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.
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
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.
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.Trail Ethics:
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
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.
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.