Hiking with Shawn’s Trail Guide Series:
Rocky Bluff Trail
Wild Turkey Trail
The Rocky Bluff Trail and Wild Turkey Trail is a part of the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge system. They are actually some of the few areas you can hike at within the refuge. A National Wildlife Refuge usually lacks hiking trails due to the fact that most of the land is protecting a natural and wildlife habitat that is trying to disappear due to human influence. This is why it is important to keep a lot of area restricted so that natural habitat, flora, and wildlife can thrive with little to no human manipulation or interaction. But luckily, there are still some exciting trails with the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge that we are free to enjoy!
Directions and Stuff!
Check out this map for directions to get to the Rocky Bluff & Wild Turkey Trail system. You can also see the various hiking trails and user-contributed points of interest within the area, on that map.
All roads leading to this area are paved and well maintained. However, some roads could be underwater if we have had major rainfall. Some of the roads could be closed during extreme winter conditions and during hunting season. There is enough parking for about 5 or 6 vehicles. Please do not park in areas where parking is not allowed.
This area requires that all vehicles display the day or annual Refuge permit. You can visit the Visitor Center on Highway 148 (moving to a new location soon!) to purchase day or annual refuge permits. The area is patrolled by Law Enforcement and they will cite you if you do not have that permit.
The trailhead provides maps, signage and information on the hiking trails. The trails are very easy to follow and navigate. There are signs along the trail intersections telling you where to go for different trails. Rocky Bluff Trail itself is a loop while Wild Turkey Trail is an out and back trail. Other points of Wild Turkey Trail offer more parking space as well. This is a hiker only trail. Horses, bicycles and motorized vehicles of any kind are not allowed on the trail.
In the center of Rocky Bluff Trail is private property. Please stay on the trail at all times to avoid trespass on the private property.
What You’ll See!
There is a lot to see on these two trails. Near the beginning of the Rocky Bluff Trail is the waterfall system that is heavily dependent on rainfall as all waterfalls in our region depend on. But when wet, the area is magical but it gets even more dangerous – so please use caution when visiting the area during wet or winter conditions. Falling in many spots along this trail will likely result in death. There are a few bigger waterfalls and some really pretty cascades as well.
There are also very scenic views of lines of bluffage with some interesting banding within them. There are numerous natural cave shelters along the trail as well. You will see signs of fire rings but please note that making a fire or camping on this trail is prohibited and can result in a citation. It isn’t worth getting caught for. There are also stunning views of the creeks that run through the area including a few overlooks to see them. Definitely, bring a camera and enjoy some memories of the place back home so your family and friends can see it, too.
Wild Turkey Trail shows that a lot of former settlement is in the area. We saw a lot of Yucca plants, daffodils, wells (covered up) and old foundations. In the start of spring, the flowers will start to bloom and really make the trail look pretty. Once we reached the main trailhead and highway for the Wild Turkey Trail, we crossed the road and followed an old road listed on a 1930s map overlay that I use. There were lots of signs of old settlement in that area. We quickly came to a point where we had to turn around due to a restricted area for the wildlife refuge. Please pay attention to and abide by the restricted area signage to help protect the refuge.
Overall, we made it an 7 or 8 mile hike but you can make it much shorter if you just choose to do the Rocky Bluff loop or something like that. We just enjoy exploring!
Tips for the Trail:
- Venomous copperhead snakes and poison ivy occur in this area.
- Bring plenty of water and snacks especially in the remote areas of the park.
- The waterfalls will only be running if we have had some good rainfall recently.
- Bring a camera because there will be plenty of photo opportunities.
- This area has dangerous conditions. Always watch your step and practice safety first.
- Do not use undesignated user-made trails and respect restricted areas of the refuge.
Watch the videos for this trail!
Below is a recent video that we filmed while enjoying this area.
One last thing!
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Thanks for checking out this guide and please share it with others if you’d like to see more of them made!
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.