National Forest

Bear Branch

Trail Guide

Shawnee National Forest Bear Branch Trail is a loop trail located in Pope County, Illinois.

This trail consists of a 4.5-mile complete loop trail system shared by hikers and horseback riders. This trail has minimal elevation gain, with a little under 400-total feet of max elevation. Most hikers can hike the length of this trail in about 2-hours on average.

This trail is located near Lusk Creek Wilderness but outside the wilderness designated boundary.


Shawnee National Forest Bear Branch Trail Directions

Here’s how you can get to this trail if traveling from Vienna, Illinois:

  1. Take IL-146 (Vine Street) east for 1.5-miles passing I-24 until you reach IL-147.
  1. Take IL-147 (North) for 12.7-miles until you reach IL-145.
  2. Turn LEFT onto IL-145 (North) for 6-miles until you reach Straight Street just past Eddyville.
  3. Turn RIGHT onto Straight Street and drive for 2.2-miles.
  4. Trailhead is on the left across from Circle B Campground.
  1. Total mileage from Vienna is about 22-miles.

All roads leading to this trailhead are paved. Straight Street may not be maintained during heavy wintry conditions. Please use caution. Please remember to watch out for hikers and horseback riders when driving in this area.


Shawnee National Forest Bear Branch Trail Information

The trailhead includes car parking (south side of the parking lot) and horse trailers. There is a vault toilet present at this trailhead. There is an informational sign kiosk with a map and National Forest information.

I suggest you hike the Shawnee National Forest Bear Branch trail counterclockwise. Take Trail-437 to the north. It will start to turn left towards the west as it loops. Remain on this trail until you cross the creek (you’ll see IL-145 to your west), and then take the River to River Trail.

Stay on the River to River Trail until you intersect with Trail-001B. Take 001B (north) back to the trailhead where you started.

The hike will take about 2-hours on average to complete with nearly 4.5-miles of hiking. There are minor hills, but you will have creek crossings from time to time. During wetter conditions, some of the creeks may be challenging to cross.

This is shared hiking and horseback riding trail. Please make sure you share this trail with equestrian users.


Shawnee National Forest Bear Branch Trail Points of Interest

This trail may be a shorter loop, but there is a lot to see along the hike.

The first thing you will come up to is the old location for Williams Shed School, which remains a foundation with a covered well. As you continue your hike, watch for the creeks, as numerous ones offer very scenic views, especially when water is flowing through them. Once you get to where the road is (Straight Street), cross it to check out the beautiful waterfall cascade on the other side.

And finally, as you start to make your way back to the trailhead, enjoy the magical world-like feel of the straight trail through the pine trees.


Shawnee National Forest Bear Branch Nearby Attractions

There are plenty of places to stay, dine, and hike nearby to this location.

Horseback riders can stay at nearby Circle B Campground or Bear Branch Campground for lodging. For regular camping, I recommend Hangout Campground in Eddyville. Check out Shotgun Eddy’s for excellent breakfast, lunch, dinner, adult beverages, and entertainment for sumptuous dining.

Other nearby hiking attractions include Lusk Creek Wilderness and the Indian Kitchen 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!

One last thing!

Filming the videos, taking the photos, editing everything and writing this article takes time and it’s all provided for free. Consider making a small monthly contribution to Hiking with Shawn by becoming an official Patreon supporter on Hiking with Shawn! You can also support us by purchasing official merch from the Hiking with Shawn online store. Lastly, please share this article and our videos and follow us on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumbler for more free guides, videos, photos, contests and more!

Thanks for checking out this guide and please share it with others if you’d like to see more of them made!

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. I hope you enjoy my website and I encourage you to interact with me!

Subscribe Today!

Get Your FREE Gift Now!

Subscribe to the official Hiking with Shawn Newsletter and get a free gift! The newsletter is free, sent once a month, and contains exclusive articles, tips, offers, contests, and upcomig events that you won't find anywhere else. You can unsubscribe anytime with ease. Subscribe now (for a limited time only) and get my free 70+ page 35 Hiking Trails of Southern Illinois Guide. This PDF will be sent to your email right after you subscribe (check your junkmail just in case and add me as a contact). I hope to see you on the mailing list!

Thanks for subscribing! Go check your email!