Explore the most popular rock climbing 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.

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

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.

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.

We have been to Millstone Bluffs twice. The kids really enjoy seeing the petroglyphs. This is a very easy hike/ walk. Definitely take the time to stop if you’re close by!

5 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)!

trail running
7 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.

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.

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.

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!!!!!!!!

Definitely harder than I anticipated!

Was a great hike, this year was the first time I hiked it during winter. Personally I enjoyed this trail better during this time period. The frozen waterfalls off the bluffs, and being able to see more exposed rock face. You just don’t get that when the leaves are on in the warmer months just made it for me. Highly recommend.

um hmmmm mother nature is a beautiful beast

I'm hesitant to write a review, as the trail is getting trashed from over-use, but this really was an excellent hike. I took my 5 year old daughter and she loved it. It was the first trail she's hiked without being carried once, and we completed the whole 3 mile loop in 4 hours. (That should give you a good measure of the difficulty). Right now the trail has a lot of icy spots, so I would recommend bringing a walking stick or trekking poles to help with balance on the canyon descent and ascent. Please practice good trail ethics. Pick up after your dog, don't leave trash, don't pee in the middle of the trail and leave your toilet paper marking where you peed, and be mindful of the effect your boots are having on the trail when wet. Leave no trace.

At times as you proceed down the trail in the wet, rocky canyon, it is so steep that it looks impossible. However, the next step and handhold seem to appear at the last moment. I wouldn’t want to do the trail if it was raining.

It was a great trail a little hard because of the ice in the way of where you had to climb. I would definitely take a hiking buddy with me.

The snow and ice were melting making the trail very soggy today but it's a lovely hike.

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

Great trail and dog friendly!

3 months ago

Using this as a neutral rating as the trail was closed on 12/2/2017. Hopefully it will re-open soon. Was looking forward to a nice day hike.

This is a great trail for beginners. For the most part it was well marked. It was perfect for a fall hike. I think it would be more difficult in the spring/summer.

Absolutely beautiful

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.

I wouldn’t say this trail is “hard” maybe moderate. Nonetheless still one of my favorite trails to hike. Be extremely carefully when going through the canyon as it can get very slippery. There are cut out steps but can be hard to see at times. Trail is very well marked and normally pretty easy to find if you head off. There is another waterfall off the trail about a quarter mile from the base of the canyon, but I’ll leave it to you to find it.

This trail was well marked with red circles and hiking in the fall is the perfect time! I would totally recommend this as a great two day hike for anyone that enjoys different scenery every step you go. It was a hiking challenge but nothing dangerous and safe for children which is what I wanted.

4 months ago

Nice trail to hike, especially for a beginner backpacker. Not too much of a distance and the campsite is almost in the middle. There is a decent amount of elevation climb. I did this hike twice and I personally prefer going counter clockwise. Campground has picnic tables and firepits. Camping with a hammock can be difficult, but is doable.

Nice trail. Good workout. There are a couple of places where you have to climb down into the canyon through the creek bed. It can be slippery and difficult when the creek is flowing. We went after a couple weeks with no rain which made it less slippery. Must have good footwear for this trail. Beautiful trail, but I understand why it is rated as difficult.

Most areas are easily accessible to all. This short trail rewards with amazing views that are some of the best in the midwest.

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