River to River Trail

 River to River Trail Over View

One horse gap Bluff River to River trail in Illinois
Whether you’re experiencing southern Illinois for the first time or have loved this area for years, there are many surprises along the River to River trail in Illinois for you to discover . If you want to truly experience the Shawnee National Forest and Southern Illinois then the  River to River Trail in Illinois is for you. 
  The River to River Trail spans 160 miles of Illinois from Battery Rock on the Ohio River to Devil’s Backbone Park in Grand Tower Illinois on the Mississippi River. The  River to River trail is part of the American Discovery Trail that extends coast to coast  from Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware to Point Reyes National Seashore in California  and  spans more than 5,000 miles.
Trail Highlights

    The River to River Trail passes through some of the most scenic areas in the country with a combination of plains, bayous,  bluffs and upland forests.  It crosses five of the seven Shawnee National Forest Wilderness Areas, as well as designated natural areas, Giant City State Park, Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge, Ferne Clyffe State Park, historic landmarks and Devil’s  Backbone Park.  Enjoy numerous tranquil settings, such as the sleepy waters of Cedar Lake,  vast scenic overlooks of Garden of the Gods or a painted sky at sunset.  
  The trail passes many wonderous natural features, such as Camel Rock, Battery Rock, the One Horse Gap and small, seasonal waterfalls.   Peaceful little towns like Alto Pass, Herod Illinois and Rock Creek remind you of how things used to be.  Trail visitors will encounter many challenges and experiences from crossing river levee roads, to riding through rugged wilderness terrain, to viewing scenic rock bluffs, to visiting small, quaint towns to crossing rippling waters of the rocky creeks on the River to river Trail in Illinois.   

 Approxmently 160 miles  Travel Time:  Approximately 2 to 3 weeks  
Surface Type:  Dirt, pavement, rock, gravel and grass
Difficulty Level: Easy – Difficult 

Recommended Season: 
 All year.  Summer brings usual midwest insects, cobwebs and extreme heat and humidity.  The average daytime winter temperatures will be in the 40’s which is good hiking and riding weather along the River to River Trail. Nights can drop into the single digits or below.
 There are many points of access along the  River to River trail. The Ohio River trailhead is located at Battery Rock in Illinois: from Highway 1 turn east on Lambs Rd.  Approximately 1 mile past the point when the road pavement changes to gravel there is a small trailhead parking lot. There is a trail entrance at Garden of the Gods in Illinois with over Night parking and a small gravel parking lot.  The Mississippi River trailhead is located in Devil’s Backbone Park:  From Highway 3 turn west towards Grand Tower Illinois and follow signs to the park entrance.

Garden of the gods in Illinois
Trail Ethics:
 Pack it In, Pack it Out.  Respect other trail users, wildlife encountered and adjacent private landowners.  Leave the natural and historic features for others to enjoy. 
  Horse riders are prohibited in natural areas. Natural area boundaries are marked with a painted yellow  oak leaf on the trees or National Forest Natural Area signs 
Wildlife Viewing: 
the River to River Trail in Southern Illinois is home to many diverse ecosystems because it is at the junction  of  North American southern/northern and  eastern/western ecosystems.   This overlapping  of ecosystems provides habitat to many wildlife species,  such as the bald eagle, river otter, wild turkey, coyote and bobcat.  A birder’s paradise, it’s riverways,  bottom lands and forests support a multitude of  both resident and  migratory birds, such as the great blue heron,  bluewinged teal, great egret, Mississippi kite, red-shouldered hawk and yellow warbler.  Through adaptation some unlikely species like the ancient cypress swamps, mosses and lichen have survived from the ice age.   
Surrounding Area:
Sites that are within driving distance of the trail include Garden of the Gods Recreation Area,  Bell  Smith Springs Recreation Area, Millstone Bluff Archaeological Site, Trigg Tower, Little Grand Canyon, Cedar Lake, Rim Rock National Recreation Trail and Lusk Creek Canyon Natural Area. 
 Although the River to River trail in Illinois is well marked, use of  a river to river trail map and  compass to navigate your way is recommended.  There are three types of poisonous snakes timber rattler, cotton mouth or water moccasin and copper head and all can be deadly.  Remember to step on top of logs not over, look before sitting or stepping and don't reach into holes or small caves or anywhere you cant see .  Poison ivy and sumac flourish in various areas Remember leaves of three leave it be.  Extra caution should be used while hiking/riding and crossing roads and streams along the River to River trail. Bring a first aid kit. Let someone know where you are going and your expected time of return from your Southern Illinois adventure. Some areas of the River to River trail have no cell phone coverage so you truly are on your own.  
Trail Markings: 
(blue i)