10 Amazing Southern Illinois Frozen Waterfalls Away from the Crowds

Tis the season for Southern Illinois frozen waterfalls.

As I’m writing this post, the temperature outside feels like -6 degrees. What does that mean aside from it being dangerously cold?

It means water freezes quickly. That means waterfalls are frozen.

When it’s this cold outside and we’ve had a few days of rain, you can definitely go see many Southern Illinois frozen waterfalls.

However, there lies a problem.

In order to see the amazing frozen waterfalls, you have to go where everyone else is going, right?

Not really; I’ll show you ten different frozen waterfalls that are equally amazing and away from the crowds. Let’s go!


Southern Illinois Frozen Waterfalls and Extremely Safety Measures

Before I go into these ten off-the-beaten-path Southern Illinois frozen waterfalls, we need to have a serious talk first.

Safety Measures!

Folks – people have fallen to their deaths around waterfalls in Southern Illinois and the Shawnee National Forest. Some of these waterfalls were frozen at the time, too. Don’t be one of those people. Don’t be a statistic in my next article about hiking safety.

Take your safety seriously around these amazing frozen waterfalls. They’ll inspire you and amaze you. However, if you’re not careful, they’ll kill you.

Here is some advice that I beg you to follow before chasing Southern Illinois frozen waterfalls:

  • Dress appropriately for the weather. Layer up and wear durable and warm hiking boots.
  • Don’t go hiking during extreme weather conditions such as a blizzard or in dangerous temps.
  • Stay away from the tops and edges of waterfalls, whether they’re frozen or not.
  • Be careful around the pools at the base, you could easily go through the ice.
  • Bring extra clothing layers just in case you get your attire wet.
  • Bring a fire-starting kit (affiliate link) just in case you need to take measures to get warm quickly.
  • Tell someone where you’re going and try not to hike alone.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • And most of all, folks, put safety first and use common sense.

Now, as long as you promise to adhere to the safety recommendations above, I’ll let you know about these ten amazing frozen waterfalls.

I’m counting on you to be safe and come back and tell me what you thought about these waterfalls!

Don’t let me down…


The 10 Southern Illinois Frozen Waterfalls List

Now, on to the ten amazing Southern Illinois frozen waterfalls that are away from all the crowded spots in the Shawnee National Forest and beyond.

1 – Jackson Hollow Ecological Area

Several waterfalls in this area will be frozen under the right conditions. There are three to four waterfalls among the west-to-northwest bluff lines. If you go east, you can get to Splatterstone Falls, which is amazing during the winter.

Jackson Hollow

Difficulty: This is a rugged hike without maintained designated trails. You’ll be required to scramble down rocks, cross creeks, and hike in hilly rocky areas in the Shawnee National Forest.

Parking and Trailhead: Park on the side of Trigg Tower Road (gravel road) near the Jackson Hollow EA sign. Look for the barren area by the road and make your way into the forest using that area.

Hiking Directions: Check out the Shawnee National Forest Map to see these waterfall locations. You’re looking for Splatterstone Falls, Mossy Falls, and Small Shelter Falls. There are other waterfalls in the area to visit if you have the time. Some user trails exist, but nothing is designated nor maintained.

For more information about this area, see my Splatterstone Falls Guide.

2 – Dutchman Lake

Dutchman Lake is another area with many different waterfalls throughout its boundaries. There are unofficial trails that will lead you to most of the waterfalls. During the coldest of winters, these are some of the best Southern Illinois frozen waterfalls that I’ve visited.

Dutchman Lake

Difficulty: These waterfalls are easier to get to in terms of hiking mileage. However, you have to get off the trail and hike up creeks to reach them. This can be very rugged as you’ll be scrambling rocks with snow and ice on them.

Parking and Trailhead: Go down Fishing Hole Lane, which takes you to Dutchman Lake. You’ll look for the trail on your right with a small pullover spot big enough for a few cars. It’s right before a curve where you can start seeing the lake from the road. Park on the side of the road right by the trails.

Hiking Directions: Check out the Shawnee National Forest Map to see these waterfall locations. Take the trail by where you parked. Cross the first creek and stay on the trail. Go right and up the next two creeks to get to two of the best waterfalls the area has to offer. There are more throughout the area.

For more information about this area, check out my Dutchman Lake Waterfall Guide.

3 – Gum Springs

Gum Springs is another great spot for Southern Illinois frozen waterfalls. Multiple waterfalls can be accessed within a loop trail system. You can also see some frozen waterfalls along the Buffalo Rock trail, too. It’s a very special area all the way around. A special word – Gum Springs is often littered with decorations – please practice Leave No Trace is such a precious natural environment.

Gum Springs

Difficulty: While most of the waterfalls can be accessed by designated and maintained trails, there are some tricky spots. You’ll have to cross creeks, hike rolling hills, and use trails with horse damage. The trail is moderately difficult.

Parking and Trailhead: The trailhead is right off Gum Springs Road. A Forest Service sign marks it from the road. Please park in a manner that makes it easier for horse trailers to be parked, although most equestrians won’t be out during freezing conditions for the most part.

Hiking Directions: See the Shawnee National Forest Map to locate each waterfall in the main loop. Take the Buffalo Trail (out and back) from the parking area to see some frozen falls along the bluff lines. There is also an amazing little natural arch to enjoy while you’re out there exploring.

For more information about the area, see my Gum Springs Guide.

4 – Burden Falls Wilderness

Burden Falls Wilderness is one of the most scenic wilderness areas that the Shawnee National Forest has to offer. The main parking area features multiple frozen waterfall opportunities at the top of the area and a larger waterfall going into the canyon. Some even say that Burden Falls is the largest waterfall in the Shawnee National Forest.

Burden Falls

Difficulty: The upper waterfalls are easy to view. You don’t even have to leave the parking lot to see them. To get closer to them, you will have to scramble down rocks, but you can see photogenic views of them without having to do that. To see the main waterfall from its base, you’ll have to take a steep user trail to the rugged bottom.

Parking and Trailhead: There is a small parking area off Burden Falls Road where you can access the user trail and waterfalls. The roads leading to this area are mainly gravel with erosion, potholes, and practically no treatment during the winter months. Use caution when driving on them.

Hiking Directions: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO SCRAMBLE DOWN THE ROCKS PAST THE UPPER FALLSShawnee National Forest Map. There is a cable across the top of the main waterfall. Do not go past it. People have died as a result (multiple fatalities). You can scramble down easy rocks on top to see the main upper falls or look at them from the parking area. To get to the base of the main fall, take the trail at the parking lot down (west), but use caution because it can be very steep and slippery.

For more information about this area, please visit my Burden Falls Wilderness Area Guide.

5 – Jackson Hole Ecological Area

This area is a lot like Burden Falls. There are a few upper waterfalls and a bigger lower waterfall. This is a popular hiking and horseback riding area. It can be difficult to get to for many people. It’s a rugged area and should be treated like one when visited.

Jackson Hole

Difficulty: The trails are very rugged, especially when snow and ice are involved. There are rocky, steep, and slick areas that you have to scramble down in order to access the main waterfall’s bottom. Use extreme caution when visiting this area. It is not a place for beginners.

Parking and Trailhead: The parking area consists of a few spots on the side of the forest service road by the trails. The road to the trailhead is rough and very narrow. It can be washed out during different times of the year, too. You’ll need an all-wheel drive or 4X4 to get down it, especially during wintry conditions. Don’t drive down it with weak or bare tires.

Hiking Directions: See the Shawnee National Forest Map to locate the waterfalls. After you park on the right side of the road, take the trail on that side. Hike to the Ecological Area Sign after the horse tie up and then go right, crossing the top of the falls (carefully) and making your way to the upper falls. You can get down that way if you’re careful.

For more information about this area, see my Jackson Hole Ecological Area Guide.

6 – Double Branch Hole Ecological Area

Double Branch Hole is another area right by Jackson Hole. You’ll have to take the same road and parking to travel to this area. It is another very remote spot but a very beautiful and scenic location to view some of the best Southern Illinois frozen waterfalls that the region has to offer.

Double Branch

Difficulty: This area is rugged during wintry conditions. To reach the frozen waterfalls, you’ll take user-made trails or have to go off-trail to access the waterfall area. This is not a good area for beginner hikers.

Parking and Trailhead: The parking area consists of a few spots on the side of the forest service road by the trails. The road to the trailhead is rough and very narrow. It can be washed out during different times of the year, too. You’ll need an all-wheel drive or 4X4 to get down it, especially during wintry conditions. Don’t drive down it with weak or bare tires.

Hiking Directions: See the Shawnee National Forest Map to locate the waterfalls. After you park on the right side of the road, take the trail on the left. You’ll hike for a while until you get to the canyon. You need a good topo map or app to find this area as it will be difficult to impossible without one.

For more information about this area, see my Double Branch Hole Ecological Area Guide.

7 – Lusk Creek Wilderness

Lusk Creek Wilderness to Indian Kitchen provides a wonderful opportunity to see an amazing frozen waterfall in the Shawnee National Forest. The waterfall is very tall and cakes the side of the bluff with ice. I remember one year when people even ice-climbed in. I’d watch but not participate in that craziness, LOL.

Lusk Creek

Difficulty: This is a moderately difficult hike that most people should be able to do. The hardest part will be getting down to the canyon (and getting back up) past the horse tie-up area.

Parking and Trailhead: Parking for this trail is located on Indian Kitchen Road at the Indian Kitchen Trailhead. There is enough room for many vehicles. There is also a vault toilet at the trailhead and a map on the sign. The road to the trailhead is gravel and will likely not be treated or plowed during wintry conditions.

Hiking Directions: See the Shawnee National Forest Map for waterfall locations. After you park, cross the road and walk past the gate. Shortly down the trail, take the right trail. After that, stay on the main trail (stay left at forks and junctions) until you get to the horse tie-off area. The hiker-only trail to the canyon is there. You’ll see the signs.

For more information about this area, see my Indian Kitchen Trail Guide.

8 – Panther Den Wilderness

Panther Den might be one of the smallest wilderness areas in the Shawnee National Forest, but it definitely comes packed with a lot to see. There are amazing cave shelters, rock formations, and, of course, frozen waterfall capabilities during the colder months in Southern Illinois.

Panther Den

Difficulty: For the most part, the trails to the waterfall area are designated and maintained. They’re easy to most hikers, beginners and advanced. However, they’d be classified as moderately difficult because there are some small creek crossings and rolling hills.

Parking and Trailhead: The road to the parking is a very narrow gravel road that doesn’t get treated during wintry conditions. There is enough parking for a few vehicles. Please do not trespass on private property in the area, as there have been issues with property owners in the past.

Hiking Directions: Use the Shawnee National Forest Map to pinpoint the waterfall spots. Take the main trail from the parking area to the rock formations. There are blazes and signs on trees showing you how to get to the formations.

For more information about this area, see my Panther Den Wilderness Area Guide.

9 – Ferne Clyffe State Park

Ferne Clyffe State Park is among the best areas to see Southern Illinois frozen waterfalls, and while it’s a popular state park, during colder months, it doesn’t get as many visitors. There are several waterfalls to see right from the main area where you park, and most of them require a very short hike to reach them.

Ferne Clyffe

Difficulty: Most of the trails to the main waterfalls are easy to get to. There is one area where you’ll have to cross the main creek. Concrete stepping stones are available but could be submerged if we have a lot of water. The creek crossing could be difficult if frozen.

Parking and Trailhead: This can be tricky. Ferne Clyffe is known to shut down its roads when it snows. If the roads are clear, you can easily access the waterfalls. Drive through the park and turn left at the crossroad, go past the lake, and then turn right. Park at the end to access all the main waterfall trails.

Hiking Directions: See the Shawnee National Forest Map for the exact locations of the waterfalls. If the gate is closed, you may have to access the area from the campground area. The better waterfalls are Hawks Cave, Rebman Trail, and Big Rocky Hollow. There is a remote waterfall located at Bork Falls, but the road to get to it can be sketchy at times.

For more information about this area, visit my Ferne Clyffe State Park Guide.

10 – Tunnel Hill State Trail

Tunnel Hill State Trail is a 50+ mile bike and pedestrian trail. I’ve added it to the Southern Illinois frozen waterfalls list because you can easily access waterfalls that run down the bluffs right before and after you pass through the train tunnel. They’re not the best waterfalls, but they’re easy to reach and will likely be less crowded.

Tunnel Hill

Difficulty: The main difficulty might be that the parking lot won’t be cleared. The hike to the waterfalls is less than eight of a mile and is easy.

Parking and Trailhead: Park at the Tunnel Hill, Illinois trailhead (the village of Tunnel Hill, that is). There are enough spots for many cars, and a large overflow parking area is also present. There are vault toilets, signage, and picnic tables. There is water but it could be shut off during extreme cold.

Hiking Directions: See the Tunnel Hill Trail Map for the area of the tunnel. After you park, walk on the trail where the restroom will be on your left for a very short hike to the tunnel. The frozen falls should be draped across the bluffs before and after the tunnel. Enjoy the tunnel while you’re there.

For more information about this area, see my Tunnel Hill State Trail Guide.

Final Thoughts About Southern Illinois Frozen Waterfalls

There are many Southern Illinois frozen waterfalls to enjoy this winter. Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy what nature has to offer. Remember to put safety first when visiting any of the frozen waterfalls above because they’re more dangerous frozen than they are not frozen. Leave the Shawnee with great memories, not bad injuries.

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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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