Rim Rock Recreational Trail in Shawnee National Forest

Harrisburg, IL
Length: 1.70 mi.
Type: Loop

About This Trail

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ACTIVITIES: Hiking, splashing, canyons

LENGTH OF HIKE: 1.7 miles







NURSING BENCHES: Yes on top of trail






GEAR SUGGESTIONS: Water, sunscreen, bug spray

Located between the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, in southern Illinois, the Shawnee National Forest is 280 000 acres of woodlands National Forest is 280,000 acres of woodlands, hills, and lakes to explore. Amazing features like Garden of the Gods wilderness area features ancient sandstone cliffs, and formations are what draw people to the area. This is where you can also find the less-visited Rim Rock Trail and the opportunity for your family to experience something akin to the slot canyons of Utah, minus the tight squeeze. It may not be Grand Staircase Escalante, but any visiting child will stare up in awe at the high sandstone walls and peer into the narrow hallways carved out by years of erosion.

This area was designated a national recreation trail in 1980 because of its beauty and history for both Late Woodland Native Americans and settlers who stored supplies and resting animals in the natural cool caves. Wooden walkways lead through the forest, and eventually you can cross down into the “Pounds,” which is an Old English term for “some sort of enclosure.” The Rim Rock Trail is one of a few in the area that were man-made over 1,500 years ago by the Late Woodland Native Americans. This is also what makes the area historically significant. This area is known for its spectacular show of This area is known for its spectacular show of spring woodland flowers along both its upper and lower trails. The upper trail is paved and less strenuous for hikers. The lower trail has a dirt surface and leads along the base of the bluffs before looping back to the parking lot. Keep an eye out for Ox-Lot Cave at the beginning of your hike, a natural shelter that was historically used by both Native Americans for food storage and early loggers who kept their horses and oxen in the cave. If you are near the cave, you’ll understand why this was a perfect storage place, because the cool air can be felt rising from the opening and you can hear the water trickling from the base of the bluffs.

As you wander through the forest, expect to see twisted ancient cedar trees, remnants of a stone wall that was erected at some point in history by man, enormous beech and poplar trees in the canyon, and Fat Man’s Misery, a rock face with a big crevice to pass through. While the official information on the National Forest Service website doesn’t mention it, there is a trail that heads down to the bottom of the bluffs. The trail is a set of stairs that runs through a rock passage. The path then winds around the bottom of the bluffs, passes a creek, and has a few overhangs of the bluffs that were fun to explore Hike it Baby ambassador Jessica fun to explore. Hike it Baby ambassador Jessica Featherstone said her daughter, Sky, loved exploring the rock passage and seeing if she fit under the bluff overhangs. “There is plenty of light in the slots we traveled through, so it wasn’t scary for our daughter, but it’s a great first for little ones to be in slots or a cave-like environment.”

Also keep in mind as you hike this trail there is some signage confusion and many report ending up on Pounds Hollow Lake Road, which means you hike the highway back to Rim Rock. There are no signs telling you which way to go on the trail. Just note that if you get to the beach area, you’ve gone too far. Visiting in the winter months? The trail tread may be slippery during or after rain or snow. Use caution when descending the wooden staircase and stone steps leading to the canyon floor and Ox-Lot Cave. Also, if you visit in icy months, be aware that large icicles form along the bluff walls and can fall.


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Trail Features

Seasons Fall, Spring, Summer, and Winter
Surface type Dirt
Elevation gain 360 ft.
Stroller friendly No
Stroller terrain No Wheels
ADA accessible No
Water fountains No
Bathrooms Yes
Cell reception Excellent
Pet friendly Yes
Nearby convenience store No
Camping Nearby No
Emergency support
within 5 miles

Trail highlights

Natural Play Area and Shaded Hike

WHY IT’S A FAVORITE “We took a frame carrier and a Kiddo Gear harness (this allows kids to walk but be attached to you) because of the cliffs. Most of the time, we walked the bottom sections and played in the little creek. Bugs were present, but a bit of bug spray kept them away. We went during an incredibly busy weekend, so there were crowds, but it still was worth the visit.” —JESSICA FEATHERSTONE

INSIDER’S TIP Since it’s a shorter hike, you’re able to head along the top path and the bottom path. The top path is interesting due to the history of the area and a great spot to have a picnic lunch. This is also somewhat wheel-friendly. As you drop into the canyon, plan to carry your little one for a bit. There are also a lot of stairs, so be ready to feel a bit of burn as you hike out of the canyon. Only take down what you want to carry up.

Trail Contributor

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Hike it Baby Trail Guide is managed by the Family Trail Guide team. If a trail has been “abandoned” by the initial owner, it gets adopted by the team. Also, if there are no trails in the area, the Family Trail Guide team researches trails that are family friendly in the area to insure that hikes cover all areas where Hike it Baby hikes.


Trail Map