What Are The Longest Trails To Hike In Southernmost Illinois?

The weather is about to take a turn for the worst — freezing temperatures, wind, rain, sleet, snow, you know the drill — which means this next month marks your last chance to get outside to enjoy everything Mother Nature has to offer. That’s not to say you can’t venture into the woods during winter, but not everyone is built to endure the cold. Here are the best trails to explore before autumn chill really sets into your bones.

Trail 049 is a loop that extends for over ten miles. That’s a full day for most of us. Begin your hike in early morning at the East Trigg Trailhead. You’ll want to mark Millstone Lake on your map, because that’s destination number one. From there you’ll find the target Trail 049. Turn toward Jackson Falls. From there, you have a number of options — But looping back to the River to River Trail will take you home.

Want to go farther? No problem. The River to River Trail is actually 160 miles out-and-back. Research the American Discovery Trail if you want to explore even beyond. This trail marks a great opportunity to walk through the Shawnee National Forest, which is Southernmost Illinois’s claim to fame. It passes through a number of wildlife sanctuaries and state parks, including Crab Orchard. Be careful, because many segments of the trail cut through private property. To avoid trouble with the locals, stay on trail. A great thru-hiking opportunity for newbies, too.

Ever biked or walked along the popular Tunnel Hill State Trail, a rails-to-trail creation? Because it was built with trains in mind, the elevation change is minor. Walking, you’ll barely notice. Biking could be harder. The trail extends about 50 miles with a terminus in Harrisburg and the other in Karnak. Want more information? Check out the trail headquarters in Vienna City Park.

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