll be rewarded with an abundance of animal activity.

I wouldn’t come here after rain as it would quite muddy. It opens early, so if you like a sunrise hike, this is a great place. Don’t leave anything of value in your car. Parking is secluded and not great and signs warn of keeping your valuables with you. That said, I wouldn’t avoid this place due to safety. It’s really nice!

Great place to fish. Clean lakes and a great museum

I love all the dirt trails.

Paved path great for walking a dog or biking. Not much traffic which makes it a nice getaway for an afternoon. Saw quite a few deer, too.

Amazing trail. It is difficult, but definitely worth it.

4 days ago

This park and it's trails have always been a favorite of mine since the late '70's. The view at the top of the ridge is beautiful looking over both the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. Unfortunately, I'm disappointed that the trails have not been kept up from the much erosion over the years, so there are deep ruts and the trail can be muddy and slippery after rain. Despite the eroding trails, I will continue to return for the wooded beauty and scenic views. In the meantime, hopefully, the State of Illinois will address their much deteriorated situations and keep their parks open.

Don't underestimate it. Starts off easy, then gets much more difficult. We picked a good day for this trail, but it would have been a lot harder if it was rainy or icy.

4 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)!

Beautiful all year round!

It’s great except there are barely any trash cans along the way. So if your dog poops and you’re a decent human who picks it up, you’ll be carrying that poo bag with you on your journey for quite a while.

trail running
6 days ago

Great challenge!! It was a little difficult to follow the white diamonds to reach the other side once you got down into the canyon, but other than that it was a wonderful workout and a lovely hike.

6 days ago

Great trail for kids and pets. Flat paved trails near the river and moderate dirt trails up to the bird sanctuary. Bird sanctuary is worth the trip. Lots to explore!

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.

11 days ago

Nice hike up a drainage following a small creek.

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.

13 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.

Nice park. Great signage all of the trails are labeled. There are different trails you can do and numerous scenic look out points. Also a scenic drive if you want to go back to the top to take some photos or watch the sun set.

The trail was in great shape. Markings are very easy to see and there are plenty of them. If you are doing the full loop you want to take Dogwood (it splits, left is neat), then it turns into Ridge, then Hickory, then Hickory North, then be sure to peel off left to Fern Hollow, cross the road and continue. Then Hickory South. The last mile marker you will see is 5miles. Roughly 5.5 mile loop.

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!

Definitely harder than I anticipated!

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. We did encounter a group with 6 off leash dogs.

20 days ago

Hiked this loop multiple times, gone a couple of different routes. Favorite time so far was during a fresh snowfall and we were the first ones on the trail.

Love this park! Beautiful bluff views of the river!

Marked well and well maintained. Great views at the top.

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

Short and sweet. Beautiful formation

It's a nice, easy stroll. The bluffs are all at one end of the trail so depending on the direction you go, you're either waiting to see bluffs or wondering if you'll see any more bluffs.

Fun hike, can be challenging to stay dry in the dells if your worried about staying dry.... I try to avoid it on the weekends as it can get packed full of people in the summer. Winter time is nice just don't forget your snow/ice cleats. One of the few good hiking spots within 60 miles of the metro area.

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