Eagle Falls Waterfall Hiking Guide
Have you ever heard of the Eagle Falls Waterfall?
This amazing waterfall is attached to an old trail in the Bell Smith Springs area that is no longer being maintained, likely due to budget cuts.
Access to this waterfall is rugged, difficult for the inexperienced, and primarily off trail. This hike is definitely not for beginners.
But if you like adventure and love waterfalls, the Eagle Falls Waterfall is a hiking trip you might want to take.
And if you do want to visit, enjoy this free guide showing you how.
In this guide…
Directions to Eagle Falls Waterfall
There are multiple ways to access this waterfall hike.
You can park and hike in at different locations. One way is longer with more to see. The other way is short, with not as much to see but still, quite a bit to enjoy along the way.
There are two locations to park at for the Eagle Falls Waterfall hike.
You can park at Bell Smith Springs (Google Maps Direction: From Marion | From Paducah | From St. Louis). Drive carefully on Ozark and Bell Smith Springs Roads. They are both gravel, and there are many potholes present. Only park where parking is allowed at Bell Smith Springs to avoid getting towed away or cited by Law Enforcement. This is the long way to the waterfall.
You can park at Jackson Falls (Google Maps Direction: From Marion | From Paducah | From St. Louis). Drive past the main parking lot until you reach the end of the public part of the road at this GPS coordinates. The road to this is gravel with potholes present and often erodes during heavy rainfall. This is the short way to the waterfall.
Keep in mind that these areas are not usually maintained quickly during wintry weather conditions. There are limited to no cell phone signals in these areas.
Trail Access Options
The Bell Smith Access is the longest and most rugged access point to this waterfall. You’ll see more along this route, but you’ll have to cross a creek (which could be impossible to cross after a lot of rain) and have a rugged hike past the point where the trail is no longer maintained. To reach this trail, take the white trail after you go the stone stairs. Go to the jumping spring and up it like you’re going to jump but then stay on the edge of the bluff’s base and follow it. Hike for about 2.5 miles to reach the Eagle Falls waterfall.
Total miles out and back will be around 5.1 miles. The total elevation is right under 1,000′. This is a rugged hike with a large creek crossing, rocky terrain, and rolling hills.
Jackson Falls is the quickest hike to the waterfall. There are no major creek crossings. There is less to see than the long way. To access this trail, drive to Jackson Falls and pass the main trailhead on your right. Continue until the helipad area is on your right and a campsite is on your left. You’ll go into that campsite and follow a trail past a pond and around the bluff (you need to be able to read a topo map for best results). Please respect private property in the area.
Total miles out and back will be a little more than 2 miles. The elevation will be under 600′. This is a moderately difficult hike with rocky terrain and rolling hills.
Eagle Falls Points of Interest
There is a lot to see along the Eagle Falls waterfall hike aside from the actual waterfall. You’ll see more on the Bell Smith access, but it’s easier to get to Jackson Falls access.
Eagle Falls Waterfall
The waterfall itself is tall and almost resembles a smaller version of the Burden Falls waterfall. At the base of the waterfall near Bay Creek, there is a smaller waterfall that I named Eaglet Falls. The cascade down to Bay Creek is very rocky and full of large boulders. It is a beautiful scenic waterfall and cascade.
Old Trail Remnants
The trail from Bell Smith is the most rugged and longest access, but it is also the most scenic. After you pass the jumping spring, you’ll get to a portion where it is signed that the trail is no longer maintained by the Forest Service. While you make your way past that toward the waterfall, you’ll see glimpses of what the trail once looked like. There are old stairs and other created structures. It’s likely the CCC created most of this.
There are amazing bluffs, rock formations, and natural shelters along this hike, whether you start at Bell Smith Springs or Jackson Falls.
Bay Creek parallels this trail. The waterfall flows into the creek. If the creek is high enough, potential access to the waterfall could occur if you started kayaking from Millstone Lake. However, there are a lot of trees down across the creek and natural debris that might make this task difficult. Bay Creek is wild and scenic, and throughout the colder months, it has a blue tent to it around the Bell Smith Springs area.
Hiking Etiquette and Safety Information
Before you explore these areas, it’s important to read some rules and safety information.
Bell Smith Springs is Day-Use only. Overnight parking is not allowed (aside from Red Bud Campground). Jackson Falls does allow camping and is considered first come, first served, and dispersed. Camping there is free, but there is no running water or electricity.
The trails leading to the Eagle Falls waterfall are not maintained or officially designated. If they become impassible, they’ll likely remain that way.
Your safety should be your main priority. Dangerous conditions exist in this area. There is little to no cell phone reception here. Search and rescue could take a long time to reach you.
Bring the right gear. Pack water and food. Wear the right clothing and footwear. Try not to hike alone, and always tell someone where you’re going before you go.
Venomous copperhead snakes occur in this area.
Poison ivy, ticks, mosquitoes, and biting flies occur in this area.
While in this area, you may encounter other hikers, horseback riders, and mountain bikers. Illegal ATV use may also occur. Always yield to horseback riders, no matter what.
Leave No Trace
There are no trash services in this area. Please pack out what you pack in and leave the area better than you found it.
Glass bottles are prohibited at Bell Smith Springs. Please do not trash our National Forest.
Leave No Trace and thread lightly along the way.
If you have a medical emergency – call 911. Try to take something with you to record the GPS location, such as an app on your phone, Personal Locator Beacon, or GPS unit. The closest hospital is in Harrisburg, Illinois. Emergency responders in this area will be from Pope County Fire, EMS, and Sheriff, as well as US Forest Service.
Other Stuff To Do Around Eagle Falls Waterfall
There is a lot to do in this area. Lodging and dining options are also available. Please remember to shop locally and help the communities around Shawnee National Forest, as we depend on you.
Other Hiking and Outdoor Recreation
Other hiking opportunities in this area include Bell Smith Springs and Jackson Falls. For more waterfall chasing, check out Burden Falls and Pakentuck. A popular area for hiking and horseback riding is the Hayes Creek and Jackson Hole areas.
Check out Southern Illinois Hiking and Outdoor Recreation on Facebook to find others to hike this area with or if you have additional questions about hiking in southern Illinois.
Lodging in this area
Lodging is available in this area. The Potel is close to Ozark. During the off-season, camping is available at Camp Ondessonk. You can camp at Jackson Falls. There is paid camping at Bell Smith Springs at the Red Bud Campground. Equestrian Camping is available at Hayes Campground. Camping is also allowed in the wilderness areas of Burden Falls and Bay Creek.
Dining and Shopping
The largest city nearest to this area is Harrisburg which has numerous dining and shopping establishments. Other great dining options closer to the trail include Murphy’s Pit BBQ and Shotgun Eddy’s Bar and Grill. The closest gas station is located in the Harrisburg area, Vienna, or Metropolis.
Thanks for checking out my guide on the Eagle Falls Waterfall. If you’ve enjoyed this guide, please share it with other hikers who might appreciate it. To get informed of any other guides I create and stay up-to-date with the latest Hiking with Shawn adventures, subscribe to my free newsletter.
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