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River To River Trail, IL

Oct 11 - Oct 18, 2020 -- $1250 ★★

Backpacking in Illinois? Yes, really!

At the Southern end of Illinois, a fairly secluded 162 mile trail winds its way from the Ohio River to the Mississippi River, visiting bluffs, promonotories, forested equestrian trails and an occasional tower. The so-called River To River Trail connects the two eponymous rivers, primarily traversing the Shawnee National Forest. Although difficult in places, this is a pretty good destination for first timers as elevation changes aren't dramatic and we will be staying in a few frontcountry campgrounds along the way.

Our route will begin on Route 7 (like you know where that is) near the intersection of the Elizabethtown and Battery Rock trails. We will progressively visit many of the highlights of the area: High Knob, Garden of the Gods, One Horse Gap, Lusk Natural Area, High Point / Owl Bluff, Millstone Lake and Trigg Tower.

Here are topo maps of our proposed route


Weather is always an important concern when backpacking. Historical June weather averages mid 80s during the day and mid 60s at night. It's a bit warm for backpacking but at least the danger of hypothermia is low. Be prepared for rain as well, often in the form of a violent but short thunderstorm.

Trip Leaders

Chris Frey
2nd guide TBD


$1250 per person double occupancy. Double occupancy means that you will share a hotel room with another trip participant at the beginning and end of the trip. You will also be responsible for transportation to and from St. Louis, MO (STL) as well as personal equipment, restaurant meals eaten off the trail and any gratuities for guides.

Covered expenses include 2 nights in a hotel, campground costs, 6 days of trail meals, ground transportation, permits, fees and awesome guides.

Important Note

The trail might be fairly muddy because of horse traffic

Some photos courtesy of noel

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Sunday, October 11, 2020

Fly or drive into St. Louis, MO (STL)

Take free airport shuttle to our local hotel Pear Tree Inn, St. Louis Airport, 10810 Pear Tree Ln, St. Ann, MO 63074, 314-427-3400

Equipment shakedown. We go through your stuff and make sure you are prepared for the trail, but are not carrying too much

"Before" body composition measurements taken

Trail mix distribution

Buy last minute and forgotten items at REI, 1703 S Brentwood Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63144, (314) 918-1004

Go out for welcome dinner near the hotel. Dinner not included in trip cost.

Monday, October 12, 2020

2nd set of before body composition measurements taken

Free breakfast at hotel

Store all items you won't bring on the trail at either the hotel or a storage unit

Drive / shuttle 2.5 hours to the River To River Trail in Illinois

Begin hiking at Highway 7

Hike 0.9 miles to the ETown / Battery Rock trail intersection

Hike 2.2 miles to High Knob access road

Hike 0.3 roundtrip miles to the top of High Knob Lookout Tower, elevation 929'

Hike 4.3 miles to the Garden of the Gods

Camp at the Garden of the Gods campground 100 yards east of here, although it's a long circular approach trail to get there. Campsites are on a first come, first served basis so site number is not known.

Mileage Today: 7.7. Total mileage: 7.7

Possible bailout: High Knob

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Take 15 minutes to day-hike the Garden of the Gods Observation Trail

Pack up camp

Hike 5.9 miles to Herod

There is a hiker friendly house on the road where we can take a break in their Gazebo. In 2016, we were able to wait out a rain storm and stay dry here.

Hike 2.0 miles to an established wilderness campsite next to water

Camp at wilderness campsite.

Mileage Today: 7.9. Total mileage: 15.6

Possible bailout: Herod

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Hike 2.6 miles to a cave

Hike 0.8 miles to another cave

Hike 0.3 miles to One Horse Gap. Take the time to drop packs and walk through the one horse gap (to the right)

Hike 3.3 miles to Concord Cemetary

Hike 2.5 miles to Little Lusk Creek

Dispersed camp at unmarked campsite just after crossing Little Lusk Creek, practicing Leave No Trace Principles

Mileage Today: 9.5. Total mileage: 25.1

Possible bailout: Gravel Road near Concord Cemetary

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Hike 3.1 miles to Four Corners Trail Junction

Hike 1.9 miles to Owl Bluff / High Point. There is a great lookout view 100 feet West of the trail. Nice place for lunch

Hike 3.1 miles to Lusk Creek Wilderness Trailhead

Hike 1.5 miles past the busy and noisy route 145 to the road at the intersection of trail 001B

Turn right at the road and after crossing the creek, turn right into the woods. Walk a few hundred yards upstream.

Dispersed camp near surface water practicing Leave No Trace

Mileage Today: 9.6. Total mileage: 34.7

Possible bailout: Eddyville

Friday, October 16, 2020

Hike back to the road

Hike 1.6 miles to Eddyville.

Optional: Hike 0.5 round trip miles to the Shawnee Mart Convenience Store. Restrooms available here.

Hike 2.2 miles to Petticoat Junction. Note the petticoats hanging in the trees

Hike about 4.8 miles, the last mile or so on horse trails to Bay Creek Ranch & Campground

Frontcountry camp at Bay Creek Ranch, pay showers and small camp store available

Mileage Today: 8.6. Total mileage: 42.7

Possible bailout: Eddyville

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Hike about 1.5 miles on horse trails to Millstone Lake

Hike 0.5 miles to Tin Whistle Tunnel. Yee haw, a tunnel under a railroad!

Hike 4.0 miles to Trigg Tower turnoff

Drop packs, turn left and hike 1.0 round trip miles to Trigg Fire Tower with great views

Hike 0.4 miles to the Moccasin Gap Trail

Turn right and hike about 1.0 miles on the Moccasin Gap Trail to Cedar Falls. Please note: There's an extensive network of trail through here that may not be so well marked. A GPS might be useful.

Hike about 0.5 miles to Camp Ondessonk

Hike to the Camp Ondessonk Office. Get a ride back to the shuttle vehicle (about 1.5 hours round trip)

End of hiking

Mileage Today: 8.9. Total mileage: 51.6

Possible bailout: Trigg Tower Road

Shuttle back to St. Louis

Check back into local hotel Pear Tree Inn, St. Louis Airport, 10810 Pear Tree Ln, St. Ann, MO 63074, 314-427-3400

"After" measurements taken

Go out to a restaurant for a celebratory dinner (dinner cost not included in trip cost)

Awards Ceremony

This is the official end of the trip. You are welcome to spend the night at the hotel, however if you drove and would like to get on the road or if you flew and would like to schedule a late flight (or a red-eye if this is a West Coast trip) you can definitely do so.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Check out of Hotel

Take Free airport shuttle

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