Hiking in Southern Illinois for Great Outdoors Month

7 Best Hikes To Experience In Southern IllinoisMy family is fortunate to live in an area abundant in park lands and historical sites. Enjoying the great outdoors is something we look forward to and take advantage of frequently. Hiking is our favorite way to enjoy the natural wonders and historical symbols of our area. Hiking in the great outdoors is also provides excellent health benefits and a chance to create memories together.

Hiking in the Great Outdoors – Cave-In-Rock, Il

Overlooking the Ohio River and located in Hardin County, Cave-In-Rock offers beautiful vistas to visitors. Reaching the cave can be grueling as the only way is to climb a steep hill or take a seemingly unending stairway to the top of the hill and then descend the other side to enter the mouth of the cave. Once used as a hideout by outlaws and pirates, the cavern appeared in the film “How the West Was Won”. The surrounding park has two established hiking trails of moderate difficulty and numerous unmarked trails for exploring the forest. Boating, fishing, picnicking, camping and lodging are all available as well.

Hiking in the Great Outdoors – Fort Massac, Metropolis Il

We have stopped at Fort Massac many times, to hike, to watch reenactments and to just play at the fort itself. The site has passed through many hands including Native Americans, the French, the British and finally the United States in 1778. It was designated as Illinois’ first state park in 1908. The park contains a 1-mile Forest Watch Tree Identification Trail and a 2.5 mile Hickory Nut Ridge Trail that follows the Ohio River. Picnicking, boating, fishing, camping and hunting, in season, are available at the park. Special events are held throughout the year including several living history weekends. The park provides a visitor center as well.

Hiking in the Great Outdoors – Pounds Hollow/Rim Rock

Developed as part of the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, the two parks share an adjoining trail, Beaver Trail, which is 7.5 miles long if you continue past Pounds Hollow and follow it through Karber’s Ridge and into Camp Cadiz. We prefer to start at Rim Rock, the site of ruins from a suspected Indian stone fortification, passing through the “hollows” and stop at the Pounds Hollow Lake and recreation area. There we picnic and swim to cool off before hiking back to the car. The serenity of the area and usual lack of a crowd gives us the sense of another time. The parks are open year round and camping is also available.

Hiking in the Great Outdoors – Garden of the Gods

Ancient rock formations grace 3300 acres of the Shawnee National Forest in Hardin County. Several trails allow hikers to wonder at the natural beauty and breathtaking views. We have stopped many times to enjoy the shortest of the trails, the Observation Trail. Only .25 mile long, it takes at least 45 minutes to take in the sites and geological markers along the way. Camel Rock, Monkey Face and Devil’s Smokestack are favorite rock formations of ours. Other trails include the 1.7 mile Indian Point Overlook loop and the River-to-River Trail that begins at Battery Rock on the Ohio River, passes through Garden of the Gods and ends 146 miles later at Devil’s Backbone Park on the Mississippi. Picnicking and camping are available at the park which is open year round.

Hiking in the Great Outdoors – Iron Furnace

Built in 1837, the Iron Furnace is the only remaining furnace in Illinois. Used to produce pig iron for ironclad ships, the furnace fell into disuse in 1861. A great temptation for kids as the rock faces dare them to climb but climbing is strictly prohibited. From the picnic area you can follow a .9 mile trail which follows the scenic Big Creek and passes several fishing holes. Often secluded, it is a wonderful place to picnic and enjoy the tranquility of nature. The park is open year round and is in Hardin County.

My family loves to hike and we indulge every chance we get to be in the great outdoors. If you have the opportunity to hike in the southern Illinois region, I hope you’ll spend some time in some of my family’s favorite outdoor spots. For pictures of the place mentioned in this article, please see my slide show here.

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