The points of interest on this page are pretty well just off the road. No hikes or even long walks are needed for 90% of it. Except for a ridge in Grand Tower by the levee gazebo which isn’t recommended and 1 trail off Pine Hill road which doesn’t offer any views you can’t see just a short walk from your parked car there aren’t any hikes on this page.
To get to Inspiration point and all the other scenic overlooks on the bluffs, take Highway 3 South past Grand Tower to State Forest Road on the left. (Just on south end of Wolf Lake community) then take the Pine Hills road to the left (Pine Hills Campground has toilets by the way and a nice picnic area but save the picnic for the overlooks). This is a winding road climbing up to the top of the bluffs. It is a nice gravel road. Another way to get here is RT 51 to 146 then East to Rt 3 coming out below Wolf Lake. The overlooks just keep getting better as you go, and the bluffs curve slightly so the scenery changes. Inspiration point itself is great, but comes out right on the edge of the bluff so keep any kidlets under strict control. if you have any wandering kids, it would probably be better to just stop at the other mowed wide roadside viewing points. There is a trail to what probably used to be a great view but the trees have grown up in front of it and you have to stand on a rotten old bench to get a view after the walk. I’ll not say any walk in the woods isn’t worth it, but the next place to pull over has a better view.
I have 2 sets of photos, One was with my wife and we did grand Tower and the beach at the Mississippi as well (very nice beach). And the other was a 3day R2R Hike Starting at the Clearwater Wilderness trail head. That was a foggy October morning that couldn’t have looked better. Took me awhile to get on the trail with those views.
The road at the bottom of the bluffs where Pine Hills roads ends is closed for snake migrations to & from the Mississippi and the bluffs every Spring & Fall at certain times. The Pine Hills road is always open though. I never saw a reptile or amphibian on my Fall hike, but I didn’t go past the Clear Springs trailhead on Pine Hills road that time. The Larue road is closed in March for a couple of weeks & October or November for a couple of weeks I believe. Do a Google search for “Snake Road” if you want current information.
The Larue Road takes you right back to 3 to the West. Take 3 back up to Grand Tower for some more Interesting sights. You can sit in a gazebo and watch the riverboats, or go down to the wide beach. The R2R trail runs along the levee here. We walked it South as much as we cared to. Just to the North of the Gazebo is a high ridge with an abandoned trail on it. It might have been the R2R at one time. There are some glimpses of the town & river from the top but it is pretty overgrown and not worth the climb through thick brush. Of course I did it anyway because I can be hard headed. My wife stayed on the old road at the base. The actual Grand Tower is a rocky Island almost to the West Bank. It is probably grander from over there.
There is some kind of deep hole at the top of the ridge with some posts and cables to keep you out. It’s completely over grown too. Might be interesting after leaf off in the Fall & Winter to go up there. and follow the old trail. I went back down to the abandoned road along the West side after traveling probably halfway along the ridge. There wasn’t really anything to see except at the Gazebo end where the steep slope had more breaks in the trees. I would recommend skipping the ridge but the rest was a very enjoyable day looking at some of the best vistas available in Southern IL.