Hiking with Shawn’s Trail Guide Series:
Blackjack Oak Trail
One of our favorite fall colors trails is called Blackjack Oak Trail and it’s inside Ferne Clyffe State Park. While the state park has a lot of popular trails, Blackjack Oak Trail is often passed by and never used as much as the others like Big Rocky Hollow and Hawk’s Cave. Blackjack Oak Trail is fairly easy to manage but offers some really great views especially during the fall color season here in southern Illinois.
This hike has very little elevation and is about 2 miles total in length out and back. You can find this hike on All Trails.
Directions and Stuff!
The trailhead for Blackjack Oak Trail is about 2.5 miles from Goreville, Illinois. Head south out of town for about a 1.5 miles until you reach the park entrance on your right. Turn and go until you come to the cross-road. Turn left (note the gate may be closed during wintry conditions) and drive down the hill before shortly seeing the parking lot for the lake on your left. Park there. Across from that parking lot and road is the trailhead for Blackjack Oak in the forest. That is where you want to start.
Take that trail (trailhead should show the sign) up the hill. This is the worst uphill portion that you will do but it really is a gut buster of a hill! It gets me and Michelle every time, lol. At the top, enjoy all the scenic views and continue down the bluff until you get into the bottoms area where the bluffage is to your right. Continue on until you reach the Big Rocky Hollow trail but be careful as the way down the trail can be steep and slick when wet. Walk the road back or take the trail you just hiked back to your vehicle if you’d like. If you start earlier enough, you can add Rebman, Hawk’s Cave or Boy Scout Trail for extra miles or do them all if you’re energetic enough!
What You’ll See!
Starting at the Lake side, once you climb the gut busting hill – you’ll be seeing quite a few scenic overlooks. You will notice that each overlook will get better and better than the last one, especially as you get nice scenes with the lake in the view. The last main scenic overlook provides a bench for a good sit down view of the Shawnee National Forest country below. To us, it is one of the easier spots to view the fall colors without having to do a lot of hiking.
As you continue, you will start to go down the bluff. The first thing you’ll notice is the interesting trees that could be creepy at night. In fact, they are pretty creepy at night. I like to call them slenderman trees. Continue hiking down the bluff until you see the cool cave shelter on your right. As you continue with the bluffage to your right, you’ll run into many cool crevices, shelters, rocky walkways and boulders you can get on and enjoy. Have a look around to find more little gems in the area.
As you get closer to the end of the trail, you’ll probably start hearing people as you’re getting closer to the more popular trails of the state park. That is where you’ll find the main waterfall trail and the others.
Tips for the Trail!
- Wear proper footwear that has some grip, especially on wet rocky conditions.
- Bring plenty of water and snacks.
- Try not to hike alone and be sure to tell others where you are going.
- Stay on the official trails at all times to avoid hazards.
- Pack out what you pack in and never vandalize the natural features.
- Bring a camera, because there are some awesome views!
Watch the videos for this trail!
Below is a recent video that we filmed while enjoying the Blackjack Oak Trail at Ferne Clyffe State Park!
One last thing!
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Thanks for checking out this guide and please share it with others if you’d like to see more of them made!
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.