Round Bluff Nature Preserve Guide

Round Bluff Nature Preserve is a hiking trail within a protected Illinois Nature Preserve located within Ferne Clyffe State Park in Goreville, Illinois.

This is a guide for the trail and area surrounding the nature preserve.

See my Ferne Clyffe State Park Guide to see other hiking trails within this state park.


What is the Round Bluff Nature Preserve?

Round Bluff, nestled in Ferne Clyffe State Park, is a unique nature preserve in Goreville, Illinois. Its standout feature is an isolated sandstone bluff, a rare sight within the park’s hardwood forest, giving it an ‘island’ feel.

Round Bluff is a nature preserve due to its glade environment, which features rare plants and flora not often found in other parts of the region nearby. The 53-acre Round Bluff Nature Preserve was dedicated in August 1973 and is under the management of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR).

As a nature preserve, Round Bluff Nature Preserve relies on the responsible actions of its visitors. By staying on the designated 1-mile loop trail, you play a crucial role in protecting the precious and fragile environment. This trail, starting at the parking lot and ending by the picnic shelter, offers a moderate challenge with an elevation of around 150 feet.


How to Hike Round Bluff Nature Preserve

Round Bluff Nature Preserve is a short loop trail, but you should still bring some basic hiking supplies with you. Bring a backpack to store plenty of water, a snack, and a first aid kit just to be safe. Wear durable hiking footwear and clothing. Make sure your clothing is breathable and moisture-wicking. Shorts are fine, but some areas of the trail experience overgrowth during the summer months.

You can download my GPX file for the trail on my Strava Page for this hike. Otherwise, All Trails has this hike and map on their website, or you can retrieve it from the Hiking Project website. At times, the trailhead may offer paper maps.

If you want to get in exercise, hike in a counterclockwise pattern. Some stairs along this trail make for a great workout. Go clockwise if you want an easier hike. However, hills are going both ways, so be prepared for that.

There are many interesting things to see while hiking the trail. Enjoy the sights of the sandstone bluff, natural shelters, rock formations, and the hardwood forest around you. During the spring, summer, and early fall, you’ll enjoy many wildflowers, fungi, and native plants. Wildlife routinely uses this area, including birds of all types, skinks, snakes (some venomous), squirrels, and deer. For such a short trail, you’ll find there is a lot to see along the Round Bluff Nature Preserve.


Directions and Trailhead Information

Getting to Round Bluff Nature Preserve is very easy. The following Google Map Links are the best routes to reach the nature preserve from Marion, Illinois; Saint Louis, Missouri; Chicago, Illinois; Indianapolis, Indiana; and Nashville, Tennessee.

All roads leading to this trail are paved and in good condition. However, during heavy snow and icy conditions, the park will close access roads to this trail for safety purposes. There is a nice trailhead with plenty of parking available.

The trailhead recently had a vault toilet upgrade. Picnic sites with shelters are available. Signage for the Round Bluff Nature Preserve and trail information is also available.


Special Regulations and Safety Concerns

Round Bluff Nature Preserve is a protected natural area. You must stay on the designated trail at all times. The trail is open to hikers only. Equestrian and bicycling use is prohibited.

Please Leave No Trace when visiting this trail and pack out any trash you pack in. If you see trash, consider packing it out to help us keep the trail pristine.

Harvesting anything (including mushrooms) is prohibited in a nature preserve. Firearms and hunting are not allowed in the preserve at any time.

The trail and picnic area is day-use only. It opens at dawn and closes at dusk.

Large groups or those with commercial interests should seek approval from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) before using the area.

Please see the Illinois Conservation Police Roster for information on contacting officers to report suspicious activity; otherwise, call 911 if there is an emergency.

While the thrill of climbing the bluff is not allowed, we want to assure you that safety is our top priority. There are areas along this trail that pose fall hazards, but with your caution and our safety guidelines, you can enjoy your visit without worry. Fatalities have occurred at this state park due to falls, so always remember to put your own safety first when exploring this area.

Snakes are present along this trail. The venomous copperhead snake is also present. Avoid handling or harming snakes to avoid getting bit. Do keep in mind that handling, collecting, or harming any snake at this state park is a crime.

Poison ivy occurs on this trail. If you see leaves of three, let them be. Be sure to wash your skin, clothing, and gear after you hike the trail to ensure poison ivy oils are cleaned off. If you bring your pet, make sure you bathe them afterward to get any oils off their coats.

Biting insects such as mosquitoes, flies, and ticks occur in this area. Please use appropriate repellent before hiking this area and check yourself for ticks after you’re done.

Be sure to check the weather before visiting Round Bluff Nature Preserve. Severe weather and tornadoes are common in this area during the spring and summer months. During heavy snow or icy conditions, the state park gates will be closed and locked, and this trail will not be accessible.


Where to Eat, Shop, and Stay Nearby?

After hiking the trail, you might work up an appetite. I suggest Whiffle Boy’s Pizza in Goreville. It’s a Hiking with Shawn favorite. The food is delicious, and the employees are really nice. There is also a Subway located in town, and the station also sells food.

Goreville has a few gas stations and fuel costs are relatively cheaper in town than in surrounding communities. There is also a Dollar General store and a Grocery Store that sells some fresh food items. You can also enjoy a few different specialty and craft stores downtown.

If you need a place to stay nearby, there is Lodging and Cabin Rentals. You can also camp at Ferne Clyffe State Park in backpacking, equestrian, tent, and electric camping sites.

Goreville officially became a town in 1866 when the post office was established. Previously, James Gore purchased the property from the US Government in 1854 and operated a General Store. The town was named after Gore to honor him. The town also saw a railroad boom for a while.

The entrance to Ferne Clyffe State Park was once in Goreville. The Department of Conservation (now IDNR) decided to move it and close the old road due to safety and ecological concerns. This sparked a protest by Goreville residents, which eventually ended in arrests. You can access the old entrance by taking the Boy Scout Trail, which used to be the road into the park.

Learn more about Ferne Clyffe State Park by checking out my full guide on the area.


What To Do Nearby?

There are plenty of other hiking trails nearby. Check out other trails in the park, including the Lake Loop, Blackjack Oak, Happy Hollow, Big Rocky Hollow, Rebman Trail, Boy Scout Trail, and Hawk’s Cave. You can take a short drive to see Bork Falls, which is a remote section of the park (detached from the main park) featuring a large waterfall. The River to River Trail also passes through the state park.

Tunnel Hill State Trail offers biking opportunities nearby. The trail features 50+ miles of rail trail passing through the Shawnee National Forest, ghost towns, and the Southern Illinois countryside.

Kayaking opportunities are available at Dutchman Lake, which is part of the Shawnee National Forest. This area features a boat ramp and is a no-wake lake.

For local attractions nearby, we recommend zip lining at Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour, alpaca tours at Rolling Oak Alpaca Ranch, and wine tours along the Shawnee Hills Wine Country route.

Horseback riding is available along the River to River Trail and Happy Hollow Trail area within Ferne Clyffe State Park.


Final Notes

Thank you for visiting my guide for Round Bluff Nature Preserve. If you’ve enjoyed this guide, please consider sharing it with someone else who will also enjoy it. You can share it on your favorite social media pages, too.

If you want to support me further in creating this guide, consider leaving me a one-time donation or becoming a monthly supporter on my Patreon Page.

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And until next time, I’ll see you on the trail!

Watch the videos for this trail!

Below is a recent video that we filmed while enjoying this area.

Check out the trail gallery!

Enjoy these photos taken around this area!

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Thanks again for checking out another one of my articles and until next time, I’ll see you on the trail!

Shawn Gossman

Shawn Gossman

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

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