Hiking with Shawn’s
Guide to the Wilderness Areas
Shawnee National Forest:
Lusk Creek Wilderness
Lusk Creek Wilderness is a 6,293-acre designated wilderness area within the Shawnee National Forest. Lusk Creek Wilderness is the largest wilderness area for the National Forest. Lusk Creek Wilderness is located in rural Pope County, Illinois. The nearest community to Lusk Creek Wilderness is Eddyville. Lusk Creek Wilderness is best known for its hiking and equestrian trails.
Lusk Creek Wilderness is a large roadless parcel of land made up on second-growth forest. The area was acquired in the 1930s when the National Forest was first being established. Lusk Creek Wilderness used to be made up of horse and wagon roads, failing agricultural land and poorer settlements and homesites of early settlers. Lusk Creek Wilderness is named after Lusk Creek, a wild and scenic river candidate that runs through the wilderness.
HOW TO GET TO THIS WILDERNESS AREA
Check out this map to see the area of Lusk Creek Wilderness.
The main trailheads for Lusk Creek Wilderness are:
Lusk Creek Trailhead (map) – This trailhead is located across from Circle B Horse campground on Straight Street near Eddyville. There are no trash services at this trailhead. There is a vault-toilet styled restroom and both car and horse trailer parking availability.
Indian Kitchen Trailhead (map) – This trailhead is located across from the Lusk Creek Wilderness on Indian Kitchen Road near Eddyville. There are no trash services at this trailhead. There is a vault-toilet styled restroom and car parking.
Franks Tract (map) – This trailhead is located in a remote portion of the Lusk Creek Wilderness area on Stone Bottoms Road from Straight Street near Eddyville. Please use caution on this gravel road as there are people who live on it. There are no trash services, no restrooms and limited parking. Horse trailers often use this area for parking, but cars are welcome to.
Lusk Creek Access (map) – This trailhead is located on Eddyville Blacktop near Eddyville. The parking lot is by the steel bridge. This is where you can launch a kayak or canoe into Lusk Creek. There is adequate parking but no trash services or restrooms. This area is for day-use only.
The old launch and equestrian trails on Ragan Road are not recommended. The road itself is very rough. The trails to Rock House go through private property. The landowner, SIU-C, has not officially gave permission to access the land. Using it is technically trespass and you are encouraged not to use it.
TRAILS WITHIN THIS WILDERNESS AREA
There are many trails in Lusk Creek Wilderness shared by both hikers and equestrians. There are some trails that are for hikers only such as in Natural Areas and the natural area at Indian Kitchen (horse high line provided). Indian Kitchen is a favored hiking trip but be warned many parts of the trail will be extremely muddy during wet seasons. Other areas worth checking out is Owl Bluff, Natural Bridge, Saltpeter Cave and Rock House. It is highly recommended that you use maps (available at Friends of the Shawnee National Forest) or a smart phone application such as Avenza using the R2R Trail Bundle and the Multi-Day Hiking Bundle. Check out the River to River Trail Society’s Trail Guide for getting information and coordinates to various points of interests in this wilderness area. Do note that the hiking community and the equine community often have different names for different points of interests within this area.
WHAT THIS WILDERNESS HAS TO OFFER
There is a lot to see and do in this wilderness area. This wilderness is very popular with the equestrian community. Hikers should yield to equestrians, talk to them calmly and share the trail. Keep in mind that without our horseback and mule riders, many of these wonderful trails wouldn’t exist today. Equestrian users are encouraged to check with local horse campgrounds for information about lodging/camping and trails to ride at. Do not ride pack animals in Natural Areas as it is against state law and harmful to the precious flora and wildlife within them.
There are several interesting things to ride and hike to see in Lusk Creek Wilderness. The Natural Bridge is big enough to crawl under. Owl Bluff has a beautiful scenic overlook during every season throughout the year. Saltpeter Cave is an amazing shelter to enjoy getting under out the rain and weather. Rock House is a very cool cave shelter with much to see along the way. Lusk Creek itself is cherished by kayakers and canoers alike. There are interesting statues, cemeteries, old home sites, left over farming equipment and other neat sights throughout this wilderness area.
Indian Kitchen features beautiful overlooks, interesting views of the creek and even an ancient rock wall structure once used by Native Americans.
SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR THIS WILDERNESS AREA
Lusk Creek Wilderness follows the same guides listed on our Main Wilderness Guide article. Special equestrian guidelines apply to this wilderness area during certain times of the year.
There may not be restrooms or trash services at all trailheads for this wilderness. Please practice Leave No Trace ethics and pack out what you pack in.
Venomous snakes occur within this and nearby areas including the copperhead snake and the timber rattlesnake. Avoid a negative experience with a venomous snake by watching where you step, staying on the trail, giving snakes plenty of room and never attempting to handle or harm a snake.
This area consists of rugged and steep terrain, rolling hills and sometimes very muddy conditions. Accessing this area can be a challenge and is often considered a difficult level of recreation. Please plan accordingly before venturing into this area.
Cell phone signal may not be available in many areas of Lusk Creek Wilderness.
EMERGENCY INFORMATION FOR THIS WILDERNESS AREA
The nearest hospital from Lusk Creek Wilderness is located in the City of Harrisburg, Harrisburg Medical Center which is about 15-miles from the Lusk Creek Trailhead.
For emergencies – dial 911 and follow the instructions of the 911 operator.
WHAT’S CLOSE TO THIS WILDERNESS AREA?
Eddyville is the closest community to Lusk Creek Wilderness. Eddyville is a very small community with very few points of interest. Hangout Campground is in Eddyville and could provide camping opportunities for multiple types of camping users including bikepackers, backpackers, equine, RV/camper and tent camping. Shotgun Eddy’s is a really good bar and grill styled establishment with great breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as adult beverages and a very large outdoor seating arrangement.
Equestrians can also camp at Bear Branch Campground, Circle B Campground and Hayes Canyon Campground which are official permitted equine campground outfitters very close to Lusk Creek Wilderness. Unfortunately, the one store/gas station in Eddyville, Shawnee Mart, has since closed down. The City of Harrisburg north of Eddyville is the next best community with multiple gas, food, grocery and other points of interests.
VIDEOS OF THIS WILDERNESS AREA
Check out the following video footage of this particular wilderness area.
Thank you for taking the time to read this Wilderness Area Guide. This and the other 6 guides took a while to create and are offered for free of charge. Please consider supporting my efforts of making these guides by sharing them with others, especially on social media. You can also support my efforts by following me on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the Official Website for Hiking with Shawn. Consider becoming a Patreon Member or purchasing some official merch from the Hiking with Shawn Online Shop. Thanks again for checking out this guide and until next time, I’ll see you on the trail!
Shawn J. Gossman
Shawn is the founder and host of the YouTube Channel, Hiking with Shawn as well as Hiking with Shawn LLC. Shawn hikes, backpacks and visits various forested areas in the Shawnee National Forest, local state parks and other areas promoting outdoor recreational activities to obtain video to show to locals and non-locals alike. Please support Shawn’s efforts by sharing this post and leaving a comment below.