9 Scenic Creek Hikes in Southern Illinois to Enjoy this Summer

There are many great scenic creek hikes in Southern Illinois to enjoy.

These kinds of hikes are great in the summer, too. You can take your shoes off and cool down a little. Sometimes, you can find a spot to wade in or even go for a swim if the water is deep enough.

Southern Illinois is full of creeks. Many of our creeks are some of the most scenic ones you’ll ever lay eyes on, too.

In this guide, I’ll show you 9 great scenic creek hikes in Southern Illinois, along with where to go for a bite after you’re done, just to make this guide even better.


Some of My Favorite Scenic Creek Hikes in Southern Illinois

The following scenic creeks are some of my favorite ones to hike in this area. Please remember to put safety first when visiting these areas and always let someone else know where you’re going to be hiking.

1 – Hutchins Creek

Hutchins Creek is probably my favorite of the scenic creek hikes in Southern Illinois. This is because of the rocks and the beauty of it all. It looks like a creek out of the Missouri Ozarks. It’s like no other creek in all Southern Illinois.

Scenic Creeks in Southern Illinois

The easy way to hike this creek is by going to South Hutchins Creek, or you can visit the most scenic and quieter route by visiting it through Bald Knob Wilderness or Clear Springs Wilderness. I recommend Bald Knob Wilderness myself.

Bring a bathing suit or wear one under your hiking clothes. There are plenty of large pockets of water to enjoy wading and swimming around in. This place is also a favorite for rock-hounding.

After you hike around Hutchins Creek, enjoy a great meal at Martel’s Pizza in Murphysboro. It’s probably on my top 3 pizza list for the area.

2 – Horse Creek

Horse Creek is very scenic and quiet. It’s in a part of the Shawnee National Forest that doesn’t get that many visitors. It’s out of the way and not as maintained as other trails, but it’s really worth visiting. It’s a loop trail with a beautiful creek that looks a lot like Hutchins Creek but smaller.

Horse Creek

You can drive right to the trailhead for Horse Creek. The loop hike eventually takes you to many parts of the creek, which you can enjoy.

There are some spots along the creek here, and they are good for dipping your feet into so you can cool off. Most of the creek, however, is just a really nice walk. You might even find some cool rocks and fossils out there, too.

After you work up an appetite from hiking Horse Creek, head down to the Horseshoe Lake Bar and Grill for some awesome food. I really enjoyed their Mushroom Swiss Burger.

3 – Cache River

While you can’t walk in Cache River most of the time, you can still hike beside it and even kayak or canoe some parts of it. Cache River is an amazing small river to enjoy recreating on or along. It’s a swamp environment, so there is a lot to see that you won’t see in very many spots in Southern Illinois.

Cache River

The best way to reach Cache River for a hike is by starting at Heron Pond or Wildcat Bluff. If you want to go on a kayaking or canoeing adventure, check out the Lower Cache Trailhead. I recommend hiring Cache Bayou Outfitters if you need a guide service in that area.

I wouldn’t recommend swimming in the Cache River. There are cottonmouth and other wildlife in there that could make it sketchy.

After a day on the Cache River, you should be starving. Head over to Ned’s Shed for some great food.

4 – Dutchman Lake

There are a few great creeks at Dutchman Lake to enjoy a hike along. These creeks are usually easy to hike along, but it’s best to visit them when the area has had a lot of rain. Most of these creeks lead to waterfalls and beautiful cascades. But even if the area has been dry, they still make for great scenic creek hikes in Southern Illinois.

Dutchman Lake

To get to this area, drive to Dutchman Lake. You’ll need to take the horse trails to your right on the road before you get to the ramp. Go to each creek and walk up it away from the lake, and you’ll find all sorts of fun stuff to look at.

There might be some wading spots here and there. The pools from the waterfalls can get fairly deep, but you should use them at your own risk.

After enjoying Dutchman Lake, head over to Whiffle Boy’s Pizza in Goreville. They have some awesome pizza, cheese bread, and sweet tea.

5 – Max Creek

This creek is very interesting. Not only is it scenic and remote, but it’s also, well, haunted. Max Creek has a legend around it. It’s known as the Max Creek Vortex. Strange happenings, weird lights, UFOs, and ghosts have all been reported in this area. You’ll need to visit it yourself to see if anything strange happens.

Max Creek

Getting to Max Creek is fairly simple. Drive to the trailhead on a gravel country dead-end road. Take the River to River Trail, and you’ll make your way down into the creek. You’ll have to cross Max Creek several times if you do the loop.

This creek can get fairly deep after a lot of rain. It might make for a great wading or even a swimming creek, but be sure to use caution if you plan to enjoy water activities at Max Creek.

After hiking Max Creek, head to Vienna to enjoy lunch at Vienna Diner. They have really good pizza and even serve breakfast all day.

6 – Cedar Creek

Cedar Creek has a few names. Some call it Cedar Creek Wonders, and some call it Gum Springs. The horse riders have all sorts of names for that area. But the creek itself is Cedar Creek and it’s definitely among the top scenic creek hikes in Southern Illinois to visit for yourself. Along this creek, you’ll find a tiny arch, multiple waterfalls, and very scenic views.

Cedar Creek

Getting here is very simple, too. Drive to Gum Springs Trailhead. Take the River to River Trail to see most of the better parts of the creek. You’ll definitely want to get off the trail and follow the creek in many places.

Like with Dutchman Lake, the pools around the waterfalls might favor wading and swimming, but you should proceed with caution if you plan to get in them.

After you hike, you should be starving. Head over to Shotgun Eddy’s in Eddyville for some great food and entertainment.

7 – Robnett Creek

This creek is a little bit harder to get to. However, it’s worth visiting because it’s so scenic and beautiful. You’ll also find yourself the only one hiking this area most of the time unless you run into me and Michelle! This is one of the prettiest scenic creek hikes in Southern Illinois, at least on the eastern side of the Shawnee National Forest.

Robinett Creek

As I said, it’s a little challenging to get to this creek. You can get to it from Rosebud Road and then head north into the forest and walk along the creek from there. There are some trails along the creek here and there.

Some portions of the creek may be deep enough to wade through. If the area has had a lot of rain, the creek may be pretty deep in some spots.

After enjoying a walk along the creek, I recommend going to Golconda at the Diver Down for some really good food. They have the best Cheeseburger I’ve ever had.

8 – Rock House

Rock House is along the very wild and scenic Lusk Creek. The Rock House portion is a natural shelter that many hikers and horseback riders enjoy adventuring to. It’s a beautiful bluff line, but scenes of the amazing Lusk Creek make it even more beautiful to hike along.

Lusk Creek

You can hike to Rock House from Lusk Creek Access. Most of your hike will be off-trail until you reach the Rock House area trails. You could also kayak to the area by putting in at Lusk Creek Access, but you might have to get out and drag your kayak here and there.

There are many parts of Lusk Creek that you can wade and even swim in. Lusk Creek can be dangerous as there is often a current, and when flooded, it can be pretty intense. There is also a lot of stuff you can hit as you’re moving through the current.

After enjoying a hike or float along Lusk Creek to Rock House and back, have a bite to eat at Mackie’s Pizza in Harrisburg. It’s our favorite pizza place to eat in Southern Illinois.

9 – Rock Creek

Rock Creek is a very scenic creek south of the Camp Cadiz area. This creek offers many scenic views, bluffage, waterfalls, and cascades. It’s best to visit this area after a couple of days of good rain. It’s a part of the old historic River to River Trail section if starting from the Battery Rock terminus. It’s definitely worth checking out.

Rock Creek

Getting to Rock Creek is easy, but parking can be tricky. You either park on the side of the road or park at the Rock Creek General Baptist Church. If you do park at the church, make sure to give plenty of room for patrons to park there if services are happening. Cross the road and head for the trail.

Some spots are worth wading through. Some of the pools with waterfalls might be deeper, so you should use caution if you plan to get into them.

After a fun day hiking along Rock Creek, you’ll definitely be ready for some good food. Check out Kaylor’s Lodge at Cave-in-Rock State Park. They have really good food there and friendly service.

That’s My Scenic Creek Hikes in Southern Illinois List

I hope you have enjoyed this article. This is just 9 of the scenic creek hikes in Southern Illinois. There are even more than these. What would be your tenth if you were to recommend the next one? Tell me in the comments below!

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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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