Hiking with Shawn’s Trail Guide Series:
Trigg Observation Tower
Trigg Observation Tower is a former fire watch observation tower located in the Shawnee National Forest near Simpson, Illinois. Trigg Observation Tower was originally about 100 foot in height but half of it was removed for safety reasons once the tower was no longer used for fire watching activities. The original tower was built in the 1930s and is the last remaining fire tower in the Shawnee National Forest out of the 10+ towers that once stood around the forest. There is also a fire tower in its full form located on state property at Trail of Tears State Forest near Alto Pass, Illinois. You cannot go up that tower. You can go up the Trigg Observation Tower.
Trigg Observation Tower and the area around it has been often targeted by vandals and those who wish to harm our National Forest. From damaging the ground with their vehicles to spray-painting profanity on the deck of the tower, Trigg Observation Tower has taken a beating over the years. Recently the US Forest Service maintained the tower and are working on ways to maintain it without having to repeat the maintenance. However, because of the vandals, I recommend seeing Trigg Observation Tower soon because eventually it may be too expensive to maintain and therefore closed to climbing up on. Many other fire towers meet this fate, sadly.
Please help us keep our National Forest and its features safe for everyone to enjoy by reporting suspicious activities to local law enforcement. If you see something suspicious, say something!
Click this Google Map Link to see direction to Trigg Observation Tower from Marion, Illinois. You can change Marion to whatever town you are driving from.
The roads to Trigg Observation Tower are made up of asphalt and gravel. There are some potholes present on the gravel roads. However, all vehicles should be able to drive to the site during normal weather conditions.
The parking lot can fit about 8-10 vehicles. Do not pull horse trailers into the parking lot. Equestrians should park at the nearby East Trigg Trailhead and ride to the Observation Tower. There is a wooden highline available to tie up horses and mules. There is a sign with little information at the site. A recent fence was constructed to help keep vandals from driving on the grass and tearing it up.
The first set of stairs are shaky but safe. The tower is old and there is heavy graffiti on it. Some of the graffiti is profane. Sadly, when the profanity is covered, new profanity is added. It isn’t a Forest Service problem, it’s a people not reporting it problem!
What You’ll See!
The Trigg Observation Tower site is relatively small. There is the tower, a field around it and the parking lot. This is definitely a place to add to a trip of going somewhere else – this would make a good quick side trip. This would be a good side trip if exploring nearby places like Bell Smith Springs and Splatterstone Falls from East Trigg.
After you park your vehicle, the tower is a short walk and climb. Once you are at the top, the tower provides a wonderful view of the Shawnee National Forest, closeby countrysides and the rolling hills of southern Illinois. This is an excellent spot to see the sunset, sunrise and colors during the fall. This tower is an excellent location for photography but keep in mind that if people are walking up/down the stairs, the tower is a little shaky for you photographers who will be wondering. The tower is over 80 years old – so it might shake a little!
The fenced in area would be a wonderful place for a blanket-styled picnic. The roads around the tower are not travelled as much. Across the street from the tower where the two roads fork is a trail called Trigg Tower Trail. You can take that and it will give you a few mile hike, horseback ride or bicycle ride to Gum Springs Road trailhead. I’ve hiked it but I’d like to mountain bike it one day. Please keep in mind that the trail is used by equestrians and you should always yield to equine users and take calmly so that their pack animal knows you’re not a threat.
Trigg Observation Tower is a little site that is a quick trip but don’t write it off because it offers a lot with an awesome view for multiple occasions whether for photography or even a proposal!
Tips for the Trail!
- Be careful during wet and wintry conditions as the stairs could become slick.
- Do not lean on the railings.
- Do not graffiti this tower or anything on National Forest land.
- Report suspicious activities.
- Bring a camera!
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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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.