Hiking in Southern Illinois

Get to know the natural wonders of Southern Illinois on expert-led hikes as you explore deep canyons, waterfalls, rock-bottom creeks and cypress swamps.
Not yet reviewed
Program No. 13085RJ
6 days
Starts at

At a Glance

Hike through oak-hickory hardwood forests, sandstone canyons and the northernmost cypress swamp in America in Southern Illinois—a close-kept secret of outdoor enthusiasts. Learn about the wildlife and natural history of this biologically diverse region with naturalists on progressively more difficult hikes that include sweeping views and culminate in a five-mile section of the River-to-River trail through the Garden of the Gods National Wilderness.
Activity Level
Outdoor: Spirited
Physically fit enough to hike 5-6 miles over wooded, hilly, and rocky terrain. The first day is up to 5 miles on rugged terrain. Day 2 and 3 are shorter and flatter. Day 4 is 6+ miles over hilly terrain.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 10 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Discover Ondessonk’s oak-hickory forests, sandstone canyons and the tallest free-falling waterfall in Illinois.
  • Explore the Cache River Wetlands through ancient cypress swamps, observing the rich diversity of trees, wildflowers and birds, and visit some of Illinois' premier state parks and natural areas to see terrain not typical of the Midwest.
  • Hike a five-mile section of the River-to-River Trail through a national wilderness area ending in one of the most spectacular views in the Midwest.

General Notes

The Retreat Difference: This unique, often basic and no-frills experience at a Road Scholar Retreat includes opportunities for early morning exercise, interaction with the local community for insight into local life, an authentic farm-to-table or locally sourced meal, a live performance or event, and a value-priced single room.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Field Guide to Trees
by National Audubon Society
Great field guide for trees in Southern Illinois
Illinois Wildflowers
by Don Kurz
The only book you will need to identify wildflowers in The Prairie State.
A Sand County Almanac
by Aldo Leopold
Aldo Leopold is recognized as one of the indispensable figures of American environmentalism. Forester, sportsman, wildlife manager, and ecologist, he was also a gifted writer whose farsighted land ethic is proving increasingly relevant in our own time.

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