Burden Falls Wilderness is in Pope County, in the North West corner of the Shawnee National Forest. Just a short drive from Bell Smith Springs and Jackson Falls. I would highly recommend combining this with one of these other hiking trails.
Burden Falls Wilderness is composed of hiking and horse trails, but why most people visit is the actual Burden Falls.
The top of the waterfall is located almost directly off the parking lot, making this ideal for someone who doesn’t want to hike far. When entering or exiting the tiny parking lot, you probably drove through Burden Creek that becomes the waterfall in a few feet.
The upper cascades is only a few feet tall, but very lovely to see the creek dropping over standstone ledges.
The path crosses Burden Creek after the first upper cascade. From the north you can see a side view of the main falls. Continuing down the rock wall will give you the best views from the bottom of the falls.
View of the falls as you’re coming down the side of the rock wall.
In dry summer weather, the falls are only a trickle. But if you manage to visit after a rainy period, you can really see it flowing. This is a great spot to visit in Spring, when it’s rainier and not as hot.
I hope you’re all blessed with friends who will dance under waterfalls with you.
View of the creek as it flowed away from the falls.
Disclaimer: Some of these were taken on a cell phone in 2016, so they aren’t up to my normal dslr quality.
Rocky Bluffs Trail is a 1.8 mile loop trail featuring two waterfalls in heavy rainfall. A shortcut trail turns the loop into less than a mile. The trail is located on the East side of Devil’s Kitchen Lake, past the spillway on Tacoma Road. The trail head has a small parking lot that can get full during the popular hiking times.
This is one of the better maintained trails in Southern Illinois. It features foot bridges, stairs, benches, and clear trails. The trail head has two paths. The left takes you to the bottom of the large waterfall, the right takes you to the top. The second cascade is found by following the right trail to where the shortcut trail begins. Both of the waterfalls only flow during heavy rainfalls. I have gone the day after a big rain and they have already dried up.
Even without the waterfalls, however, this is a worthy hiking spot. The trail to the right goes over the top of the first waterfall and then follows a path through the woods. Eventually the path loops to the left. Make sure to pay attention to the signage. It intersects with a trail called Wild Turkey Trail that does not lead back to the parking lot.
The trail follows the top of the hill until turning again left to start your descent. On the way down, the trail has several switchbacks. From the top you can see a series of footbridges, but you don’t reach them til about half way down. This section of this trail offers a pretty view of the woods and Grassy Creek.
For the last half of the trail, the path meanders between Grassy Creek and a set of bluffs. The bluffs have beautiful crevasses and layers in their formation.
After the bluffs, you reach the base of the waterfall. The stairs on the far side take you back to the parking lot.
This trail is fantastic when there’s been heavy rain, but still worth it to see the bluffs and creek. In the Spring, this area is known for its wildflowers. In a wet cold winter, the waterfall can turn into a frozen sculpture of icicles.
To see the waterfall in heavy rain check out this post.
Looks can be deceiving and maps can be hard to read. For our three-year anniversary, Donovan and I rented a cabin nearby Carbondale. It was “dog-friendly” but we wanted to tired Chiba out a bit before going there. We drove to nearby Ferne Clyffe and decided to try out some of the trails we’d never been on before.
Here’s part of the Ferne Clyffe map. The red line is the trail I thought we were going to do, but it turns out that where the green circle is, the trails aren’t connected! So we ended up doing something more like the blue trail. This involved walking through the woods instead of on paths multiple times and several more miles and hours than we estimated. The trails we were on are called Happy Hollows trails and make up an 8 mile horse trail. We probably only did 6-7 of the 8 miles, thanks to some “short-cuts.” I wouldn’t recommend this during summer. Horse trails are awful for bugs! But the pine trees and mossy bluffs made the scenery interesting for a long winter hike.
We hiked through a lot of forest and pine forest.
Eventually coming to a gorgeous area with mossy bluffs and frozen water drippings.
THEN! We stumbled upon the hidden Natural Bridge of Ferne Clyffe. It’s not actually hidden, but it’s in a very remote area of the park on the horse trail. I had read about it, but even the two blogs that brought it up, didn’t say where it was located in the park. Honestly, I can’t tell you where exactly either (we were super lost when we found it), but somewhere right around this yellow star on the map:
Right around the bridge is where we started to realize we were a lot more lost than originally realized and had gone a lot further than originally planned. Donovan turned google maps on his phone and it showed us WAY FAR AWAY from the Ferne Clyffe road. So we abandoned the trail and walked down hill toward the road. Eventually we found the other side of the trail loop and followed it almost back. Except google maps showed us right down the hill from the road back to our car, so we once again abandoned trail to take a short cut back.
It wasn’t what we planned for our anniversary, but we spent time doing something we love with the people we love. I told Donovan he could be the map reader next time 😉
The Saline County State Fish & Wildlife Area is 1,270 acres with a 105 acre lake and four hiking trails. We drove here on a warm winter day to stretch our legs and those of our fine furry friend. Originally we picked the Cave Hill trail to walk, but after passing several families all asking “Do you know if there’s actually a cave back there? We walked way far back and no cave” decided to change directions. Plus, the Cave Hill trail was going through pure woods, which is sort of boring in the winter.
A statue for the Shawnee Chief Tecumseh is at the trailhead for Cave Hill
Although the map doesn’t show it, there is a trail that connects from the Cave Hill area down to the Lake trail. We walked this and then around by the lake for a while. The lake was beautiful on the sunny day. It was an easy hike and perfect for a relaxed family day.
For the record, after much internet searching, the second edition of Hiking Illinois said Cave Hill is a 3 mile linear trail ending in Cave Hill. I’m hoping to go back better prepared for a 6 mile round trip hike and find Cave Hill.