What are the Best Hiking Trails Nearby in Southern Illinois?

Are you looking for the best hiking trails nearby where you live?

This is a list of some of the best hiking trails in the area of five different communities spread across the southern Illinois region. Surely, you’ll be able to find a trail close to you.

These trails are broken down into easy, moderate, and overnight backpacking.


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Best Hiking Trails Nearby Carbondale

Carbondale is home to some of the most diverse dining in the region. It’s where Southern Illinois University was born. It’s one of the most productive cities in the southern Illinois region. Here are a few of the best hiking trails nearby in Carbondale, Illinois.


Easy Hiking Trails

The Green Earth hiking trail system throughout Carbondale is ideal for easy hiking not too far from home. There are several trails, most being loops consisting of about one mile. They’re easy to follow, with signage, and free to explore. These trails are great for all types of hikers of all ages.

Giant City State Park offers various easy hiking trails for hikers of all ages and difficulties. The easier trails include Post Oak, ADA-compliant, Stone Fort, and the Nature Trail. Visit the Welcome Center for information about the easier trails to hike.


Moderate Hiking Trails

Little Grand Canyon is a loop of about two miles in length. You will be hiking through rolling hills and a waterfall cascade. It isn’t advised to go during heavier rain or winter precipitation as it will be dangerous at that point.

Rocky Bluff is a moderately rugged trail located within the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge. You’ll need a vehicle sticker to drive to the trail. The trail is a short loop with a lot to see. There are some rolling hills, rocky terrain, and creek crossings.


Overnight Hiking Trails

Panther Den Wilderness is a good place to go backpacking and overnight camping. You should use a map to keep you on the trails. All Trails offers a map but requires you to subscribe to get the offline map. Panther Den is free to camp in.

Cove Hollow is another great hiking trail for overnight backpacking. The Forest Service asks that you not camp around natural shelters, on the trail, or by the lake shore. Camping is free. The trail is nice when wet as there are numerous waterfalls present.

Best Hiking Trails Nearby Dutchman Lake

Best Hiking Trails Near Marion

Marion has many different forms of entertainment to enjoy. There is a Thrillbillies stadium, parks, and tons of shopping destinations. But there aren’t really any good trails within the city. Luckily there are trails close to Marion and better ones not too far away. Let’s review the best hiking trails nearby to Marion, Illinois.


Easy Hiking Trails

Harmony Trail is in the Marion area at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge. You must have a vehicle sticker to drive to and park at the trailhead. It is a loop trail that is very easy to hike. You’ll see pretty views of the area, old homesites, and a diverse forested area.

Ferne Clyffe is south of Marion. Numerous trails within the State Park are easy to hike. A few of these trails include the Lake Loop, Big Rocky Hollow, and Hawk’s Cave Trail.


Moderate Hiking Trails

Bell Smith Springs isn’t too far from Marion. It offers a few moderately difficult hikes with a lot to see. There are also quite a few swimming holes, too. Just be warned that the place gets very busy on the weekends during the summer months.

Tunnel Hill is a foot and cycling trail not too far away from Marion. There are about 50+ miles of trail. You hike it. You can run it. And you can bike it. There are numerous trestles to cross and a 500+ foot old train tunnel that you go right through. It’s the very place that got me into cycling. I go a few times a week.


Overnight Hiking Trails

Burden Falls Wilderness is close to Marion. It has numerous trails within it. The waterfall at the trail is one of the largest in the Shawnee National Forest. Since the area is wilderness, you are free to camp within it.

Jackson Falls is another great area for overnight backpacking. The area is considered abandoned, so you can camp anywhere you want within it. There are numerous trails and waterfalls. It’s a mecca for rock climbers and bouldering folks.


Best Hiking Trails Near Metropolis

Metropolis is not just the Home of Superman, and it’s also where the state’s first state park was created. It’s a quiet little Ohio River town with quite a few trails nearby. Check out some of the best hiking trails near Metropolis, Illinois.


Easy Hiking Trails

Heron Pond is right up the road from Metropolis. This place will take you back to when most of southern Illinois was covered in swampland. It feels like you’re in the Louisiana Bayou, but it’s natural and what the area once looked like. Just bring plenty of bug spray! There are mosquitoes there that could probably carry you off.

Fort Massac Bike Trail is another easy hiking, running, or bike trail. The best way to start is at Strawberry Road near Brookport. The bridge within the Fort is currently out of order, and repairs need to be made to it to make it safe. You can also walk around the roads of the park.


Moderate Hiking Trails

Dixon Springs State Park is a great state park with many great moderate trails. Ghost Dance Canyon is great when it rains for a few days. Bluff Trail and the others are also great for hiking and mountain biking. I mountain bike at Dixon at least once a week.

Dutchman Lake has a great system of trails. Most of them lead to either a really cool cave shelter or a really nice waterfall. It’s also a mushroom-hunting paradise. There were so many mushrooms there that I didn’t even mind one bit giving it away. It’s a great spot full of all sorts of hidden gems.


Overnight Hiking Trails

Lusk Creek is close to Metropolis. It’s a wilderness area full of hiking trails, horseback riding trails, and the wild and scenic Lusk Creek that some people even kayak when it’s high and full of rapids. Since it’s a wilderness area, you can camp for free.

One Horse Gap is another area that is full of different trails. There are also a lot of forest service roads throughout the area. You could hike it or even bike it if you wanted to. Any forest service road that is open to a vehicle is also open to bicycles. There is ample opportunity to bike in the One Horse Gap areas.


Best Hiking Trails Near Harrisburg

Harrisburg is often described as the gateway to the Shawnee National Forest. It’s also where Mason Ramsey (Yodel Boy) got famous. And the largest Kentucky Fried Chicken in the world was there. They built a new one, and I’m unsure if it’s still the biggest. Let’s see some of the best hiking trails nearby Harrisburg, Illinois.


Easy Hiking Trails

Garden of the Gods Observation Trail is one of the easiest trails in the Shawnee. It’s also one of the most visited trails in the Shawnee. It’s amazing, and if you’ve never seen it, you’re missing out on something pretty magical. But expect a lot of people on the trail when it’s nice out.

Rim Rock National Recreation Trail is easy and has it all. There is an ancient Stonefort made by Native Americans. There are bluffs, a shelter cave, a natural spring, and a short hike to a beach that you can swim in. It’s another trail that you should visit if you’ve never been.


Moderate Hiking Trails

Stoneface is a shorter moderate trail not too far from Harrisburg. There is a rock formation that looks like a face on it. You can also get to some amazing scenic overlooks along the trail. There is a lot to see. The trail is out and back, not a loop.

High Knob is a great trail not too far from Harrisburg. It is a loop trail with a lot to see along the hike. There are cave-like areas, old CCC stuff left behind, and really interesting rock formations and shelters. The nearby River to River Trail also leads you to some interesting old cabins.


Overnight Hiking Trails

Garden of the Gods Wilderness is a great option for overnight hiking and camping. There is a lot to see in the wilderness. You can do an easier wilderness backpacking trip along Indian Point or go into the main wilderness area past Anvil Rock and backpacking camp in the more rugged backcountry.

Golden Circle is near the Garden of the Gods. It will take you to Mushroom Rock, Buzzards Roost, and Whiskey Cave. There are numerous spots where you could camp out along the trails. Some areas are forest service roads, so you could bikepack if you wanted to.


That sums up the best hiking trails nearby a few different areas in the southern Illinois region. I hope this article has helped you pick a great place to go hiking. If it has, why not support me by buying me a pizza? You should also subscribe to my free monthly newsletter for more information about local hiking and outdoor recreation in southern Illinois.

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Thanks again for checking out another one of my articles and until next time, I’ll see you on the trail!

Shawn Gossman

Shawn Gossman

Founder, Hiking with Shawn

Howdy folks! My name is Shawn Gossman and I founded Hiking with Shawn. I’m an avid hiker, cyclist and outdoorsman here in the Shawnee National Forest. I was born and raised in Southern Illinois and never want to leave. Click here to learn more about Shawn Gossman

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