River to River Trail Hike Shawnee National Forest Maps, Guide, Tips, Overview


The River to River trail is a 160 mile long trail meandering East to West from the Ohio to the Mississippi river composing a leg of the Discover America trail and the original River to River trail.

This is my blog about my experiences hiking the River to River trail with descriptions, maps & photos.  If you would like to ask any questions or comments, I also have a facebook page (River to River trail) that might be quicker. Most of the information I post will be on this site though with the Facebook page as a signpost.

Speaking of signposts…The River to river, or R2R is blazed with either a blue letter I (small case) or a 001 on a white diamond. If you see a white diamond with a 001 you are on it, and the forest service told me they are replacing the old wooden blazes when they are worn out with the 001. (boo) The first blazes were the letter “i” in a block style painted on the trunk. (The Forest service is coming out with some new white with blue “I” on plastic markers, and more of those worthless wooden engraved i’s for the wilderness areas) so they have smartly done away with the 001 inked makers plan for the most part and continue with the wooden unpainted ones in the wilderness areas (I guess in the hope that no one will be able to see them and thus interfere with being lost as nature intended!)

r2rSept15 all over 122(all 3 on one tree)


They were replaced with a white wooden diamond with a blue “i” painted on them and the most modern ones are plastic with a blue “i” on them. Myself, I hate the white diamond with the 001 because it looks like all the rest and the ink pen writing won’t last nearly as long as the blue “i”. Also, the “i” is tilted the direction the trail takes at an intersection or hard to follow area like rock. Try tilting your 001. Besides I’m thinking of running off some blue i T-shirts for support of the trail.



The history of the blue “I” (lower Case) Goes back to when the R2R was just the Illinois section of the American Discovery Trail (I) even though that explanation doesn’t take into account the alternative northern section of that trail system. I Wonder how they abbreviated Indiana? The other explanation is that it was the Morse Code abbreviation for End of Trail (Dot Dash) turned sideways which is also possibly true but a little farfetched as well. Whatever the explanation, the blue “I” is a welcome sight in  the woods.

I would like this to become eventually, sort of a dynamic trail guide. While printed trail guides are great for taking along, they have one big drawback. They are often years or even decades out of date. The trail keeps changing. Conditions change, even the course changes. I would like it if people who have hiked a section and have encountered changes or problems would leave a comment so I could update the sections, and post a notice on the site. Things might even get done in problem areas. Stranger things have happened. On to the route…

At just below High Knob trailhead there is a spur heading South to Elizabethtown which is the more recommended route to the Ohio unless hard to find markers and walking paved roads is your thing. Actually, the Forest Service has cleared most of the over grown areas, especially West of Camp Cadiz, and I have added another 30 blazes, so the old Battery Rock leg is a good alternative if it has been especially muddy If you can get dropped off there. (check out 2 shuttle services on that page here) The only trail maps though are on this site. The  older route continues West from Battery Rock on the Ohio and meets up with the trail from Elizabethtown West of Camp Cadiz and North of Elizabethtown. The main drawback is that there is no Road access to Battery Rock, so you will have to hike to the river, then return to wherever you can get a lift out or in.

The total route from the Battery Rock trailhead to the Ohio is maybe 1 mile roundtrip so we aren’t talking any huge distance and the gravel road there isn’t bad but check out my Battery Rock page. I think the Battery Rock leg is about 5 miles longer than the E’town leg, but the flatter road areas make up the difference in hiking time. Both legs are all uphill I swear, (partially true heading West since they start at River level).

If you haven’t been hiking in the Shawnee, you are missing a great experience. There are some sights and experiences here that will last you and your friends or family a lifetime. There are some very dangerous areas out there and not kid friendly at all. Just use common sense. Don’t expect guard rails like Niagra Falls, or Lookout Mountain. This isn’t Disneyworld, this is wilderness. You will appreciate the solitude.

Keep track of time if you are making a day trip. You don’t want to get caught in the dark. If it takes 2 hours to hike there it might take 3 to get back depending on elevation and how tired you get walking 5 hours. On my overnights, I have 2 LED flashlights and don’t go out after dark as a general rule since there really isn’t anything to see if you are in the deep woods. I did have an excellent night one warm night leaving the rain fly off the top of my tent watching the planes and satellites go by from my sleeping bag in the night sky in a clearing. I’ll post a page on what I take overnight.

The Maps I’m using are public domain and excellently detailed, though the actual route takes several different paths since these were first published. They can be found & downloaded from the USDA Forrest service web page in PDF form at http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/shawnee/maps-pubs/?cid=stelprdb5268913

There is also an excellent map of the side trails and main trails at Friends of the Shawnee National Forest which at $10 is a lot better than wandering along wondering where that trail goes. (Or what trail you just came upon while busy being lost) This is the most detailed & best map you can get as far as I know. You will be glad you paid $10 the first time you need to know what that white diamond with the 245 means and where am I? No, I can’t post that one but google the Friends of the Shawnee National Forest and look up the map. Hey, 1/4 of the revenue goes towards trail upkeep, so you will also be doing yourself a favor.

There are a lot of interesting side trails around the High Knob, Garden of the Gods areas that you might want to explore as well. Indian Kitchen, Jackson Hollow and Saltpeter cave are must sees. I’ll post some pages on those side trips later. A lot of the Shawnee Government websites still insist it travels to Battery Rock to the Ohio, though most hikers travel to the Ohio, by way of South to Elizabethtown.


There are fantastic views to be seen that you can just drive to. There are other places that you have to hike several miles of rough hilly trail to get to. The Garden of the Gods is one that is easy to get to if you want good views and rock formations (not on the R2R trail, but an easy 1/4 away).

fall09 009

The Pine Hills Rock Bluffs East of Grand Tower have the best views in my opinion of anywhere in Southern IL. Also not strictly on the trail, but you pass them if you are driving to the Clear Springs trailhead.

walkabout oct 23-25014 011

The River to River trail passes through many areas that aren’t mentioned on the maps which are also great to discover.

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walkabout oct 23-25014 04923

walkabout oct 23-25014 111walkabout oct 23-25014 028

Yes, I even think taking photos of leaves on the ground is worthwhile. I take an annual Fall trip to the Shawnee just to walk the trail solo for 2 or 3 days depending on my obligations and the weather. Sometimes I hike it with my wife or a friend. But I love to do it alone for the solitude. Most of these photos were solo overnight hikes.

Last year I got 3 hikes in. One in the Spring & two in the Fall. I just have a couple more to do to have the River to River covered. I’ll show you the results of bad fitting shoes, socks. You find out on a rugged 3 day trail whether your shoes fit. You know the blister scene from “Run Fat boy Run” ? Been there. I do have a trail tips page. Also a page on where the trail today, and the trail on the maps are different. Go have fun, be safe and get in touch with Illinois.

4 months into 2015 and I finally post a facebook community page for the River to River trail. I’m surprised I was first. Just type in River to River trail in your facebook search. The key to finding THIS website is to search for ‘ rivertorivertrailhike ‘ all one word no spaces. (rivertorivertrail works too no spaces)

The trail miles from Elizabethtown west are (rounded up or down to nearest mile)

1. Elizabethtown (Ohio River) to the Old leg to Battery Rock Junction, 15 mi.

2. Junction to High Knob 2 mi.

3. High Knob to Garden of the Gods. 4 mi

4. GOG to Herod. 6 mi.

5. Herod to One Horse Gap 6 mi.

6. One Horse Gap to Lusk Creek Trailhead. (circle b ranch) 13 mi.

7. Lusk Creek Trailhead to Eddyville 3 mi.

8. Eddyville to Cedar Grove Road 5 mi.

9. Cedar Grove Road to Trigg Tower Road 6 mi.

10. Trigg Tower Road to Gilead Church 7 mi.

11. Gilead Church to Rt. 45  6 mi.

12. Rt. 45 up to Goddards crossing then west to Dutchmans Lake.  7mi.

13. Dutchmans Lake to Ferne Clyffe tent campground 7 mi.

14. Ferne Clyffe Tent Campground to Panthers Den 15 mi.

15. Panthers Den to Giant City Campground 9 mi.

16. Giant City Campground to Cedar Lake Spillway 13 mi.

17. Cedar Lake Spillway to Godwin Trail East Trailhead. 7 mi.

18. Godwin Trail East trailhead to Pine Hills/Larue Road Trailhead. 7 mi.

19. Pine Hills trailhead to Rt. 3  8 miles (cross Bridge, follow Levee on North Side from here)

20. Rt. 3  to Devils Backbone Campground & Mississippi 7 mi.

I believe the Battery Rock leg is abo


The following Waypoints and their GPS coordinates according to Wikipedia.



Following are waypoints on the trail:

Waypoint Coordinates
Battery Rock 37°31′45″N 88°04′47″W / 37.529179°N 88.079796°W / 37.529179; -88.079796 (River to River Trail Waypoint Battery Rock)
IL 1 37°33′19″N 88°10′31″W / 37.5551929°N 88.17519660000001°W / 37.5551929; -88.17519660000001 (River to River Trail Waypoint IL 1)
Elizabethtown 37°26′45″N 88°18′23″W / 37.445895°N 88.306437°W / 37.445895; -88.306437 (River to River Trail Waypoint Elizabethtown)
County 12 37°29′50″N 88°19′26″W / 37.4971416°N 88.3237693°W / 37.4971416; -88.3237693 (River to River Trail Waypoint County 12)
Junction E’Town & Battery Rock 37°35′36″N 88°18′22″W / 37.593285°N 88.306065°W / 37.593285; -88.306065 (River to River Trail Waypoint Junction E’Town & Battery Rock)
Garden of the Gods State Park 37°36′09″N 88°23′02″W / 37.60251°N 88.38383°W / 37.60251; -88.38383 (River to River Trail Waypoint Garden of the Gods State Park)
Herod 37°34′49″N 88°26′11″W / 37.580397°N 88.436514°W / 37.580397; -88.436514 (River to River Trail Waypoint Herod)
One Horse Gap 37°31′03″N 88°27′31″W / 37.5175765°N 88.4586793°W / 37.5175765; -88.4586793 (River to River Trail Waypoint One Horse Gap)
Lusk Creek 37°31′31″N 88°33′01″W / 37.5252477°N 88.5502338°W / 37.5252477; -88.5502338 (River to River Trail Waypoint Lusk Creek)
Eddyville 37°30′03″N 88°35′11″W / 37.500951°N 88.586344°W / 37.500951; -88.586344 (River to River Trail Waypoint Eddyville)
Bay Creek / Millstone Bluff 37°29′02″N 88°41′29″W / 37.4839511°N 88.6912537°W / 37.4839511; -88.6912537 (River to River Trail Waypoint Bay Creek / Millstone Bluff)
US 45 37°29′14″N 88°50′34″W / 37.48722°N 88.842831°W / 37.48722; -88.842831 (River to River Trail Waypoint US 45)
Tunnel Hill State Trail 37°29′37″N 88°52′16″W / 37.4935198°N 88.8712245°W / 37.4935198; -88.8712245 (River to River Trail Waypoint Tunnel Hill State Trail)
Interstate 24 37°29′26″N 88°53′41″W / 37.490626°N 88.894672°W / 37.490626; -88.894672 (River to River Trail Waypoint Interstate 24)
Gould Lake 37°28′52″N 88°56′41″W / 37.481022°N 88.944722°W / 37.481022; -88.944722 (River to River Trail Waypoint Gould Lake)
IL 37 37°31′29″N 88°57′56″W / 37.524609°N 88.96552300000001°W / 37.524609; -88.96552300000001 (River to River Trail Waypoint IL 37)
Goreville / Ferne Cliffe 37°32′55″N 88°58′45″W / 37.548737°N 88.97928°W / 37.548737; -88.97928 (River to River Trail Waypoint Goreville / Ferne Cliffe)
Interstate 57 37°33′21″N 89°01′58″W / 37.555899°N 89.032752°W / 37.555899; -89.032752 (River to River Trail Waypoint Interstate 57)
Panther Den Wilderness 37°34′58″N 89°05′17″W / 37.5828136°N 89.0880703°W / 37.5828136; -89.0880703 (River to River Trail Waypoint Panther Den)
Giant City State Park 37°35′32″N 89°10′58″W / 37.592148°N 89.182913°W / 37.592148; -89.182913 (River to River Trail Waypoint Giant City State Park)
Makanda 37°37′04″N 89°12′34″W / 37.617656°N 89.209306°W / 37.617656; -89.209306 (River to River Trail Waypoint Makanda)
US 51 37°36′38″N 89°14′01″W / 37.610577°N 89.233682°W / 37.610577; -89.233682 (River to River Trail Waypoint US 51)
Cedar Lake 37°36′46″N 89°17′21″W / 37.612773°N 89.28925200000002°W / 37.612773; -89.28925200000002 (River to River Trail Waypoint Cedar Lake)
Alto Pass 37°34′13″N 89°19′04″W / 37.570255°N 89.317667°W / 37.570255; -89.317667 (River to River Trail Waypoint Alto Pass)
Bald Knob Wilderness 37°34′08″N 89°21′41″W / 37.56891°N 89.3614709°W / 37.56891; -89.3614709 (River to River Trail Waypoint Bald Knob Wilderness)
Clear Springs Wilderness 37°35′27″N 89°26′22″W / 37.59072°N 89.43950400000001°W / 37.59072; -89.43950400000001 (River to River Trail Waypoint Clear Springs Wilderness)
Big Muddy River / IL 3 37°33′43″N 89°28′19″W / 37.56204°N 89.471884°W / 37.56204; -89.471884 (River to River Trail Waypoint Big Muddy River / IL 3)
Devils Backbone Park / Grand Tower 37°38′20″N 89°30′39″

111 thoughts on “River to River Trail Hike Shawnee National Forest Maps, Guide, Tips, Overview

  • Hello I am hiking a portion of the trail next weekend and looked for the Facebook page you mentioned but could not find it. Could you email me the link. I am hiking from Garden of the Gods to Indian Kitchen. Thanks

    • There is not much on the Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/pages/River-to-River-trail/421559318031592?notif_t=page_new_likes Search “river to river trail” logged into facebook. It is just a signpost to get here. There is a Yahoo group https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/shawneeforesthikers/conversations/messages Shawnee Forest Hikers where the River to River Trail Society posts and in the file section there are maps of the area that may help you. I only found them last week and haven’t looked through everything yet. I believe it is a public forum and you don’t have to be a member to see the info.
      Indian Kitchen isn’t actually on the River to River trail. You would probably take the River to River Trail East from Garden of the Gods Map 3 (a terrific part of the trail), down Map 4 towards Eddyville This map shows the area. http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprd3791347.pdf It looks like trail #404 intersects the R2R at Bowed tree Crossing and you would take it south to 405 and on East to Indian Kitchen. The map is lousy, and the trail may, or may not be hard to follow depending on horse traffic. Should be a long day trip depending on how you travel or 2 days the way I travel, and if you get lost on the 404 and 405 trails. I haven’t been that way, but it looked like the horse trail past Indian Kitchen was pretty decent if it was 405. The creeks may be high. If I remember the Bowed Tree crossing, it was a typical horse crossing and you had to go up or downstream to find a shallower crossing. Tell me how it went and I’ll include the information on the Indian kitchen page. BTW, I think the well at Herod is still out of order so finding water at Herod may be a problem. The trail out of the open space above One Horse gap is ghastly, hard to find and overgrown but is pretty short between gravel roads. Just look to the West at the opening.

    • I just did that hike about a month ago. It’s fantastic! There are a few miles of road hiking that aren’t much fun, but the rest is great!

        • It is closer to 160 miles. There is Elizabethtown At the Ohio end, possibly High knob campground (Call) Possibly Herod, but I don’t recall a store there. Then Eddyville, Then Giant City Lodge, then Makanda, then Alto Pass, then Grand tower on the Mississippi. There is also water at the campground at Garden of the Gods. The rest is spotty creeks using a water filtration system. Most people section hike it a little at a time over a few days carrying enough to make it to the pickup point.

  • I’m trying to locate someone who has recently hiked the area around Battery Rock in the Shawnee National Forest. I’m interested in the abandoned Old Liberty Cemetery and the access road that once ran close to it. Road 1546. Battery Rock, SE Section 32, Twp 11 South, Range 10 East.

    I have relatives buried in the cemetery and their stone is in need of repair. The access road would make it possible to transport the necessary materials to do the repairs if it is still passable. It is supposed to come within 100 feet of the cemetery which is terribly overgrown.

    I live out of state and at 73 am in no condition to hike this myself. This seems to be close to the trail you have hiked. Any report on the current status of this area would be greatly appreciated and would aid me in making arrangements for repairs. Thanks for any information.

    • I’ve actually never been that way, though I would like to go sometime. I see a map of the area on this page 4th from the bottom. https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/shawneeforesthikers/files
      It may help. You might want to ask there, as the River to River trail Society is the main source of info. on the Trail. This map was posted in 2008 and it is quite possible that the road isn’t passable. Try calling the Shawnee Forest service in Harrisburg at 618-253-7114 and see if they know the condition of the old road.

        • Getting back there to the Battery rock Trailhead isn’t too bad, just a gravel road. The road continues past that but is very rough 4wd with ground clearance only. I walked it and didn’t see any sign of a cemetery. I might not have gone far enough, but I got to where the road was closed off on private land.

  • Any recommendations for a 3 day loop hike? Or an in-and-out? Thinking no more than 5 miles the first day, and probably around 7-8 miles days 2, 3 & 4. Since you said you try to do short 2-3 day trips a few times a year, I was hoping you could share a few of your favorites? Our trip is this wed to sun, and I am really stressing about figuring out our route. Anything helps! Thanks

    • Park at Garden of the Gods, The trail is just a short walk back down the entrance road. Hike towards Herod. (West) Nice trail, great views. The road down to Herod is curvy with no shoulders. Single file only. The trail turns left on the first road into town just across the bridge then you pass the Gazebo well which I hear is out of order now. Check it out before you go to Garden of the Gods to park to see if that water is available. Go towards One Horse Gap. Turn around wherever halfway is for you. There are other places but that was the most enjoyable hike for me. I’d drive ahead and leave a cache of water around Herod. You should be able to make at least that far for halfway. If you can make it to the high bluff overview on the way to Herod (about 2-3 miles West of Garden of the Gods) There is a lot to explore there and for the next couple of miles. The other vista above One Horse Gap is another fantastic high view. I don’t remember any particularly bad places along the route, although the Hill out of Herod West is brutally steep and then the creek crossing after you turn off the road can be slippery. The rest is fine. The High Knob to Garden of the Gods to One Horse Gap lake (and gap)was my first solo 3 day trip and I loved it. The nicest trail stretch there is.

      • Thank you! We were thinking leave from Garden if the Gods, since we are familiar with that area and figured the trail would be fairly well maintained. Heading out west seems great, packing as much adventure as we can into just a few days. I’m glad to hear it’s your favorite part. Regarding water – we have a ceramic filter pump, so purifying water wouldn’t be an issue, IF there are streams along the way. Would you say we are safe relying on the streams? Has there been enough ran recently that they’ll be high enough to use? Or should we leave water around Herod, like you suggested? And the only other question I have, since the weather will be pretty warm (low 80’s on Wednesday and Thursday the last time I checked), is should we worry much about bugs? Should we pack a bug net for our faces? Chiggers a problem this time of year? I don’t know how cold it has gotten the last couple weeks. & I’m assuming the poison ivy and ticks are as bad as usual (picked up a tick key specifically for this trip). Thanks again for your help. Your website is such a necessity for someone like me, who is new to hiking the R2R.

        • There has been enough rain last week that the creeks should be flowing but not too high to be a problem. There is a chance of rain Sat am. The last few trips I made I haven’t run into any ticks or chiggers. The dry spell we had until last week seems to have caused them to die down. Long pants seem to work ok for the poison ivy, but I don’t think the trail you will be walking will be overgrown. The trail you are taking is pretty well traveled and clear. If you have a chance though, It wouldn’t hurt to spray your clothing, at least your socks with permetheon (sp?). I use Sawyers from Walmart in the camping section. It seems to do a great job. I have a filter as well, but I like to cache water just to ease my mind. It really shouldn’t be a problem since the route you are taking will pass through a few creeks. I don’t think the mosquitos are bad either, though I sleep in a tent. There do seem to be a lot of spider webs on the trails (with the standard Fall yucky spiders that as far as I can tell don’t bite but who wants a spider on their face) so just carry a stick and the first person can swing it around and clear the trail. It is the time of year for the snake migration from the Mississippi to the Pine Hill Bluffs so I didn’t recommend that West section. There shouldn’t be any more on the rest of the trail than normal, which is to say not likely. I did see 2 Blue Racers on the trail in 2 separate places and heard another slither off into the weeds at Gum Springs creek weekend before last, but they are just trying to sun themselves in the morning with the low 50’s we have been having. I probably only see a snake maybe 1 out of 10 days on the trail.

  • Im looking for a map of the river to river trail that i can keep with me in my backpack. I found a website that sells a waterproof map but now i cant find the site!!!!! Can anybody help me?!!???

    • I had a page here devoted to the map but the guy who was selling it isn’t selling it on Ebay anymore. You could email him and see if he still has any copies, or is planning on running off another batch. Contact “Goose” at tnsadventure@gmail.com

  • Great stuff. I am replanning for a spring 2017 through hike after my plans fell through in 2015. I have the maps from Goose and the John Voight book. Between those 2 and utilizing the info on here I hope to have a flawless aka..”lostless” hike..lol…Thank you for sharing all this information.

  • Are there any shuttle operators around Lusk Creek trailhead? or farther west?

    I’d like to do a straight hike, and not double-back to my car. Ideally I’d drop off my car 30ish miles west of Lusk Creek, pay for a ride to Lusk Creek and start hiking back to my car.

    • http://www.shawneeshuttle.com/ This is the only one I have seen but I don’t know of any one who has tried them. There was another one but even though they just started up this year, the link I had no longer works, and I didn’t know of anyone who had tried them either. I don’t know of any taxi service in the area either.

  • Thank you for this site!!! We missed the trail marker on Raum Rd to One Horse Gap. The printed map from a book had the wrong trail. I was able to get signal on my phone and pull up your maps. It saves us!! Thank you!!

    • That’s great to hear. Have a safe hike! There are a lot of user made & white diamond number trails in that area, plus the old trail guide the R2R Society still sells shows the trail in places that have been re routed.

  • Hi , we are going on a 3 day camp/hike starting at the garden of gods.. obviously we don’t want to carry 24 bottles of water , is there plenty of drinkable water along the way if we have a filter?

    • It depends which way you are going and how far each day. It has been dry for a couple of weeks now but there is still a flow in the bigger creeks. I think it is supposed to rain some in the next few days and that should get them all going again.

  • Hello,

    Me and 2 of my friends are planning thru hiking from Elizabeth Town starting 10/28/2016. Are there any trouble spots we should be mindful of and should we bring a machete for any overgrown areas?

    • Nothing that bad. depending on any recent rain, some of the creeks could be really swollen. Generally the official crossing is deeper than going upstream. I’m hitting just past One horse gap (Bethesda Church) to Ferne Clyffe next week. I’ll have a report of conditions there. I can’t remember any other bad places. I’ve been most of the bad areas recently and you should be good to go.

  • A friend and I have been considering to through-hike the River to River Trail. We’ve never been there before. Any idea how often that’s been done? We found evidence of one that took 10 days, is that about what someone should plan for? I guess, what’s the fastest you’ve heard of?
    We’re both in pretty decent shape.

    • 165 miles is what it measured by Walker Bob & Swede this year. It took them 10 days but that was with 2-22 mile days at the end (Walker Bob had to retire on the last 2 days and I took his place the last day from Alto Pass to Grand Tower.) No idea how often that is done. They took 12 days actually, but only 10 days on the trail. Part of it depends on how much water is flowing in the creeks and how muddy the trail is from E’town to Garden of the Gods. Heavy horse traffic tears the trail up along there badly when it is wet, but it dries fast mostly. Prime Hiking time is from now until it’s too cold. The poison ivy is drying up and with the colder weather the ticks & chiggers and biting flies and mosquitos will be on the way out.
      Most people Start at Elizabethtown. The hike from Pine Hills to Grand Tower is awful headed West. Just levee walking. It would be worse yet with half a day of walking then the steep climb up a gravel road to the West Godwin Trailhead on top of the Pine Hill bluffs. Great hike from there to Alto Pass then.

  • Thanks for the site. I’ll be down there the last week of April 17′ for a Section Hike for a week. Starting around Dutchman Lake going east to High Knob Campground where I’m meeting up with horse friends and ride out! I like how on Map 3 you had some possible camp sites listed. More of that would be cool. Do you have any shirts left? Size XXL.

    Thanks again for the site, I’m new to backpacking and found a lot of info here.

    • Sorry, I never did order any XXL. Have great trip! I might have to put some of the good camping spots on the maps. Great idea!

  • Hey thanks for this sight it’s been a great help with planning my upcoming trip.
    Sometime in the near future I will be doing a 2 day hike from e town to garden of the gods
    How bad is flooding this time a year down there? We have seen more then normal rain fall up north for the last few weeks.
    I’ve been keeping an eye of the temps down there and it’s looking like a winter trip isn’t out of the question.

    • It rarely floods, but the creeks do get high right after a hard rain. They only stay up for a day for the most part. There are two big wide crossings between Elizabethtown and High Knob. If it has rained hard a day or maybe two depending on how hard, it will probably be knee high there. Otherwise it shouldn’t be a problem.

  • It’s tough to gauge mileage from one trailhead to another. Could someone give me an idea of the trail distance out of Etown to High Knobel and/or GoG?

  • Congrats on you thru hike earlier this month. I looked at that same weekend when the snow came.

    Now looking at an thru run/hike over the Easter weekend pending better weather. Would a buddy and I be able to navigate the trail at night? Noticed your comments about the rerouted portion.

    Any advice from your experiences on the trail would be greatly appreciated!!!

    • I wouldn’t do hiking at night in the woods simply because it is hard enough to see all the blazes in the daytime. The road sections would be ok as long as you have a light so as to not get run over. Thanks for the congratulations!

  • Thanks for the additional info…are there any places to stay in Eddyville? (If we did not want to carry camping gear)

    • Try Circle B Ranch, they might have something. They are at the trail Lusk creek trailhead about 2 miles north. The 2 guys attempting to through hike last week stayed there.

  • Hi! I’m having trouble gauging mileage… I’m looking to do a semi-leisurely 4 night/5 day section hike. Ideally between 60-80 miles. We are looking to start at the Eastern trail head in Elizabethtown. Any suggestions on where to end at? It seems leaving a car at Elizabethtown isn’t really a problem, but we need to end somewhere where our other car is accessible.

    Thanks in advance!

  • Hi there! Few questions. We’ll be hiking from GoG to Lusk Creek. Do we need to register anywhere? Second, is camping permitted anywhere along the trail? And lastly! What’s the laws on fire? Fire rings only? Thanks so much in advance!

    • No need to register. Generally, you can camp in any part of the Shawnee National Forest. State Parks are in campgrounds only. A lot of the trail uses old roadbeds through private lands and a lot of it is no trespassing marked by signs or purple paint. Most of your trip will be through National Forest land. Fire danger is dependent on the weather and there are a lot of places with fire rings. You can make your own. Use your own judgement on fires. Your trip is along well traveled trail for the most part.

    • According to Max Tabes, Morse code for trail entrance “TE” T= dash (in this case standing up) and E= dot. It is also the Illinois section of the American Discovery Trail small I i. The blaze was used on the old original trail before the current trail was completed in the 1990″s. Very Cool!!!

  • Awesome Site! I am currently trying to get myself into shape and doing some day hikes, soon maybe overnight backpacking once I get some gear. Before this year is over tho I really want to hike the River to River and love that I found this site. I will be studying it religiously and hopefully will have an awesome experience. Thanks!

  • Just took my wife and daughter on their first backpacking trip from Camp Cadiz to GOG. The trail was so torn up and muddy from horse traffic that the going was very slow. The original plan was for an out an back but had to bail at GOG and get a ride back to get my vehicle. I have never seen so much mud, poison ivy or ticks! We will have to try this again in a drier season. Before I try it again I will definitely call down to the High Knob camp to get a read on trail conditions! Thank you for all the fresh “i” blazes on the Battery Rock leg. The navigation was very easy.

    • Thanks for the kind words, sorry about the ticks. Poison Ivy is the new State Flower so please don’t pick it! LOL

    • Depends where you are. If you camp in any campground private or public there is a fee. You can camp anywhere in the National forest for free. In the State parks you can only camp in the campgrounds. There is a lot of private land where there is only the trail right of way. Somehow there always seems to be a good place. There is a lot of public land that isn’t ma park that is also ok, like Millstone lake. Dutchman lake says no camping, but I think that is only around the lake. Generally nobody cares where someone just pitches a tent as long as you leave no trace.

  • Looking to do this at the end of the summer solo, would it be doable in 5 days? Just trying to figure the time frame I can allot for it.

    • Do you mean the whole trail? Generally it’s about 10-12 days. I did it in 9 days 4 hours with a light pack the last four days and a ride to a cabin at the end of the day the last 4 days because of bad weather. (March) Of course I’m slow. I just walk from sun to dusk. They generally say to figure on 1 mile an hour average because of hills and switchbacks, faster on the road sections of course. I’ve heard of trail runners packing light and doing it in much faster time. I think one guy did it there and back in 5 days. Probably 3/4 of through hikers drop out from illness or blisters. (And that includes chafing in a most uncomfortable place.)

  • Scott,

    I am planning to do a portion of the River to River hike in a couple of weeks entering from the west Godwin trailhead.

    Looking to spend a long weekend camping and hiking the area and this trail. Also hoping to have enough time off work to experience the eclipse somewhere near La Rue Pine hills to have an elevated view of the eclipse…..which i assume will be mobbed with visitors.

    Do you have any recommended campsites, watering holes or any other helpful information for me on the Godwin trail?
    Lastly, i am in search of a detailed trail map of this area… if you know a source it would be much appreciated.

    Thank you,


    • The Hutchins Creek area is about the only watering place on Godwin Trail, as most of it is ridge. The banks there are the best campsites as well, but they are rocky.

    • The best campsite and watering area is Hutchins Creek. You MUST not miss either taking the Hutchins creek trail North along the Creek on the West side, or just walking along the creek bed North. You will see the Clear Springs in the creek that the area is named for. The Creek is about the only water source on the trail since the trail is mostly ridge hiking. The camping will be along a rocky creek so either find a smoother area up on the banks, or bring an air mattress type of ground padding, a piece of foam probably won’t do it. Part of the Pine Hills Road is closed due to a wash out from the Spring heavy rains. I don’t know where it is closed, but I think the road is open from the Godwin West end down to Snake Road, since There is no mention of the R2R being closed. It must be further South towards the Pine Hills Campground. I’m thinking the Snake Road area would be fantastic to see the eclipse, but I want to be able to drive somewhere in case of a puff of cloud being in the way for 2 minutes!

  • Great site. Obviously loads of time and effort. Have not had much backpacking experience but have become interested in through hiking or section hiking out of my interest in bushcraft and 18th and 19th century camping. Doubt I will be able to do sig time on AT or PCT but since I am in Springfield southern Illinois is easily accessible. Believe I will begin planning to do parts of the trail and work toward a complete hike of a he R the o R. Thanks again. g lack

  • Cool website. Very helpful. I’m planning to do a day hike on the R2R over Labor Day weekend. I’m thinking maybe Panther Den to Giant City. Would appreciate you input. We will be camping at North Sandusky at Wren Lake.
    Thanks. David Petty.

    • Rend Lake. Nice campground. Panther Den to Giant City is pretty grown up with weeds and not all that interesting. Both park areas have GREAT trails and rock formations, but between them is pretty rugged. Not trying to talk you out if you have already been elsewhere, but there are more interesting daytrips. I’m partial to High Knob to Herod. Nice clear trail and great slot caves before GOG, and multiple great overlooks between GOG and Herod.

  • I’m hoping to do a through hike for my birthday in January, any advice for a winter hike? I backpack every last week of the month all winter so I’m pretty good with cold but not familiar with this trail yet.

    • Sounds like you are more experienced with Winter Hiking than me. If you can get dropped off there, consider the Battery Rock leg as a Starting point in the winter, due to the mud on the E’town Leg. That’s the reason I did it last March. Aside from that, there should be no problems except creek crossings depending on the weather.

  • Southern Illinois resident for 30 years. R2R has been on my mind for a while. I have R2R Pocket trail guide 6th printing. Is it still accurate? Is there a more recent edition? Are the waypoints listed on this site more current? Anticipate solo through hike in October.

    • I think I got the waypoints off Wikipedia. I don’t know how current they are but there have been recent re routes between Herod and One Horse Gap, and East of Owl Bluff. There also may be rerouting both East & West of Rocky Comfort road. I haven’t been there since Fall. There are possibly more reroutes to come and the entire trail (with the exception of the Battery Rock leg) is getting a major reblazing effort starting this summer. The last pocket guide I had wasn’t accurate as far as the trail route, no idea on the waypoints. There are new way improved maps being drafted from the Forest service. I don’t know when they will be published. October is a GREAT time to hike. I solo through Hiked in March, but October is MUCH nicer. Everything is brown and dirt colored in March.

    • Oh, the River to River Society has a new guide planned around the new FS maps I think. Maybe it will be a more manageable size and up to date when it comes out.

  • Thanks for quick reply! I have started to digest the info on this site. GREAT WORK! Love the photos updated maps and commentary on the section hikes. Since I tend to over plan and obsess on detail as Arnold says…”I’ll be back.”

    • I’m not familiar with Kincaid lake, sorry. Cedar Lake somewhat. There is a fire ring and campsite right in the middle of the spillway between the upper and lower lakes where the R2R crosses. That is the only campsite I know of around there.

  • Hello! Your information is great! My son and i are heading to the R2R this October and we’re looking for a section to do over 3 night, no hurry, not trying to set any land speed records. . I really want to see GOG and the gap. If we leave from high knob and end at the gap is there enough places ro filter water other than camp grounds? Also is there overnight parking at the gap? We will have two vehicles since my niece will be meeting us there. One more thing, do you have the coordinates for buzzard bluff?

    • Water should be ok to filter along the way. There is no road access to the gap for cars. The closest safe parking would be the TK Ranch campground. Google it. They are friendly people and can help you there. If you can go on a couple more miles there is a trailhead with parking for one or two cars near Bethdesda Church. Don’t have the coordinates for BB but it’s about a mile and a half East of the backpackers parking lot at GOG.

  • You mentioned (somewhere) that you want to do a thru hike sometime in October. Me too! Looking for a hiking buddy? I’m 69 and my motto is “Start slow then taper” No specific date set just watching weather… Feel free to contact me at email address. Thanks

    • I’m looking at Sunday the 1st of October now. How would that work? I tried hiking with others once and it is sort of a solo hike with meeting points thing unless we actually match rates somehow. Due to the chances of dropping out (probably over 50% by what I have seen) I wouldn’t want you to be dependent om me for your hike or vice vs. it’s such a roll of the dice, but if you are game, I am too! I figure on 10 days. I have to be back by the 12th. (which is why I moved it up)

  • Scott: I used to be listed on the River to River page as a shuttle service but apparently I am not now. I usually only get referrals from Larry Frye. I would still be interested in doing that. If you would like you could put my name, phone # & e-mail address on your page I see that you said you don’t post e-mail addresses here though so if you would like to call me at 618-252-0077 & get my info, please do. Thanks, Sue P.S. I am a horseback rider & have ridden the R2R several times so if you have horseback riders wanting info, I could help with that. I also belong to the Shawnee Trail Conservancy & we often do maintenance so I could give people info about that & any upcoming work days. There is going to be 2 this month that we will be packing in gravel on mules (in the wilderness areas of the R2R). I will get back to you with the exact dates & locations if you are interested. This is part of a grant that we received (along with several other organizatins).

    • I’ll add your info. to the shuttle page and THANKS!! I only add email addresses if the person gives permission. I have the Fryes listed on the page already.

  • The Shawnee Trail Conservancy & forest service are planning a couple of work days this month. Meet at the Lusk Creek Trailhead Sept. 23rd at 8:30. We will be hauling gravel into the wilderness areas via mule pack teams. A ground crew is needed. On Sept. 30th we will be working out of the Hitching Post Trailhead 1 mile up the Eagle Creek (Gap Hollow) Rd. Both days we will work on the River to River Trail. Meet at 8:30 .

  • I have Dr. appointment on the 3rd so first week does not work. Will most likely go out the beginning wk. 2. Going to post updates (when/where possible) while trampling?

    • I hope to! Not sure it will be possible unless I stop somewhere and meet my wife. I will add another page for it whether I make it or not. I will consider not making it a success as well. Not trying is the only failure. Funny thing is, I have a dentist appointment the 12th keeping me from starting the second week.

      • Had to bailout of planned thru-hike after five days. Water is basically nonexistent on trail. Don’t mind carrying water all day but never sure of a re-supply. High temps did not help. Found trail from E-Town to be well blazed and in general good condition. Somehow got off trail at E-Town, Battery Rock Junction and blew an afternoon. Still to sure where I went wrong. At GoG when you cross GoG Road in park bear to the LEFT. Right takes you to parking lot and “facilities”. Would not recommend thru hike this fall due to water issues. Section hikes should be ok just pack your water. Scott, with your experience on the trail you may have known about “secret” water like the spigot at church in Herod. Hope your hike is going well!

        • I filtered my water. I carried two sawyer mini filters and used water from pools in the bigger creeks. I dropped out on the 6th day in Goreville with a popped quarter sized blister. It felt a lot better the next day and I have some regrets for not continuing. I swear I’m going to just go and Mark the 3 trails at the junction East, West and South. Some of the trail maps don’t show the Battery Rock leg anymore so people see a River to River blaze that way and head East instead of West not knowing there is even an East leg option. Some people heading towards E’town also continue East instead of South when they don’t mean to. I was down there today and last weeks rain has the bigger creeks flowing again, and at least has added fresh water to the ones that aren’t flowing.

  • Hey guys, planning a section hike of the RTR. came up with three options, goal is around 30 miles. what do you think?

    1. Battery Rock Junction west to Lusk Creek Trail Head – approx 29 miles (more if we explore Garden of the Gods)

    2. Eddyville west to Dutchman Lake – approx 31 miles

    3. Panther Den Trail Head west to Larue/Pine Hills (looks like McCann Springs Trail Head) – approx 36 miles

    How would you guys rank those hikes by these three catagories: difficulty, views and water availability (we plan to filter and carry no more than 2 liters on us)

    Appreciate any answers I get. BTW, I requested an add to the FB group, if anyone can accept that!!

    • Battery Rock to Lusk Creek Trailhead is great if you have traveled the rest of the R2R, neither the Elizabethtown to the Junction or Battery Rock to the junction legs have any views to write home about, but the High knob to One Horse Gap area is GREAT. Lusk Creek is ok. This section is also very hilly.
      Eddyville to Dutchman lake is a great hike. No Spectacular views, but nice woods & Max Creek is pretty.. Dutchmans lake is a great place to camp, just not allowed at the boat ramp.
      Panther Den to Pine Hills. Depends on what you like. Of the 3 my favorite pick. I had to stop my recent thru hike at Goreville and didn’t get any further West to check current trail conditions. I like Cedar lake, and Godwin Trail Some of the area West of Panther Den is grown up until Giant City, Giant City Lodge and Makanda both have great food right on the trail.
      If You haven’t done GOG to one Horse gap, that would be the leg with the best views.
      All 3 have about 30% road walking, that’s what you get with R2R. Water won’t be a problem now. It was a month ago. I hiked then at the height of the drought, and still found enough.
      As far as the facebook page, do you mean Rivertorivertrail? I have it set to public everywhere I think. Are you not able to post? I’ll go have a look.

      • Thanks! We will probably do Battery Rock to Lusk Trail Head. How are all the side trails compared to the RTR? Is there any may or way of knowing the mileage on the side trails?

        I think I was on a different FB page. I found it!

        • In general, the side trails are worse, but sometimes when 4 wheelers use them they are better. (sometimes a lot muddier too.) I don’t think the side trails have mileage listed anywhere, and all the newer wood signs going up don’t have mileage on them. That was on purpose, but I don’t know the reasoning. With GPS tracking they could do a lot better.
          There is a sign at Concord Cemetery saying 8 miles to Eddyville I think, and there is a fallen sign past Bethesda Church that also says 8mi. You get used to it. Half a day later when you get to the Lusk Creek Trailhead it says you still have 3 miles. I’ll tell you, Concord Cemetery to Lusk Creek Trailhead is a LOT more than 5 miles. I’m not sure the new reroute doesn’t add almost that much.

  • Will be hiking from one horse gap to Eddyville. What water sources are available? We have time to
    stash water but need to know where. Can you give us your thoughts. Can’t wait for our next section.

    • On the East side of the road just south of Bethesda Church there is a riding club (No sign, but you can see the pens) There are 2 roads into it. The one closest to Bethesda Church has a city water spigot. (blue paint) The first road had a pond source (yellow spigot with warning sign animals only) Hikers have permission to use as well as the outhouse. Then Lusk Creek, then Bowed Tree Crossing and any creek is ok to filter. (I use a Sawyer Mini from Walmart.) There is also a spigot across the road from the Lusk Creek trailhead at Circle B campground just to the side of the entrance. I’ve used it but there wasn’t anyone to ask around. I doubt they care. There are plenty of creeks running now. I’d buy the filter and not worry about caching.

  • Do you have any of the old Battery leg maps from the USDA? Something to use to get mileage off of. Or do you happen to know the scale from your Bing maps? I lie to hash mark my maps for mileage, helps me keep track. Thanks for what you are doing with the site.

    • I wish I could get the old maps. They don’t have any plans to map or maintain the old Battery Rock leg. And I don’t know the scale sorry.

        • The woods between Lamb and Tucker hill road are ok to find a place. FR 1749 on west is also good to go. There are no obvious places to camp, but it shouldn’t be too hard to find a place to pitch a tent or hang a hammock. I like to find a flat spot on top of a ridge in a pine woods if possible. Seems like less sticks and undergrowth. A lot of Map 1 middle is forest road, and some has private property on both sides, but there are a lot of areas that aren’t along the way. It’s hard to tell from the map.

        • Lamb to Tucker Hill road is woods, FR1749 west to Camp Cadiz is also woods. There are spots all the way that are campable, but there are no campsites. There is a fairly long stretch between Tucker Hill Road and FR1749 of road you don’t want to get stuck on at dusk. I got stuck on the road at Dusk on my Through trip in March and had to set up my tent in a field across from a house. I was gone at first light.

  • Your website is really awesome and a blessing for some one like Me. With that being said..

    A couple friends and myself are heading south to hike this saturday. We are looking to do a a day and a half hike starting Saturday morning then camping Saturday night and heading back to the trail head Sunday. We wanted to start at the trail head near the Indian loop and garden of the gods area but when I was out there last time I didn’t see any other trails besides the loop. How can I get to the trail that leads west to knob and then south towards Elizabeth town? I saw above on an earlier post that you have to walk a lot of rd on this trail which kinda bums me out. How many miles of rd do are we looking to walk? We are looking to do a 10 mile there and 10 mile back hike which would be the furnace area if I’m correct.

    • The River to River trail crosses the entrance road to Garden of the Gods observation trail Parking lot. Park at the backpackers parking lot and take the trail out of there and head South until you get to the R2R trail. The good news is there won’t be hardly any road walking except for the maybe half mile to Iron Furnace. Be aware that is the SECOND road you get to heading south towards Elizabethtown. Keep looking at the map. (there are actually a few you cross too) If you turn and walk down the wrong road you won’t get there. (Ask me how I know) When you get to High Knob campground, walk all the way through it to the North and then it turns East again. The High Knob observation point is just a ways up the road off the trail and worth it. It’s 4 miles from the backpackers parking lot to high Knob and 13.5 to Iron Furnace from there. The Elizabethtown leg is very hilly. I did al 17 miles to High Knob Oct 1 but I was hurting. That’s a LONG 17 miles with the hills. When you get to the junction with the Battery Rock leg, (6 miles from the backpackers parking lot) you also have the option of turning East and going to Camp Cadiz. (5 miles) There is some scenic hiking after that if you guys are still feeling ok. It would be 11 miles from the backpackers parking lot to Camp Cadiz. It would be 17.5 miles from the backpackers parking lot at GOG to Iron Furnace. There is no camping at iron furnace, you would have to go off in the woods somewhere there.
      The road walking I was talking about is way West of anywhere you are going on the Battery Rock Leg, or South of where you are going on the Elizabethtown leg. I think if you want to shorten it, Start at the High Knob Campground. JoJo at the office is very hiker friendly and will show you where to park for free. That would make it only 13.5 to Iron Furnace. Myself, I’d park at High Knob Campground and head West. That would be the most scenic hike and best trails and a great place to camp between GOG and Herod at the 8 or 9 mile mark. But any way you do it should be great!

      • Thanks for your quick reply! Today we went over some our plans and after reading your comment we had a change of minds.

        Our new goal is GoG to High Knob area. So we plan on parking at the TH near The Observation trail. So please correct me if I’m wrong here but after we park and walk past the observation trail we walk east just past the restroom area then walk south (as if we were going to the Indian Point Trail) but before reaching the Indian Point Trail we head EAST on the R2R Trail and follow the R2R roughly EAST towards High Knob. We were looking to camp somewhere between High Knob and Camp Cadiz is there any flat areas that you recall good for camping?

        • Actually the map I was viewing didn’t show the TH just NORTH of Indian loop trail so we will be parking there, heading NORTH, crossing the Road to R2R trail, then heading EAST to knob.*****

        • Here is a link to the best map at Garden of the Gods. https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprd3801749.pdf
          There are plenty of places to camp that way. From the Junction towards Camp Cadiz, it is mostly ridge walking until Karbers Ridge road, then a short amount of road until woods again. I can’t recall any particular place as a campsite because I wasn’t looking for one there, but just keep an eye open for a flat clearing. The area just West of camp Cadiz was very grown up but they cleared it last year (Talking maybe 1/4 mile from Camp Cadiz), the rest seems like it was just open woods.

      • Scott- this is great info ! I’m heading down there this New Year weekend for a 4- day (+,-) trip and your blog has made my day. I was going camp at GoG and do day hikes, but as I dug deeper, they looked like I’d need to tie most the GoG trails together to make 1-2 good hikes. Maybe I’ll take your advice and start at High Knob at about Noon Friday, head west, play around at GoG, check out the spot you suggest at mile 8-9 Friday night. Saturday, out toward Herod, then make my way back. That’ll be 20 mi plus diversions over 2.5 days will be good for winter backpacking. Thanks Scott

  • Scott- this is great info ! I’m heading down there this New Year weekend for a 4- day (+,-) trip and your blog has made my day. I was going camp at GoG and do day hikes, but as I dug deeper, they looked like I’d need to tie most the GoG trails together to make 1-2 good hikes. Maybe I’ll take your advice and start at High Knob at about Noon Friday, head west, play around at GoG, check out the spot you suggest at mile 8-9 Friday night. Saturday, out toward Herod, then make my way back. That’ll be 20 mi plus diversions over 2.5 days will be good for winter backpacking. Thanks Scott

  • I’m having a heck of a time to get crisp, clean copies of your maps. Don’t know what is wrong but I have tried all sorts of ways to print them off to no avail. Any suggestions?

    • I just tried it and the map printed fine. I printed off of the new Map page, not the section page, though they should be the same. I think what you are doing, printing the thumbnail. (I’ve done that and they come out very low res and blurry) You need to enlarge them by clicking on them to their maximum size. You have to right click them twice I think. Then print them. I had to select 25% to get them the right size to print. “Shrink to fit” in your printer preferences should also work. They are the actual size the Forest Service sent out in a PDF size, I just converted them to jpeg to save everyone a step. Tell me if you still have trouble.

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