Hiking with Shawn’s
Trail Guide Series:
Trail 001T Cove Hollow is a spectacular trail. Most people refer to Cove Hollow as being a trail connected onto Cedar Lake on the west side of the Shawnee National Forest. However, there is another Cove Hollow on the east side of the forest that can be accessed from the River to River Trail around the town of Simpson, Illinois.
Trail 001T Cove Hollow is considered a lollipop-loop (out and back with a loop combined) of about 4.3-miles with less than 500’ of elevation gain. Pending on your hiking speed-the hike should take roughly 3 to 4 hours. This is a great loop with plenty to see but due to some large mud holes, creek crossings and hilly terrain, it is safe to call this moderately rugged and it is not for inexperienced hikers.
This trail is shared by hikers and horseback riders. Please check out these safety tips for sharing the trail with horseback riders when in the Shawnee National Forest. See this link for general safety tips for accessing the Shawnee National Forest as a hiker.
Trail 001T Directions and Trail Information
Check out this link for a map of general points of interest along this particular trail.
Download the free Avenza App for your smartphone and the free River to River Trail Map Bundle to easily navigate this trail. Paper maps are also available to purchase online at Friends of the Shawnee National Forest. You can download my GPX file for this hike and see my Strava activity at this link.
This hike will start at East Trigg Trailhead (GPS Coordinates: 37°29’54.7″N 88°42’28.1″W). Check out this link for Google Maps directions to the trailhead if driving from Marion, Illinois (less than an hour drive). The trailhead is on Trigg Tower Road. East Trigg is NOT Trigg Tower. If you arrive at the tower, you are at the wrong place. Use caution on Trigg Tower Road as it is gravel and there are potholes present. Please park in the car parking section of the trailhead parking lot so that there is plenty of room for horse trailer parking.
To access the start of the Trail 001 Cove Hollow hike, cross the road (Trigg Tower Road) from the parking lot and follow the River to River Trail (white and blue diamond with i in the middle-blaze) until you reach the 001T trail to your left. The trail will be blazed with solid white diamond blazes with 001T wrote on them. Some blazes may say ‘Cove Hollow’ on them. The idea is following the bluff line until your reach the railroad tracks and then walking parallel with them until you reach Tin Whistle (tunnel under train tracks) and then taking the River to River Trail (R2R) back to East Trigg.
The beginning mile of the hike along the R2R trail will present a challenge, especially when wet. There are several large mudholes created by off road vehicles and ATVs over the years. You may have to leave the trail to get around some of these. There are no known plans for repair to these large mud holes.
There are newly created trails around many of the mud holes, but some do not have alternative trails and these might be challenging for some equestrian users who’s pack animal may be scared to get into the mud hole.
Points of Interest along Trail 001T
Along the first mile or so of the trail, in between mud holes – there are a few different signs (mainly on your left if heading towards Cove Hollow) of previous home sites. There are wells (unprotected and hazardous, use caution), ponds and even foundation from a previous home that once stood before the National Forest land was purchased from farmers and settlers in the area. This whole area used to be farmland before the 1930s and 1940s. The National Forest system was established, and this land was acquired by the federal government to help form the Shawnee National Forest. The Civilian Conservation Corps grew most of the trees we now see and created most of the trails. It is also important to mention that most of the trails were created and are still maintained by the horseback community-without them, we wouldn’t have as many trails in the Shawnee.
As you continue hiking, you’ll reach the trail for Cove Hollow (001T) on your left. Take it and start to notice bluffage on your left. If you go when it is wet enough where creeks are flowing nicely, there will be several waterfalls throughout the hike. The bluffage alone throughout the hike offers many different rock formations, cracks to squeeze through, room like spaces and interesting shelters. You’ll eventually come to a backboard with a first aid kit (please leave it be as it could be what saves your life one day) and in front of that is a popular climbing bluff called Promise Land. You’ll notice the climbing paraphernalia attached to the bluff. Please climb at your own risk with proper safety gear.
Continuing on with the hike will take you to the railroad tracks in front of you. You will now veer right of them and walk parallel to them with a good distance between you and the tracks. Please note the tracks are active and trains go fast across them. It is unlawful to trespass on railroad property. You will eventually cross a few different creeks (easy to cross, nothing too deep unless flooding is occurring) that are beautiful and scenic to see. You’ll make your way down to the Tin Whistle which is a tunnel under the railroad tracks making it safe for hikers and horseback riders to cross the tracks without fear of getting hit by a fast-moving train. At this point, go right on the trail with the Tin Whistle behind you and make you way back to where you parked.
As a final note, don’t let the mud holes scare you away. This area is one of my favorite areas to hike and the 001T trail really offers a lot to see. Just dress appropriately for getting a little muddy and you will be fine. Alternatively, you could access this area from Trail 049 starting from Millstone Lake or Jackson Falls but the route will be longer and a bit more rugged with a larger creek crossing that could be challenging if really flowing.
Tips for Visiting Trail 001T and Area
Make sure that you always follow the official Forest Regulations when visiting the Shawnee National Forest. Please report suspicious activities if you witness them, especially the use of ATVs which is illegal within the National Forest. This part of the Shawnee National Forest is managed by the Hidden Springs Ranger District of the US Forest Service. The ranger station is located in Vienna, Illinois.
The closest hospital is about 40-minutes away in Marion, Illinois. This section of the forest is within Pope County. US Forest Service Law Enforcement and Pope County Sheriff’s Office patrols and responds to law enforcement activities in this area. US Forest Service Fire Service and Pope County Rural Fire Protection District responds to medical and firefighting related activities. Most emergency responders are volunteer and response time could take hours. Put safety first, try not to hike alone, tell someone where you are going before you go and know that cell phone signal usually isn’t available in this area.
Respect private property and do not trespass. Illinois recognizes the Purple Paint Law. If you see Purple Paint on trees or posts, the property behind it is private and there is no trespassing. The Purple Paint is an approved alternative to No Trespassing signs.
This area is actively used during firearms hunting season. You are strongly advised NOT to hike this area during hunting season.
Dress accordingly to hike this area with comfortable clothing for the weather and temperature of the day (make sure you check the weather!) and durable footwear. Make sure you bring plenty of water and snacks. Proper hiking gear is highly recommended. The use of GPS and/or map and compass use if strongly encouraged.
Poison ivy, venomous snakes and fall hazards are within this area. Mosquitoes, biting flies and ticks also occur in this area. Please use caution when accessing this area.
If you encounter a horseback rider, yield to the rider while speaking calmly to them. This will help the horse know you are human and not a threat. Never hold still and not say anything at all unless the rider instructs you to do so.
Nearby Activities, Lodging and Dining Services
For other hiking opportunities in this area, check out Jackson Falls, Trigg Tower, Millstone Bluff and Bell Smith Springs. For a more rugged hiking experience, you can always hike at Burden Falls Wilderness or Bay Creek Wilderness which is also nearby. Tunnel Hill State Trail is close by and offers cycling, running, and hiking opportunities as well. For paddling opportunities, consider Millstone Lake or Lusk Creek Wilderness.
For lodging and camping-check out Bell Smith Springs for non-electric camping. For electric camping, check out Shawnee Forest Campground and Hangout Campground. For equestrian camping, Hayes Creek Campground tends to be the most popular equine campground in the area. Check out Damn Near Lake of Egypt Cabins for cabin camping or Shawnee Paradise for Airbnb lodging. The Wilderness Areas offer dispersed camping for hikers and equestrians who prefer that kind of experience.
For dining in this particular area, we recommend Murphy’s Pit BBQ in Ozark and Shotgun Eddy’s in Eddyville. The nearby town of Vienna also offer many great local options including Wildfires, Ned’s Shed, Family Pizza, El Tequilas Mexican Food and Vienna Family Diner.
Find others to hike with and more information about this area on Facebook at the Southern Illinois Hiking and Outdoor Recreation group which is a service of Hiking with Shawn.
Watch the videos for this trail!
Below is a recent video that we filmed while enjoying this area.
One last thing!
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Shawn J. Gossman
Shawn is the founder and host of the YouTube Channel, Hiking with Shawn as well as Hiking with Shawn LLC. Shawn hikes, backpacks and visits various forested areas in the Shawnee National Forest, local state parks and other areas promoting outdoor recreational activities to obtain video to show to locals and non-locals alike. Please support Shawn’s efforts by sharing this post and leaving a comment below.