Some of the most invigorating and peaceful times of your life can be spent hiking the trails of Southern Illinois. The Resort is a central location to all of these amazing hiking possibilities. Set out each morning of your stay for one of these new and inspiring destinations.
Garden Of The Gods More than 320 million years ago, the wind and rain patiently started to chisel away at large deposits of sedimentary rock located in what is now, Shawnee National Forest . Over the years, the elements have sculpted some of the most stunning and extraordinary rock formations known to man. This garden of sandstone sculptures and vast untouched wilderness was fittingly named Garden of the Gods.
Little Grand Canyon Forget what you’ve heard about Illinois being nothing but flat prairie land. Tucked away along southern Illinois’ scenic Wine Trail, the Little Grand Canyon offers a 365 foot climb from the canyon floor and a panoramic view of the Big Muddy River and the Mississippi floodplain.
Dixon Springs The main trail at Dixon Springs State Park has a split personality. It starts off as Pine Tree Trail, changes into Oak Tree Trail, and finally calls itself Bluff Trail. It doesn’t take a Rhodes scholar to figure out what hikers pass through on this route, but you should know it’s geared for folks with intermediate trail experience. Mosquitos and ticks can be bothersome here, but it’s nothing a little diligence can’t handle. The many, many wildflowers and the late-October leaf display are what you’ll come back for.
Piney Creek Ravine Piney Creek Ravine’s secretive canyons hide the biggest display of prehistoric petroglyphs and pictographs in Illinois. When you descend into the enchanting canyons at Piney Creek, you’ll be awed by the natural beauty that inspired the ancients’ creativity. Piney Creek Nature Preserve is a captivating and bewitching place. Nature’s beauty abounds in the preserve. Impressive rock walls tower above clear streams that flow noisily over ledges and drift quietly through deep pools.
Cache River Natural Area Located south of Vienna in Johnson County is the Cache River State Natural Area. Cypress trees up to 1000 years old and Water Tupelo trees dominate the marshy areas along the Cache River; bird life and plant life also in abundance.
Ferne Clyffe A splashing waterfall, intermittent and majestic at 80 feet high, is one of the soul-refreshing sights encountered at Ferne Clyff State Park. To view it at its best, take either the easy Big Rocky Hollow Trail at 1 mile or the moderately difficult Waterfall Trail at 0.75 mile. Because Ferne Clyffe is known for its unusual rock formations, it’s nice to know some of the more impressive ones can be seen from the park’s 10 trails. HawksCave Trail, an easy 1-mile hike, goes past a shelter bluff, which is the largest in southern Illinois. Those with more experience might want to attempt the mile-long Round Bluff Nature Preserve Trail. Equestrians use some of the 15 miles of hiking byways, but you’re welcome to hoof it along with them.
Giant City It makes sense that a beautifully rugged place like Giant City State Park would have a few rugged trails, but how does more than 20 miles sound? The granddaddy of them all is Red Cedar Hiking Trail, clocking in at 16 miles. Several shorter trails, such as the mile-long Giant City Nature Trail, are great to hike when your time is limited. Trillium Trail, 2-miles-long, is a self-guiding nature hike with the spotlight on wildflowers. A blacktopped surface makes the Post Oak Nature Trail wheelchair accessible, and at one-third mile, seniors like it, too. Geology buffs love the bluffs, carved by nature from Makanda sandstone and towering up to 100 feet above the forest floor.
Lake Murphysboro Is there anything as stunning as a mature forest reflected in a quiet lake? Whether you hike during the green of spring and summer or in the gold of autumn, Lake Murphysboro is a beautiful setting. The park’s only trail, Walk-away, starts at the campgrounds and stretches in a northwesterly direction for 3.5 miles. The trail is classed as a moderate, with one stairway having 50 or so steps. Watch for shore birds, like sandpipers and wood ducks, along a short section of the trail and enjoy the wealth of plant and animal life that characterizes the whole of Lake Murphysboro.
Mermet Lake Two interpretive nature trails are tucked into the waterfowl refuge known as Mermet Lake. The Mermet Swamp Trail is a half-mile in length, and a brochure accompanies the Mermet Faltwoods Trail, which is 1 mile long. Both trails are easy enough for family hikers to tackle. Fifteen trees are identified on each trail, and many types of waterfowl can be seen along the way. Eagles have been known to nest in the area in the fall. Because both trails are in a waterfowl area, they are closed during fall hunting season. Herpephobes should watch their step snakes just love swampy areas like this.
Pyramid With its large Canada goose and beaver populations, Pyramid State Park is a natural for wildlife enthusiasts. The park features a long, interconnected system of trails for both hiking and equestrian use. A portion of the 16.5-mile system is called Rugged 10-Mile Trail, but before you think you need to be a tri-athlete to attempt it, you should know it got its name for its length rather than its severity. It’s actually rather moderate. Keep in mind trails are closed during firearm deer season. Trails are closed to equestrian and biking use October 15, April 15 each year. Pyramid’s forested hills and scenic lakes may leave you doubting this is a reclaimed strip mine area. Once you take to the trails, you’ll know why this is such a popular place.
Saline County Rugged and rocky hills bordering the Shawnee National Forest make for difficult hiking in Saline County State Conservation Area, exactly what many people want. Try Lake Trail at 3 miles, River Trail at 1 mile, or self-guiding Wildlife Nature Trail at 0.75 mile. The first fourth-of-a-mile of Cave Hill Trail is on state property before it leads onto US Forest Service property for the next 10 miles. Your travels here take you lakeside among the woods, including a walk through an extremely old stand of white oaks on the lake’s west side. Your trek on River Trail starts on a forested hill and ends 200 feet lower on the Saline River.
Trail of Tears Surrounded by the Shawnee National Forest, Trail of Tears State Forest is Eden to many a hiker. Ninety percent of the area is mature hardwood forest, offering spectacular fall color and a gold mine of natural treasures. Nearly 5 miles of trails guide the intermediate hiker through a rugged series of ridges. Horse trails and fire lanes offer hikers almost inexhaustible challenges. Watch where you step – venomous snakes, including rattlers and copperheads, inhabit the area. Take note of the 1930-era shelters and other structures found throughout the forest.
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