Jackson Falls is a wilderness area in the Northeast corner of Shawnee National Forest. It’s located nearby Burden Falls, Bell Smith Springs, and Millstone Bluff National Park. The bluffs in the area are 30-70 feet high. I couldn’t find an exact height of the falls, but I would guess 50-60 feet.
The road leading to Jackson Falls is a bit iffy, especially after heavy rain. This area is best accessed if you have a higher clearance vehicle. Next to the parking lot are camping sites with fire rings. It’s free to camp here. You will walk past these camping sites towards the falls.
This area is known for having great rock climbing. In fact it has the most climbing routes in Illinois. I enjoyed watching some groups climb while we were here. In addition the main waterfall, there are several other smaller run offs in the area. According to All Trails, the loop around the top of the bluffs is just under 4 miles. We didn’t do the loop, but instead went to the base of the main falls.
If you are trying to descend to see the base of the falls, the paths down (without rock climbing down) are hard to find. We thankfully ran into a nice hiker who showed us. There are supposed to be ways down on either side of the canyon. Both paths are just over 1 miles from the top of the main waterfall. We crossed the waterfall and continued around to the east.
Top of the Falls
Path along the top of the bluffs
The path down if you head to the west is supposedly shortly after you begin seeing the railroad tracks. One commenter on All Trails said both ways down are near emergency kits. I don’t remember seeing anything worth noting for the east path down. If you find the way down, help others who are trying to find it as you’re leaving!
Here was the spot where we climbed down. The first photo is from the top of the bluffs. The last is from the bottom looking back.
This trickle is I believe the East Falls in heavier rain.
Bluffs with two people climbing in orange.
We hiked at least 4 miles that day. You hike from the parking lot to the top falls, a mile to the point of descension, a mile along the bottom of the bluffs to the falls, and then all that in reverse.
The waterfall is beautiful and worth the hassle to get there. I’m sure the pool at the bottom would be great to get in during warm months. The general scenery of the bluffs and trees makes the 4 miles go by quickly.
My friend and I did this hike the same day as we went to Burden Falls. There were plenty of dancing and photos taken at the base of both falls!