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.

We hiked down the the falls in the shorter loop next to the road. Beautiful scenery, falls weren't too impressive, more of a trickle in early June despite the rain a few days earlier, but we expected that. The trails are not well marked, you need to either know the area or bring a GPS! We used this app (AllTrails) and were exceptionally glad we did or we would have gone in the wrong direction more than once. There is a faster way to get down to the falls than going all the way around to Helispot, and we took this way back up to our car. I suggest if you want to get to the bottom quickly, you do the following: (1) drive past the parking area/trailhead and park on the side of the road about half a mile down, coordinates 37.505523, -88.681285 (caution, road is pretty bumpy but can be managed) (2) hike down from the road approx 100ft to the trail and go left, (3) pass over a wooden bridge, (4) at GPS coordinates 37.504375, -88.681905 clamber down the boulder trail to the bottom of the bluff (there is a red emergency/first-aid staion @ the bottom). It may look impossible at first glance which is how we missed it, but it is not hard if you are physically able and saves you from having to walk over a mile further. (4) go northwest about a quarter mile, stay right along the bottom of the bluffs until you get to the falls. We learned of this way from a very kind older gentleman who was camping overnight @ the bottom of the falls.

Nice easy trail with great views and rock formations. Worth a look if in the area.

I took my 4 year old in early spring. We loved it! Climbing down the creek bed is difficult so take your time. Beautiful views once you get down the the bottom. Overall nice trail to bring young children or fur babies.

Not surprising that this is a big draw for visitors, beautiful vistas for very little work! Fun scrambling on the rocks, good late afternoon cap on a day of more intense hiking.

Did it twice, once in each direction! Not too buggy, rocks are (not surprisingly) slick in the shade but easy enough to keep your feet dry.

Beautiful area to explore. Definitely bigger than I was expecting! You’re welcome to climb on the rocks as much as you want which added for extra entertainment. Could’ve spent hours just sitting and taking in the view

hiking
25 days ago

The trail itself is a little bit boring and nowhere near hard. I know the trail is rated as hard, but it is easy to moderate at its best. I would have given it 5 stars if there would have been water in the river. It was very dry so it wasn’t so beautiful. 3 stars isn’t really what I wanted either, but it won’t allow me to do 3,5. If you are afraid of spiders, now is not the time to hike this trail as there are spiderwebs all over the place. I almost turned around after constantly getting webs in my face. I eventually walked with a stick to destroy all the webs. I went off trail at one point to walk along the dry riverbed and to do some rock climbing. That made it much more exiting. I combined this trail with the natural bridge and the white trail. 5 miles in total.

Loved our mid-summer hike. Was steeper and more difficult than we expected but are definitely going back in the fall. It’s amazing that this beautiful area is tucked away here in the Midwest. Wear good hikers and bug spray for the valleys.

hiking
28 days ago

The trail is a great way to see the beautiful canyon! Some of the creek bed can be rather steep and slippery so be sure to wear the appropriate footwear. Once you descend into the canyon the mosquitoes do get a little bit bothersome so remember the bug spray.

Always a great trail.

This place is beautiful. They do a great job managing for removal of invasive plants.

The trails get flooded in Spring and after rains. Mosquitoes can be intense especially near sections of the river.

There are historic settler cabins on the site.

Terrain is mostly flat with well maintained trails so it’s an easier hike.

In Autumn the sugar maples paint the sky yellow. In Spring the doing ephemeral paint the ground with varying waves of color.

Absolutely amazing views!

hiking
29 days ago

This trail would’ve been fantastic if there wasn’t a spider web every 5 feet we had to go through!!

Trail surface: grass and mud, have had a lot of rain this year. Bugs: we did the three mile Outer Loop and almost turned back due to swarms of mosquitoes, also found ticks on me and my husband when we got home. Scenery: Really beautiful, but not much variation, wooded areas, grassy areas, wood bridges and river. Elevation gain: even though map claims some elevation feels essential flat. Amenities: Visitor Center very nice, restrooms very clean, staff very friendly, drinking fountain outside building, ample parking. Overall a lovely hike but mosquitoes a huge problem.

What a great app indispensable out in the Shawnee. Simply pick a trail and it links up with googl to get you there!

Hate to ever give a bad rating, but this place is a mosquito pit. Wanted to run 4-5 miles but cut it short due to the bugs.

hiking
1 month ago

This a spectacular trail that starts off with an easy rock path that doesn’t have that trail feel. Just wait, it gets better! Nice ridge paths and you have to climb up and down some pretty slippery river beds. Beware if you bring a dog, make sure you can lift them. Some parts of path they will need help. When you get in the canyon, be prepared, bring some good mosquito spray.
There is a nice mix of gravel, dirt with a dash of mud and sandstone. Great for all ages. Kids would love this trail. To things to remember, water and keep kids on trail. Copperheads and rattlesnakes are off trail and can be aggressive. Enjoy!!

Pretty rock formations in the canyon , but wayyy toooi many trees blocking paths.

anyone planning on hiking the entire trail in one trip? I really would like to do it but I don't really want to go at it by myself,and if anyone has already done it I'll take some pointers on where I can resupply on food and whatnot along the way. thanks!

My favorite trail in the Shawnee National forest. Beautiful views at the overlook. Don't be afraid to venture past the posts at the overlook and climb down onto the bluff. It is a view that is difficult to beat. Once you follow the trail down into the bottoms the atmosphere of the trail changes but is just as beautiful as the upper area. Certain parts of the decent are very mossy and slippery. Many people bring dogs to the trail but be aware that there are certain areas where you will have to lift your dog. Bug spray is a must especially during the summer season. Many ticks after most visits. Coming after a rain will provide flowing water views and some slight water crossings.
The ascent of the trail is exhausting. The views are completely worth it but be sure to pack lots of water.
The best time I have had on this trail is in the late fall when the leaves are beginning to fall. More opportunities for visibility

This trail was spectacular! Well marked and great scenic views. Although, you have to hike the full loop to enjoy the views but it is worth it.

Beautiful scenery!

Never disappointed! Beautiful!

This was a very beautiful hike, although one that has some issues. I believe it's closer to the 12 miles that the entrance signs say versus the 10.7.

We took two dogs with us, and if you are going to do this make sure they have plenty of tick repellant. Ticks are very bad this year and we picked at least 150 off of each dog, and that's not an exaggeration. Make sure you have your own repellant too, as we found a ton on ourselves.

The terrain on this trail is back and forth. A lot of gravel, mud, rock, and road. Make sure you have very good hiking shoes. Your feet will thank you for it. It is also a lot of unnecessary up hill and woodsy treks ...this will probably make you angry as it did us because the trail would take you through the woods for a second just to put you in the same field later on. Be prepared to question a lot. I would not recommend going a day after it rains (which is what we did), give the trail time to harden back up, otherwise expect a ton of mud.

The trail has very good markers in some places and very poor marking in others. I think we back tracked at least 5 times because we lost track of the markers. Pulled up the map a few times as well. Just don't lose sight of them... They are also down in a few places where trees have fell.

If you like trails that have a lot of creek bed action, this is one for you. It is very beautiful. I think all in all it took us about 7 hours with two dogs and multiple stops of about 10-20 minutes each. A lot of nice little areas to stop off and eat your packed lunch as well. Pack extra water, you are gonna need it.

This has been my absolute favorite thus far. We started by going left out of the parking lot and walked a gravel trail for a while, thinking that was all the trail was. We arrived at a scenic outpost and, had we stopped there, I can say it would have been a disappointment given how highly this trail is rated. The best, it turns out, was yet to come. From the outlook you hit a few cross backs that take you down in to a ravine where you climb down some rocks to get to the basin below. This was beautiful and moderately challenging, on rainy or wet days it would be difficult, and if you plan on bringing small children or pets you should know that you WILL have to lift them or carry them during some parts of this trail. Ya worth it, however, and the bottoms are pretty in their own right. Once you come to the end of the basin and it’s time to climb out the other side, there is a long stretch of rocks you climb up. There are hand and footholds to help that are placed at just the right places to help out. We took to climbing these with some speed and, at the top, we were both happy to sit for a minute and catch our breath. Once you are on top of the rock area, you’re not done. The rest of the trail is almost all an elevation climb and, by the time you reach the parking lot, you’re gassed. This trail was a great assortment of all the good stuff that I thoroughly enjoyed. I will be bringing my girls next time so they can experience it!

hiking
2 months ago

I enjoyed hiking this trail it offered some challenges due to the slippery rocks and stream crossings. It started out easy enough until you come to the first stream crossing and the rocks. It was somewhat a task to get back up to the trail. Good traction shoes are a must here. The trail than get obscured a little after the stream crossing and one can find themselves gone astray from the trail, that happened to me. I found the trail again and the rest of the hike was no issue.

Traveled from Tennessee just to see it and it didn’t disappoint. Just wish it was a little longer. Absolutely beautiful!!

Wish we could have found where to descend from the upper rim trail. We enjoy the hike but wished we could have gotten to the falls.

The rock formations were really cool. We had fun climbing on all the rocks. Views were amazing!

A lot of fun, if a bit slippery in some parts. Took my 7 year old son and he had a blast.

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