Dixon Springs State Park is an amazing Illinois State Park.
If you’ve never been, you’re missing out. Save this guide for a future visit!
If you’ve been and had issues finding things in the park – you’ll appreciate this free guide.
Dixon Springs State Park is a lovely little hidden gem around the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois.
It also features a rich history! Of course, the area was inhabited by Native Americans before European settlers arrived. The Trail of Tears comes through this area nearby.
According to historical references, Dixon Springs was named after one of the first settlers in the area, William Dixon. At one time, a small community was located within Dixon Springs that included a few churches, shops, and homesteads. A few churches have been recently demolished due to safety concerns and a lack of funding to restore them.
At one point, Dixon Springs was a health resort, and its seven natural springs provided spas for resort visitors. Some of the springs can still be found but are all covered for safety.
The area is an Illinois-designated State Park enjoyed by locals and visitors all year round.
How to get to Dixon Springs State Park
Getting to Dixon Springs is easy. However, there are many gas stations in the park, so be sure to fill them up before venturing over to the park.
Here is a Google Map Page showing the location of the park entrance. You can put your starting point in the directions feature of the map to get an accurate directional route to the park.
Here is a Google Map Page for the Ghost Dance Canyon Trail and the Swimming Pool.
Here is a Google Map Page for the Mountain Bike Trail System and Tent Campground.
Here is a Google Map Page for the Main Campground (RV and Campers).
Here is a Google Map Page for the Dam-Spillway Waterfall.
All roads leading to Dixon Springs State Park and the park are paved. All vehicles should be able to be used to reach this state park. Cyclists may also get to this park but are advised to ride cautiously and share the road with others.
During wintry conditions, the inner roads of the park may not be treated. Rural highways to the park may not be treated as quickly as others.
Check out the Park’s Official Website for closure information that may occur during public health emergencies or other disturbances. It would be best if you always tried to have a Plan B when visiting these areas.
What to do at Dixon Springs State Park
There is much to do at Dixon Springs for the park’s small size.
Many people might drive through the park and assume there isn’t much to do.
This isn’t the case.
The park is poorly signed, which often gives people the assumption that there aren’t any suitable activities available. The poor signage is due to a lack of funding, and it is not the park’s fault or their employee’s. Please get in touch with your elected officials and ask them to get more funding for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to help make southern Illinois better.
Luckily for you, I live down the road from this park and will gladly show you around this article, so be sure to bookmark it for future use.
Hiking and Mountain Biking Trails
There are many hiking and mountain biking opportunities within Dixon Springs State Park.
The Ghost Dance Canyon Trail is a short out-and-back trail under a mile in length. There is a creek crossing required, and the creek can be difficult to cross when it is wet. Please use caution! The trail features a unique and one-of-a-kind waterfall cascade. The creek, at one point, is filled with large tank-sized boulders that water streams through. It is a fantastic experience to witness and best seen when wet. There are also large bluffs, rock formations, natural shelters, and outcroppings. This trail is accessed through the gate and left in front of the Swimming Pool. This trail is for hiking only.
The Bluff Trail is a lollipop loop trail about 1.5-miles in length. This trail includes some creek crossings and rocky/rooted surfaces. This trail features scenic creeks, tall bluffs, rock formations, and natural shelters. This trail can be accessed at the Tent Campground within the state park. This trail is designated for hiking and mountain biking only. This trail has been recently designated for mountain biking use and leads to Lake Glendale, which also has designated hiking/mountain bike trails. There are nearly 20 miles of trails for hiking/biking use between the two areas.
The Shawnee Challenge also starts/finishes here and at Lake Glendale. The challenge is a 10-mile hiking and biking (or all hiking, or all biking) self-supported adventure with no time limit. There is a free app and map to record the challenge. Challenge participants get a free prize when they complete it. The challenge is completely free.
There are multiple waterfall-chasing opportunities around the park.
As mentioned above, Ghost Dance Canyon is likely the better of the scenic waterfalls in the park.
Some creeks run through the park with ideal cascades that make for excellent waterfall viewing.
Bluff Trail and the other hiker/mountain biker trails have waterfall features around the bluffs when the area is wet.
The Dam-Spillways also features a huge waterfall that is often a backdrop of many photography sessions. The dam waterfall is easy to reach, and you don’t have to leave your vehicle to see it.
Remember that all waterfalls at the park and in the southern Illinois region are heavily dependent on rainfall. If we’re in a drought, there will be waterfalls. There will be large waterfalls all over the place if we have many flooding issues.
The waterfalls are very nice to see. They let you enjoy what nature has to offer. However, many waterfall sites are often the locations of injuries and fatal accidents. Dangerous areas exist within Dixon Spring State Park – please use caution when visiting. Always put safety first. And remember, rocks are slick whether they’re wet or dry.
Leave the park with good memories, not bad injuries.
Camping and Cabins
There are a few different camping opportunities available at Dixon Springs State Park.
Camping at the park can be registered in person or online through the Illinois DNR site. Aside from the online reservation system, camping is first come-first served.
There is a Class-B trailer campground located within the park. There is a nearby dumping station, and electricity is available. A non-electric Class-C campground is also available for vehicular camping use.
Tent camping is available within the park for primitive camping solutions.
Some cabins can be rented within the park, too.
Camping amenities include potable drinking water, fire rings, restrooms, and limited electrical sites. Camping may only be done in designated camping areas. Fires can only be made in designated fire rings and grills. During a drought, fires may be prohibited.
Swimming Pool and Playgrounds
A nice playground within the park offers children slides, jungle gyms, and swings. This can be found near the public swimming pool.
A public swimming pool is usually offered around Memorial Day to August. The cost is $5 per swimmer, and it is open during the late morning to late afternoon hours. A lifeguard is on duty at all times. There are slides in the pool, shower rooms, and a concession stand.
The pool is usually very popular and populated during the summer months.
There are numerous areas within Dixon Springs State Park for photography.
The Ghost Dance Canyon and Dam Waterfall make great shots when the area is wet.
There are knobs and bluffs located around the dam waterfall, giving photographers a maze of options for taking photos.
Bluff Trail offers more scenic spots for taking photos.
An excellent Smoky Bear sign and old foundations near the front of the park would make for fantastic photo backdrop opportunities.
Lodging, Dining, and Shopping Around Dixon Springs State Park
There are quite a few places around Dixon Springs State Park for other outdoor use, shopping, dining, lodging, and sightseeing.
Lodging in this area
Dining in this area
A few dining options are available in the nearby town of Golconda, including Dari-Barr, Levee Lounge, Diver Down, Tanny’s Grill and Chill, and Something Else Subs & Pizza.
Shopping in this area
The Chocolate Factory is located across from Dixon Springs State Park. They feature hand-dipped ice cream and many chocolate treats. You’re missing out if you’ve never visited The Chocolate Factory!
The closest Gas Stations in the area are also located in Golconda.
Sightseeing in this area
Downtown Golconda offers quite a bit of sightseeing opportunities.
By appointment only, you can see the Buel House, a historic house in town.
The Golconda Riverfront offers a wonderful self-guided foot tour of the old 51 Lock and Dam and the Marina. Remnants of the dam are still present, including the Dam Houses, which you can rent for lodging (see the link above).
Lusk Creek enters the Ohio River near the marina, and a pedestrian bridge is provided over it. There are great views of the Ohio River at this point.
A portion of the Trail of Tears is located around the park. This trail was where European settlers marched Native Americans to reservations. Many Native Americans died while on the trail due to rough conditions and poor care from settlers who stole their land from them.
Nearby Trails in this area
Other nearby hiking opportunities exist in this area.
Lake Glendale offers nearly 20 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, kayaking and boating opportunities, a public swimming beach, and a campground.
Dixon Springs State Park is truly a gem of southern Illinois and the Shawnee National Forest area. You should put visiting the park on your bucket list and enjoy the fun activities listed above. Bookmark this guide and check back soon for more free outdoor guides by Hiking with Shawn.
Watch the videos for this trail!
Below is a recent video that we filmed while enjoying this area.
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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