Hiking Jackson Hole Ecological Area

in the Shawnee National Forest

Join Hiking with Shawn as we hike Jackson Hole Ecological Area in the Shawnee National Forest of Southern Illinois. Jackson Hole Ecological Area includes beautiful waterfalls, awesome bluffage, and scenic creeks and is a great place to remotely social distance during these hard times. Continue this article to learn more about this area of the Shawnee National Forest, learn how to reach this location and view great photos and videos of the area.

Jackson Hole Ecological Area

What is Jackson Hole Ecological Area?

Jackson Hole Ecological Area is an officially designated ecological area within the Shawnee National Forest inventory located in Pope County of Southern Illinois. Communities located near Jackson Hole Ecological Area include Eddyville, Ozark and Simpson. Jackson Hole Ecological Area was once a part of a vast virgin growth forest made up of very large and old trees. When settlers arrived in southern Illinois, most of the land throughout the whole state was forested. Settlers cut down most of the trees and attempted to create farmlands. Farming was mostly a failure and resulted in extreme erosion and very poor communities. The forest we see today was once a severely eroded empty land of farmland on rolling hills. Imagine all the trees you see not being there.

During the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corp or CCC. The CCC created most of what we call the Shawnee National Forest and plants hundreds and thousands of trees all over the land. Jackson Hole Ecological Area was one of the areas that were reforested during the creation of the Shawnee National Forest. Now the area consists of a second growth forest, amazing ancient bluffs, scenic and wild creeks and multiple waterfalls. This truly is a remarkable area to visit by hiking, biking, horseback riding and more. In the Ecological Area, only foot travel is allowed. An equestrian high-line is provided for pack animal riders’ right by the Ecological Area boundary. Please respect private property around this area.

Jackson Hole Ecological Area

Where is Jackson Hole Ecological Area?

Jackson Hole Ecological Area is located in Pope County near Eddyville, Illinois. Check out this link to see a map of the Jackson Hole Ecological Area and find out how to get there from your location. That map was created by Jimmy Bruce and Joe Littleton, two wonderful Shawnee Proud members of the hiking community. If you see them out and about or online, be sure to give them a ‘thank you’ for creating this awesome map. Copy the GPS and put it in Google Maps to find step by step directions to this location.

Now for the important stuff! Mustang Lane is a gravel and narrow road. Once you drive past all of the houses, the road gets much narrower and a lot rougher. Recently, heavy rains have washed out many portions of the road. It is not recommended to take a low profile vehicle down this road. In some areas when wet, you might need a 4×4 vehicle in order to pass. To reach Jackson Hole, drive down the narrow road until you see a trail crossing the road. There is enough room to park a few vehicles on the west side of the road. Take Trail-498 (west) for about a quarter of a mile or until you get to the official Forest Sign and then go right. There are multiple areas out that way that are private property sections where the owners appear to allow people to use. Please respect their property and pack out what you pack in.

You can view this trail on the free Avenza App using Map #10 of the Free River to River Trail Bundle. For more information, see the updated and free River to River Trail Guide.

Jackson Hole Ecological Area

When to go to Jackson Hole Ecological Area?

The best time to go to Jackson Hole Ecological Area is when the area is very wet. I suggest going after a few days of heavy rainfall. The main features of Jackson Hole Ecological Area are the waterfalls. Most waterfalls in the Shawnee National Forest are very dependent on rainfall amounts. There are really no good flowing waterfalls in southern Illinois that tend to run without significant rainfall or flooding prior to their flow. Fall and spring appear to be best when visiting this area for waterfalls. This area is also a highly rated area to visit during the winter for frozen waterfalls.

IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION: Since this area is best to visit when wet or frozen, it is important that you understand the risk. When wet or frozen, this area is extremely dangerous. People have died from falling off bluff near this area. There is often no cell phone signal in this very remote portion of the Shawnee National Forest. If you get hurt and are unable to leave the area, you could become stranded because of the remoteness of the area. Please tell someone where you are going before you go and use extreme caution when visiting Jackson Hole Ecological Area. This area contains high bluffs, wet conditions, poison ivy, ticks and venomous snakes. Unprotected wells are also present off trail around old homestead sites.

Jackson Hole Ecological Area

Check out the Jackson Hole Ecological Area Latest Video!

Check out my latest video of Jackson Hole Ecological Area in the Shawnee National Forest. In this video, I’m joined by my girlfriend and her daughter. We chase waterfalls, enjoy the creek and practice social distancing from other people. Please feel free to share this video and this article with other to show that you’d like me to continue making articles and videos like these.

Thanks for visiting Hiking with Shawn! Please subscribe to my YouTube Channel to see more great videos of the Shawnee National Forest, Southern Illinois State Parks and beyond. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more cool photos and content. So until next time, I’ll see you on the trail!

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