Here are a couple of Google Earth satellite photos with the R2R dotted onto them from Makanda to Clear Springs Wilderness. There is a closer up Sat photo further down the page of the RT 51-Makanda area.
I did the Panther Den to Giant City hike that was actually the 3rd day of hiking having started at the Clear Springs trailhead and hiked East. The Panther Den area is actually as good and with similar formations as the Giant City area without the crowd. . So heading West from Panther Den, some nice ridge hiking at first with spots of weeds in the lower areas.
This page has a good map & explanation of getting to Panther Den by Car, and some photos of the area. http://www.semissourian.com/blogs/pavementends/entry/34508/ Heading West The trails travels along some ridges and down across some streams. Some places were weedy, some were great. It was a mixed bag but enjoyable. Hey, it was outdoors.
Some of the lower fingers of Crab Orchard Lake are close to the trail. I have written on the map “Line 9 Spur trail” Nice in that area, followed by another “weeds” further on. Rocky Comfort Road crossing. Coming from the Panther Den Direction, you won’t have a problem. EB
I just did this route in late summer and it is pretty grown up in places. Hopefully the killing frost we just had will clear it some.
I got lost by missing the turn north once and ended up way south, keep your eye out for the narrow trail and markers leading North when Eastbound. I put some new blazes up in places they were sorely lacking. I didn’t have many to place that day, but hit the intersections as best as I could.
Lesson learned, pay attention to the compass from time to time. Lets say that all never happened and continue with Map 18.
So we see where I went astray. After that heading West that was the weird Viney area. The Crab Orchard border as well. You pass through it in several spots. I recently passed this way again and the nice viney area is completely overgrown, one of the weediest areas but not over half a mile of it.
This area was terribly overgrown this Fall. Hopefully the weeds have died.
You then get to an old homestead site with several huge maples planted in a square with a great rest area under them. Take a minute.
You will cross a creek with beaver chewed limbs on the ground. I didn’t see a dam but you will see the limbs. Now we get to Antioch Cemetery and walk east a short way on a road…the cemetery you are supposed to see. I swear neither of these cemeteries have signs telling you the name of them. (Unless I missed them) You don’t know how confused I was when I got to one I couldn’t find on the map at first. I thought I had somehow circled and came back to this one and had to look at the photos on my camera to make sure they were different. The Antioch lane turns South, but the Trail follows an old roadbed. and back to cross country a couple of times along here. Keep an eye out for trail markers. Some of this area is rarely traveled and the trail itself is hard to see. There were a couple of markers without much of a trail. The deer trails are about equally traveled looking.
You will get to a creek crossing North Bound at this point headed West. The trail used to cross straight across and turn right. It now crosses about 50 feet West. Look left and you will see the blaze on the North bank. There is a faint creek showing where the red dotted line is on the map. The trail now follows that creek North on the right bank. You will get to a big sign at an old roadbed. Turn West and follow the old roadbed.
This will take you to an intersection with a trail to Giant City Campground. Good place for water. Giant City Lodge is still a couple miles West.
At the intersection of the old roadbeds, the R2R goes South. (left). It is easy to get confused and miss the R2R trail where it turns off the main road and heads into the woods. I missed it and the road passes a couple of fields and ponds before coming out at a gravel road & parking area for hunters way down there at Water Valley Lookout Tower. I talked to a park ranger and she had never heard of it and made a copy of my map. I saw the hill that it had been on at one time but barely a trace of the road left where it used to be. I Imagine it was similar to Trigg tower and the one that used to be at High Knob. I did the wrong way trip with my wife and found the R2R trail on this trip from the other direction myself with no problem from the Giant City Lodge. Just a heads up coming from the East, WB keep an eye out for the trail marker. It’s a long walk down to the tower parking lot and back west up to the lodge. Might just as well do it on the trail. The trail ends up at the front of the Giant City Lodge. They are a very nice & friendly business and I recommend the fried chicken. The potatoes are very good too. The desserts are too big.We rented a cabin and I stayed there that night. A real bed is something I rarely turn down if given the chance. Heading out of the Giant City Lodge, the Trail follows the road downward and West until it heads into the woods. There is some old wall building left over from the CCC & WPA days at the first creek crossing. Or maybe its a natural formation?
Onto map 19
Coming around the south of the lodge and curving north, the trail passes within earshot of the kids playing at another campground on the west side of Giant City state park.
As you get to the bluffs you will see some interesting caves and rock formations. Now there are 3 trails crossing and criss crossing along here. The Mustang horse trail, the red dot trail, and the river to river. Of the 3, the Mustang Horse trail is the widest and easiest, and all 3 meet at the far end of the Bluff where the R2R leaves to the North West.
The Red Dot trail takes a turn to the North and climbs the bluff and goes along the edge. It is underwhelming, little traveled and hard to follow. Plus you miss all the caves in the bluffs as well as the bluffs themselves. Skip it. It is a loop trail from the Giant City campgrounds on the other side of the Lodge and is where I did get that photo of the mating copperheads. It is TOTALLY overgrown in places.
The Bluffs are neat and the R2R and Mustang trails follow an old roadbed and is pretty decent. At the North East corner of the bluffs, the R2R turns left and descends to a county road & trailhead.
I asked about that sign. It is referring to horses. The R2R is always open to foot traffic. You go North to Makanda. At the intersection, there is a short boardwalk with some rustic shops. One has ice cream a deli and supplies. A nice little antique store there too. Heading West, cross the bridge and up the hill past the old house.
(UPDATE) I cleared the Eastern Star Trail road to Makanda today. I put my money where my mouth is and had at it today. The trail is cleared & opened from RT 51 to Makanda. It is safer, shadier and actually probably quicker than taking the dangerous Makanda road with all its blind curves and non existent shoulders. Its not a bad hike.
Before & after at upper end of eastern Star Road (I’m standing right in front of the opening blocking it by mistake in the photo, and some brush in front of me that I hadn’t picked up.)
Eastern Star trail is a rural road that is fine. I didn’t think 29 looked bad from the intersection but there are places around the curves with no shoulder at all. I’d recommend going south & sticking to the trail. Where Eastern Star crosses 29 (Mikanda Road) there is a tree with the i on it, and a badge with American Discovery Trail. This is the only marker I have ever found denoting that the R2R is part of it. (Ok, I’ve found several since then)
The Eastern Star becomes Sheppard across 29. (Makanda road)
Follow Sheppard Road south and west for probably 3/4 of a mile. It will pass a Cemetery, curve West, then as you come to a Curve back South with a big grown up hump to the right, and a field access road, and a driveway with a nice assortment of no trespassing signs straight West at the curve.
The trail marker is visible to the right (North). You are going to walk that field on the West edge North until the trail enters the woods in a couple hundred feet.
The trail will wind its way around a few hills, and come to a field. You want to cross it slightly Northwest until it enters the woods again. Now you do a few switchbacks cross a fallen tree, and end up down at a nice creek that usually has flowing water. You will wind your way West up a few more hills and come out at Rt 51. Cross at the near end of the guardrail.
Make your way across 51 and walk the divider grass until you hit Makanda road again and head West. (On to Map 20)
Back into the woods at Lirley Trailhead
(NOTE: I traveled from Lirley trailhead to Alto Pass last Friday and posted 35 new blazes including at this and 3 other intersections previously unmarked. including the shortcut trail (379) under Cedar Lake (the East end peters out and you will be lost & bushwacking if you travel it) I also blazed through Alto Pass to the highway over pass, and the road from RT51 to Lirley Trailhead.
This is where the R2R crosses one of the “Roads” on the map. As you can infer, they are no longer roads you can travel down.
Some more trail hiking (as opposed to old road beds) and then more road beds. When the trail meets the bigger roadbed in the pine woods, it continues north on it and is very nice walking. Some of this is still used by 4 wheelers too.
Not much left of that trail marker. The R2R turns left off the northbound trail and heads past a clearing. I think this area was pretty well developed at one time before the Forrest service took it over.
You may or may not be able to see traces of the old trail to the south on the edge of the lake. DO NOT TAKE IT!!It is all overgrown. Go north and follow the new route. You will see the lower lake to the left and cross the lake on a built up area connecting what used to be points & islands. When the trail hits the West Shore, there is a main trail going West. According to the old map, the R2R runs south at the edge of the shore. No one goes that way, and though I remember seeing a faint trail, there weren’t any markers. Just up the main trail heading West, there is a large trail heading south higher up the bluff than the old R2R and it is used by ATV’s. IT is the new leg South now. When I got to the lake and from the West this is the intersection I was faced with.
(This is the shortcut trail (right) under Cedar Lake trail 379, it is ok until the east end where it fades to nothing and you will have to bushwack East to find the R2R. I blazed this intersection.)
As you are traveling south you will see an odd transformer or man hole from time to time. The trail seems to follow an underground pipeline to the Alto Pass waterworks.
You will deviate from the map because the map shows the trail just to the east of a creek, where in real life it travels across the West side of a large square field on the West side of the creek. The photo shows where it enters at the North EAST corner of the field and it exits South at the South WEST corner of the field…the diagonal corner. Took me awhile to figure it out coming from the south. There are trails from the North WEST corner that are unmarked and NOT the R2R! It doesn’t run next to the creek anywhere until you get into the woods.
As you continue to walk South you will pass through a gap between fields and approach a hill covered by Red Sumac Bushes. (Red in the fall) There is a R2R sign in the gap. You will travel the left (East) side of the hill. Pretty overgrown trail here but passable.
ATTENTION! The area to the East of the hill is 7ft tall weeds, but I cut a wide path through it 8/8/16 that should do for this Fall & Winter.
There is a land owner cleared path shown here up the sumac covered hill to the West of the water treatment plant. It curves up and around the hill and is not blazed because it is not the trail. It IS an alternate that does take you to where it crosses the creek between to fields where it joins the R2R.
The R2R crosses the weedy low section between the creek and the sumac hill and enters the woods for short way, then follows the East side of the field until it comes to the creek crossing. The crossing is a short distance West along the creek where it joins the farmer field access path
Head north on the farmer path from the creek crossing, and when the farmer path turns left up a hill, you will see a blaze showing where the R2R crosses a ditch and skirts the North West corner of the field into the woods where you will find a blazed trail in the woods at the edge of the field that connects to the waterworks service road that takes you all the way to Cedar Lake.
This will take you to the intersection with Alto Waterworks rd. Take it South West (Right traveling Westbound.) The hill is visible from the road for a ways before you arrive traveling Eastbound in the fall with it’s bright red color.
There was a lot for sale on the way into Alto Pass starting at auction pretty dirt cheap. Hey, I should have made a bid at that starting price. Not allowed to inspect it first though. The Alto Pass welcoming dog was on hand.
There is a small park there with a porta potty. You get on Chestnut street and head West.
It forks at the edge of town. Milligan Hill road goes North West, Bald Knob Rd heads out West. Follow it out and around south to the Godwin trail head.
Look to the South West as you walk and you will see Bald Knob Cross on top of the ridge. You can continue on up the road to it past the trailhead if you want but it is a long hike. Great views up there though.
This is the last hiking leg I did west. I was coming the other way and had actually left myself 3 bottles of water hidden here. My car was parked at the small Clear Springs Wilderness trailhead. Of course I was going East, but it sounds like I’m almost back, narrating WB.
I found this section very enjoyable. The trail was nice, the weather was perfect and I saw no one on the trail. A ridiculous amount of loose brown deep gravel to start off with and then into the woods! Map 22.
I guess Ranbarger Trail is the black hashmarked one.
Bridgeman trail too.
Much of this is old roadbed with traces of homesteads. I have no idea what this post and engraved R2R sign was doing in the middle of no where, but it’s always nice to see a marker when the trail is getting thin & faint.
A lot of creek crossing. I had actually taken a wrong turn and just followed the creek south until I found the trail again.
You will come to what I assume is clear springs at Hutchins creek. (Updated 8/2515, just there yesterday. Trail at the Pine Hills trailhead has been cleared recently. Nice walk but you need a Spider web stick to wave in front of you this week. (or let someone walk ahead of you). If you find an Estwing Carpenter hammer on the trail or at the washed out ravine on Hutchins creek, it’s mine)
I’ll ad some yesterday photos here. The confusing intersection 1/2 mile East of the Pine Hills road trailhead got another blaze from me.
This intersection not far East of Pine Hills Road is where the Kings Hollow trail splits off and heads North. Back in I think ’97 there was a HUGE rain & flood and the leg of the River to River that used to turn North here and go to Pomona natural bridge, then come back South to Cedar Lake was abandoned due to the damage and blocked trail from the flood. I wouldn’t mind seeing if I could retrace it someday after leaf off in the Fall.
Its very beautiful here.
If the water is low like this, spend some time looking around. That’s what you came for.
Pine Hills Rd. That’s where my car is.
The markers are blue stencils along this way. Maybe this is where “What in the blue blazes?” came from. Somewhere about here it crosses into map 23
Not much further.
Silly loop in the trail.
It was getting equally weedy & loopy towards the trail head.
When it gets so weedy you are starting to have second thoughts about this being a nice section, you are there! (The Trail has been recently cleared as of 8/25/15)
Enjoy the view from the bluffs!
Onward for the final punishing stretch to the Mississippi.