10 Southern Illinois Summer Hikes to Enjoy in 2024

Are you looking for some good Southern Illinois summer hikes this year?

Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean you have to quit hiking. There are still plenty of great spots to go that aren’t overgrown or full of spiderwebs.

You just have to go where more people are going. Let them clear out the webs so you can enjoy a nice hike in nature.

If you’re fine hiking where people might be, then check out this Southern Illinois summer hikes list.

Useful Tips for Southern Illinois Summer Hikes

Southern Illinois summer hikes aren’t all fun and games.

This area gets hot and humid during the summer, so it’s important to take precautions. Make sure you have more water than you’ll need, and pack some snacks, too.

Tell someone where you’re going before you go, just in case you don’t make it back.

Watch your step at all times. The venomous rattlesnakes aren’t the biggest hazard out there. Falling is. More people die every year in Southern Illinois due to falling off the bluffs and cliffs.

Safety before selfies, folks.

Dress for the conditions. When it’s hot, I wear shorts and a T-shirt. If there is a chance of rain, I pack a raincoat. I wear waterproof boots if I’ll be crossing creeks.

The bugs can get bad this time of year. To prevent ticks, pre-treat clothing, gear, and footwear with permethrin. Use bug spray, too. DEET is the best, but lemon grass is a good alternative for folks who don’t like chemicals. Just like with sunblock, you’ll need to reapply your bug spray throughout your hike because you’ll sweat it off.

Did I mention water? I did, but I’m doing it again. Southern Illinois is full of rolling hills and moderately rugged hikes. Make sure you stay hydrated, or you might be in a world of hurt.

Now, on to the Southern Illinois summer hikes list!

10 Southern Illinois Summer Hikes

The following Southern Illinois summer hikes were chosen based on how clear the trail remains during the summer and usage. More usage means fewer spider webs and overgrown trail portions. Check out my lesser-known trails list for areas with fewer people.


1 – Little Grand Canyon

Little Grand Canyon is a great addition to the Southern Illinois summer hikes list because it is used frequently during the warmer months.

Little Grand Canyon

This place is by a river, so bugs will typically be thicker. Speaking of the river, if we have flooding conditions, Little Grand Canyon won’t be the best place to hike. You have to walk up and down a waterfall cascade, so it’s best to go when it’s dry. Watch your step – besides falling hazards, this place has the copperhead, cottonmouth, and timber rattlesnake.

Check out my full guide for Little Grand Canyon to learn more about this hike and to get directions to the trail.

The best place to eat in the summer close to Little Grand Canyon, hands down, is Mase’s Place. It’s right down the road, too. If you need a place to stay, check out Little Red Shed or CornerStone Cabins nearby.

2 – Giant City Nature Trail

Giant City Nature Trail is probably the most popular trail in the Giant City State Park. This makes it perfect for the lack of spider webs and overgrowth.

Balancing rock at Giant City Nature Trail

There is an area by the Giant City Streets called “Fat Man Squeeze.” I don’t recommend trying to squeeze up it. It’s a known location for the copperhead snake. That’s a venomous snake. Snake anti-venom shots might cost you around $100,000, and most insurance companies don’t cover them. Stay on the trail to avoid most hazards.

Check out my full guide for the Giant City Nature Trail for more information about this hike and directions to the trailhead.

You have got to eat at the Giant City Lodge when visiting Giant City State Park. The food is awesome, and the atmosphere is very Theodore Roosevelt-era. There is even a gift shop inside. Crackle Barrel has nothing on this place. There are plenty of places to stay nearby, too, including Makanda Inn, Giant City Cabins, and the Giant City Campground.

3 – Rocky Bluff

Rocky Bluff is the place to visit for one of the best Southern Illinois summer hikes after a few good days of moderate to heavy rain. That’s because of all the waterfall-chasing opportunities.

Rocky Bluff Trailhead Sign

You have to have a vehicle decal to drive to and park on this trail. You can even get a day pass if you’re not from the area. Be careful around the waterfalls and edges of the cliffs. They can be deadly to those not paying attention.

Check out my free online guide to the Rocky Bluff and Wild Turkey Trail System for more information about the trail and to learn how to access this hike.

For eating, I suggest you go to Carbondale and find something there. That city has everything and a lot of diverse choices. For lodging, check out the many places offered in and around the Carbondale area.

4 – Hawk’s Cave

Hawk’s Cave is a great short-loop hiking trail in Ferne Clyffe State Park. It has a few cool waterfalls and one of the largest natural cave shelters in Southern Illinois.

Hawk's Cave

You have to cross a creek to get to this trail. The creek bottom is concrete, and there are stepping stones, but if it’s really full, your feet might get wet. Other than that, watch your step and be careful climbing on and around the big boulders in the cave.

Check out my guide about Ferne Clyffe State Park and the Hawk’s Cave Trail for more information and directions on how to reach the trail.

For some really good food in this area, head over to Whiffle Boy’s Pizza in Goreville. If you need a place to stay, check out Cedar Rock Cabins or Shawnee Trails Lodging and Suites. There is also a campground in the state park.

5 – Heron Pond Nature Preserve

Heron Pond Nature Preserve is among my favorite Southern Illinois summer hikes because that is where my love for hiking and the invention of Hiking with Shawn all started.

This area is a swamp. The bugs are worse here during the summer. There is also an abundance of venomous cottonmouth snakes. Flooding may occur here during those conditions. Use caution, and do not swim in the river. Stay on the trail to avoid most hazards.

Check out my full guide on the Heron Pond Nature Preserve for more information on what you’ll see and how to get to this trail.

Vienna has some of the best food in this area. For a place to stay nearby, check out Perkins House Inn, Shawnee Forest Campground, or The Skoolie.

6 – Jackson Falls

Jackson Falls is one of the best places to chase waterfalls and bluffage all at the same time. You can also legally rock climb there and camp all year long without paying.

People die here every year! It’s from falling off the cliffs. You must use caution when visiting this area, or you’ll likely become a statistic in my next safety article. Don’t be my next statistic, please. Watch your step and use common sense.

Jackson Falls can be confusing. I’ve written a full, free guide about the area, including what you’ll see and how to get there.

The best place to eat near this trail is Shotgun Eddy’s, which has a great burger. For lodging, you can camp at Jackson Falls for free. There is also a place nearby called The Potel, which you can rent for the night.

7 – Bell Smith Springs

Bell Smith Springs is on the Southern Illinois summer hikes list because it’s the go-to place if you want to go swimming and wading.

Southern Illinois Summer Hikes

There are no lifeguards. I’ve seen copperhead snakes there quite a bit, too. This seems to be party-central for teenagers and young adults. Sometimes, they drink alcohol. Just make sure you use common sense and watch your step when visiting this area.

Check out my free ultimate guide for Bell Smith Springs to learn more about this awesome place and to get directions to the area.

For dining, check out Shotgun Eddy’s in Eddyville. You can camp at Redbud Campground or Teal Pond. Lodging is also available at Willowbrook Cabins and Bear Branch Campground.

8 – Indian Point Trail

Indian Point Trail offers beautiful scenic overlooks and bluffage overload in one of the most popular areas of the Shawnee National Forest.

Southern Illinois Summer Hikes

This is the Garden of the Gods area. People die here every year from falling. Watch your step and use common sense, and you’ll survive with a smile. Copperhead and timber rattlesnakes occur in this area. This trail is in the wilderness, so no motor vehicles or bicycles are allowed.

Check out my full guide for the Indian Point Trail for more information and directions on how to reach this trail.

There are a few good places to eat around this area, including Garden of the Gods Outpost and dining in Harrisburg. For lodging, you can camp for free in the wilderness or at Garden of the Gods or Shawnee Forest Cabins.

9 – Rim Rock to Pounds Hollow Beach

Rim Rock to Pounds Hollow is one of the best Southern Illinois summer hikes for those who want to go on a great hike and then immediately swim afterward.

Shawnee National Forest Best Views

This area has bluffs and slippery rocks. Watch your step and use common sense. The beach has no lifeguard or phone signal, so keep that in mind. If you plan to hit the beach, which is free (for now), it’s best to wear a swimsuit under your hiking clothes or as your hiking clothes.

Check out my full guide to the Rim Rock Area for more information and directions to this amazing place.

For a great dining experience, check out The Gap in Herod. If you need a place to stay, you can camp at Pounds Hollow or rent a cabin at Rim Rock’s Dogwood Cabins or Timber Ridge Treehouses.

10 – Cave-in-Rock State Park

Cave-in-Rock State Park has a very easy-to-hike trail that leads you to an actual pirate’s cave on the Ohio River that ghosts might haunt.

Cave-in-Rock State Park

This trail is right next to the Ohio River. That means if you jump in and get carried off by the current, you’ll probably be a goner. It also means that if the river is flooding, you won’t be able to access the trail as it will be underwater.

Check out my full guide to this state park for more information about the trail and directions to it.

The Cave-in-Rock Lodge serves a really good breakfast and lunch. If you need a place to stay, you can camp at the campground in the park or stay at the Cave-in-Rock cabins and get a great view of the Ohio River.

Final Thoughts About Southern Illinois Summer Hikes

There are many great Southern Illinois summer hikes to enjoy this year.

The ones on this list are a lot of fun and offer a lot to see. There are even more trails than what is listed here, and there are also plenty of great places to dine and lodge along the way.

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

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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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