12 Lesser Known
Southern Illinois Waterfalls
You MUST See
Are you looking for some Southern Illinois Waterfalls that are lesser known?
You’ve come to the right place. Southern Illinois and the Shawnee National Forest are packed with waterfalls. Some are well-known and well-visited. Others are not so known and not as visited.
When visiting these unique places, I ask that you put safety above all else and remember to leave no trace.
Now, let’s jump into the twelve lesser know Southern Illinois Waterfalls that you need to see.
Southern Illinois Waterfalls: East Side
The east side of the Shawnee National Forest has most of the popular waterfalls. But there are many waterfalls on this side that many people don’t know about. These spots are usually fairly rugged to reach, and safety should be your pain priority when visiting these areas.
Rock Creek Cascade
Rock Creek Cascade can be found along the old route of the River to River Trail.
Rock Creek is an area that isn’t visited that much. Parking is on the side of the road or at the church if there is room. There are trails, but many are pretty rugged from lack of use. You’ll find the Rock Creek Cascade and other incredible creek scenes.
This is an area I take my boundary app (OnXHunt) with me. There is some private property that you have to skirt around. Please respect private property and don’t trespass.
Rock Creek is quite a lesser-known area with excellent hiking and waterfall opportunities.
Pine Hollow Rocky Creek
The Pine Hollow Rocky Creek cascade is truly a hidden gem of its area.
Pine Hollow is another area that isn’t widely visited. You can take the trail from Rock Road near Dixon Springs State Park and follow the area boundary to get to the cascade. If wet, it is a cascade like no other. It truly is impressive to witness firsthand.
There is a lot of private property out there. I always take my boundary app with me to ensure I don’t trespass. Many property owners have purple paint up, which means no trespassing. Please respect it!
Even when the area isn’t wet, this is an excellent part of the Shawnee.
Ghost Dance Canyon
Ghost Dance Canyon is an incredible waterfall and creek cascade.
Water shoots out of huge boulders piled up in the creek. Many of you have probably seen this trail. But it isn’t widely advertised at Dixon Springs State Park, so many people miss it. Getting to the waterfall cascade can be challenging when the area is wet. You have to cross a creek that could be deep.
I’ve found alternative ways: going up the hill before the swimming pool access, making my way down the bluff, and skipping the creek altogether. Understanding topo maps can help you find these alternative ways.
If you’ve not seen this waterfall, you’re missing out on one of the best Southern Illinois waterfalls!
Secret Canyon Waterfall
Secret Canyon waterfall is one of the best waterfalls in the Lusk Creek Wilderness. There are excellent waterfalls along the way, which are remarkable to witness. This is a popular horse trail so you might encounter horseback riders. Make sure you yield to horseback riders and talk to them so the horse knows you’re human and not a threat.
I’ve found easier access to the Secret Canyon waterfall by going into the wilderness from New Liberty Church/Blanchard Cemetery.
Since horses commonly use this, it is often a very muddy hike when wet, just so you know.
Southern Illinois Waterfalls: Central
The central portion of Southern Illinois has many waterfalls to enjoy. Some of the more widely known Southern Illinois waterfalls are in this region, such as Burden Falls and Jackson Falls. But there are plenty of others that are not as known.
Jackson Hole Waterfall
Jackson Hole is a place where you can see some fantastic waterfalls all year round.
Getting to Jackson Hole can be a challenge for some. The best way in is down Mustang Lane, but the road is rough, especially after it rains. Alternative ways will mean longer hikes. There is a horse Highline around the waterfalls in case you plan to reach it by horseback. But witnessing these waterfalls is something you should do at least once.
This is my favorite spot to chase frozen waterfalls. I’ve never seen such impressive waterfalls as I have at this spot during the winter months. But during that time, it is hazardous to visit. Make sure you put safety first because falling out here will likely result in death.
Jackson Hole has some of the best Southern Illinois waterfalls out there.
Crevice Falls is in an area called Pakentuck and is a fantastic waterfall to witness.
Pakentuck is Shawnee National Forest land, but it borders Camp Ondessonk. You can reach the trails for Crevice Falls from Pakentuck Road in Ozark. There is a trail leading right to the waterfall but no blazes. There are several other incredible waterfalls out there, too.
Crevice Falls is my favorite waterfall among the Pakentuck area waterfalls. It’s just such a unique waterfall to see. You have to climb down a bluff to get to the base, and there are some visible areas. Just be careful; there are a lot of slick spots. I’ve fallen out there, and it could have been worse than what it was.
Pakentuck is a fantastic area to visit when wet.
Dutchman Lake Falls
Dutchman Lake is a great place to hike for waterfall chasing.
The Dutchman Lake waterfall system consists of about five different falls. You can hike in a loop and see every one of them. These are not official or maintained trails.
They should make them official and maintain them or let the equine crowd do it. There are some of the best Southern Illinois waterfalls out there to see running and frozen.
Whether hiking, chasing waterfalls, or kayaking – Dutchman Lake is a great place to visit.
At one time, the White Trail at Bell Smith Springs continued past the jumping spring.
If you follow the bluff line past the jumping spring on the white trail, you’ll eventually reach Eagle Falls. This waterfall is tall and looks impressive when it’s running. But getting to it is a challenge. The trail is no longer maintained (due to budget cuts), and many parts of it no longer exist.
But if you like rugged, as we do, you will enjoy visiting this waterfall.
I recommend checking out Eagle Falls at least once.
Southern Illinois Waterfalls: West Side
The west side of Southern Illinois is impressive. Most of all, it’s because not many people visit it. Even with me constantly promoting it, it is still a hidden gem for most of us. And there are plenty of incredible waterfalls in this area, too.
Red Cedar Falls
Red Cedar Falls is very dependent on rainfalls.
You can access this waterfall from the Red Cedar Trail. There is a marked trail to the waterfall. The trail looks like it has been marked for decades. It is well-used. It isn’t an official trail, and Giant City will not help you get to it. But it’s not hard to find. I do urge you to watch your step and put safety first, as the area is remote.
As I said, there has to be a good amount of rain to witness this fall. The first time I hiked Red Cedar Trail, this waterfall saved me a little. I had run out of water and was able to filter water from it. It was scorching, and I was dehydrated.
There are a lot of hidden gems around Giant City State Park and many waterfalls, too.
Rocky Comfort Waterfall
Rocky Comfort Road has some impressive waterfalls.
There is a small chunk of Shawnee National Forest by the Feather Hills Vineyard on Rocky Comfort Road near Makanda. You have to have a property boundary app to know where it is. You park on the side of the road and bushwhack. You have to make your way down into the canyon safely, and there are a few incredible waterfalls to see.
I put this one off for a long time. Finally, Michelle and I went to see it. And that area has some of the best Southern Illinois waterfalls I’ve seen in the west. It was truly amazing to see it.
But getting to it isn’t always easy. This area is reserved for people who like rugged adventures.
Piney Creek Waterfalls
Piney Creek Ravine is best known for being the largest Native American Rock Art area in the state.
But it also has many incredible waterfalls present when it’s wet. But with that being said, you’ll have to cross a creek to see the good stuff. And it’s a ravine so it can get dangerous. Exercise caution! It’s a Nature Preserve, so you should remain on the designated trail.
I took Michelle to Piney Creek Ravine on our first date. It was super wet. I crossed the creek barefoot and saw many incredible waterfalls that day. It was a great first date, for sure!
Be sure to check out the Rock Art, but just with your eyes – security cameras are watching!
Double Falls is located in a small tract of Shawnee National Forest outside Makanda.
This area, when wet, features a creek cascade flowing into a canyon. It creates two waterfalls which gave it the name Double Falls. You’ll need a property boundary app to reach this spot. Parking is on the side of the road. There are no trails or blazes. This area is dangerous when wet. People have fallen, were seriously injured, and had to be rescued from the area. Please make sure you put safety before anything else.
The best way to get down into the canyon is to the left side of the hill if you’re facing the top of the waterfall. If you keep walking left, you’ll find an area that isn’t as steep to get down. It is a fantastic waterfall, but the area depends on rainfall.
Double Falls makes a great addition to this list of Southern Illinois waterfalls to visit.
And there you have it. That was twelve incredible waterfalls in Southern Illinois that are not as known. I know that by telling you about these waterfalls, more people will know about them. But they’re not that easy to get to, which will keep most people away. If you enjoyed this article, please share it, and subscribe to my free monthly newsletter for more exclusive articles and resources for hiking in Southern Illinois.
Please Support Hiking with Shawn
Alrighty folks, I hope you have enjoyed this content. I provide it for free and it takes a while to create. If you would be so kind enough to support my efforts, you can do so by sharing this post with others, especially on social media. Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube Channel to see my latest videos, shorts and live streams. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok for unique content that you will only find on those pages. You might also join my Southern Illinois Hiking & Outdoor Resources Group on Facebook, too!
You can also support me by becoming a Patreon Supporter for as little as $3/month and you can cancel anytime (no contracts or catches). Patreons get access to extra features, exclusive articles, sticker packs, gifts and more. Consider buying official Hiking with Shawn Merchandise as another way to support me. I spend a lot of money on Hiking with Shawn and because of extremely high public land permit fees, I make very little money in return so everything helps.
Thanks again for checking out another one of my articles and until next time, I’ll see you on the trail!
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