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River To River Trail Thru Hike, IL

Two Week Trip

Apr 20 - May 6, 2022 -- $1875 ★★★

Backpacking in Illinois? Yes, really! And it's surprisingly scenic.

Join our 158 mile thru hike!

At the Southern end of Illinois, a fairly secluded 158 mile (currently) trail winds its way from the Ohio River to the Mississippi River, visiting bluffs, promonotories, forested equestrian trails, waterfalls and an occasional fire tower. The so-called River To River Trail connects these two eponymous rivers, primarily traversing the Shawnee National Forest. Although muddy in places and occasionally challenging, this is a pretty good destination for first timers as elevation changes aren't dramatic and the trail is punctuated by occasional (but fast to hike) road walks along the way.

If you've ever wanted to complete a thru-hike, this could be the one for you!

Our route will begin in Elizabethtown on the banks of the Ohio River at the historic Rose Hotel. 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 links to the trail guide and to topo maps of the trail


Weather is always an important concern when backpacking. Historical Spring weather averages 70s and 80s during the day and mid 50s at night, although it could get to 90 or freezing over the trip's 2 week span. Be prepared for rain as well, sometimes in the form of a violent but short-lived thunderstorm.

Probable Trip Leaders

Chris Frey
Steve Silberberg


$1875 per person double occupancy. Double occupancy means that you will share a hotel room with another trip participant at the beginning of the trip, the end of the trip and the mid-trip hotel night in Vienna, IL. 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 3 hotel nights, campground costs, 15 days of trail meals, ground transportation, permits, National Forest fees and awesome guides.

Tipping: In order to keep our prices competitive with (and hopefully favorable to) other outfitters, we shamefully can’t pay our guides as much as we think they deserve. Like most other guiding services, we rely on the generosity of our participants to make up this shortfall by tipping the guides. While tips are not required or expected, if your guides have served you well, please consider a gratuity so they can continue living their extravagant lifestyles of eating powdered meals, sleeping in the dirt and pooping in smelly outhouses and small holes they've dug.

Important Note

The trail might be fairly muddy because of horse traffic

Some photos courtesy of noel

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Guides for this trip
Important Note
Difficulty (Please Read)
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Wednesday, April 20, 2022

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 stuff you likely won't need

"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.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

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 nearby storage unit

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

The River-to-River Trail begins on the bank of the Ohio River near the historic Rose Hotel.

Hike 3.6 miles to Lake Tecumseh Dam, elevation 400'

Hike 1.2 miles to Iron Furnace Rd., elevation 400'

Drop packs and day-Hike 0.5 miles round trip to Iron Furnace Historic Site (N37° 29.830' W88° 19.426') just past the bridge across Big Creek, a popular swimming hole. Restrooms available here.

Hike 3.9 miles to unnamed campsite at 16S 0384214E, 4154929N (37.53407922374257, -88.31050956490229) (N37° 32' 03', W88° 13' 38')

Camp at the unnamed campsite at 16S 0384214E, 4154929N (37.53407922374257, -88.31050956490229) (N37° 32' 03', W88° 13' 38')

Mileage Today: 9.2. Total mileage: 9.2

Possible bailout: Elizabethtonw, Iron Furnace

Friday, April 22, 2022

Hike 2.1 miles to Highway 12 / Bassett Rd., elevation 550'

Hike 3.0 miles to Camp Cadiz Rd. / Highway 7, elevation 500'

Hike 0.5 miles to Karber's Ridge Road, elevation 500'

Hike 0.9 miles to Battery Rock Trail, elevation 800'

Hike 3.0 miles to High Knob Horse Camp, Campground, Camp Store available High Knob is 900'

Camp at High Knob Horse Camp.

Mileage Today: 9.5. Total mileage: 18.7

Possible bailout: Karber's Ridge Rd., High Knob Rd.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Hike 1.8 miles to the Garden of the Gods road crossing

Hike 2.3 miles to trail 001A

Drop packs and day-hike about 0.5 miles on 001A to the Big H arch

Hike 5.3 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 on Williams Hill Rd to Campsite (37°33'34.1"N 88°27'09.4"W, 316S 0371701 E 4157931 N)

Camp at Campsite (37°33'34.1"N 88°27'09.4"W, 316S 0371701 E 4157931 N)

Mileage Today: 11.9. Total mileage: 30.6

Possible bailout: Herod

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Hike 4.6 Miles to One Horse Gap

Hike 4.8 miles to Concord Cenetary

Hike 1.1 miles to Bethesda Cemetary

Hike 1.3 miles to Little Lusk Creek

Hike 1.1 miles to unnamed campsite just before a creek and some rock bluffs to the West

Camp at unnamed campsite just before a creek and some rock bluffs to the West

Mileage Today: 12.9. Total mileage: 43.4

Possible bailout: Raum Rd.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Hike 4.8 miles to Owl Bluff / High Point. There is a great lookout view 100 feet West of the trail. Nice place for lunch

Hike 0.7 to Bowed Creek Crossing, Lusk Creek

Hike 2.2 miles to New Home Road

Cross Bear Branch and hike 0.1 miles on trail 472 to unmarked campsite

Dispersed camp near surface water practicing Leave No Trace

Mileage Today: 7.8. Total mileage: 51.1

Possible bailout: New Home Rd.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Hike 0.1 miles on trail 472 to New Home Road

Hike 2.7 miles to US 145

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

Stop to have breakfast in Eddyville (included in trip cost)

Hike 1.1 miles to Hayes Creek Canyon Trailhead

Hike 2.5 miles to Petticoat Junction. Note the petticoats hanging in the trees

Hike 6.9 miles to Millstone Lake Dam

Camp at Millstone Lake

Mileage Today: 13.2. Total mileage: 64.5

Possible bailout: Eddyville

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

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

Hike 4.0 miles to Trigg Tower Trail turnoff

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

Hike 1.2 miles to Gum Springs Trailhead

Hike 2.7 miles to Horse Tie-up

Hike 0.8 miles to Garfield Lane @ Boot Ranch

Hike 1.7 to Max Creek Trail Entrance (Hilltop Lane)

Hike 0.9 miles to Max Creek Crossing

Camp at Max Creek

Mileage Today: 12.8. Total mileage: 77.3

Possible bailout: Trigg Tower Rd., Garfield Lane

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Hike 1.3 miles to Taylor Ridge Road

Hike 2.7 miles to where the trail turns off of US 45

Get an Uber/Cab to Hotel 7 Vienna

Check into the Hotel 7 Inn of Vienna, 709 East Vine Street, Vienna, IL 62995, (618) 658-6300,

Go to dinner in town (not included in trip cost)

Mileage Today: 4.0. Total mileage: 81.3

Possible bailout: Vienna, IL

Friday, April 29, 2022

Free Hotel 7 breakfast

Late check out of Hotel 7

Get an Uber/Cab back to the River 2 River Trail at Goddard Crossing

Hike 2.2 miles to Tunnel Hill Bike Trail

Hike 1.7 miles to Bowman Bottoms Road

Hike 1.6 miles to Dutchman Lake Boat Ramp

Camp at Livesay Spring

Mileage Today: 5.1. Total mileage: 86.8

Possible bailout: Vienna, IL

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Hike 1.9 miles to Twinz Lane

Road walk 5.1 miles to Ferne Clyff State Park parking area

Hike 1.1 miles to Ferne Clyff Backpacker Camp

Camp at Ferne Clyff Backpacker Camping Area, sites 28 & 34, showers, pit toilet

Mileage Today: 8.1. Total mileage: 94.9

Possible bailout: Route 37

Sunday, May 1, 2022

This will be our longest mileage day of the trip

Hike 5.0 miles to Crawford Ave

Road Walk 2.3 miles to Happy Hollow Trailhead

Hike 2.1 miles to Regent Lane

Road walk 6.0 miles to Panther Den Trailhead

Hike about 1.0 miles to Panther Den City

Camp at Panther Den City, lots of campsites here

Mileage Today: 16.4. Total mileage: 111.3

Possible bailout: Almost anywhere in the 8.3 miles of road walks today

Monday, May 2, 2022

Hike 8.1 miles to Antioch Cemetary

Hike 1.8 miles to Giant City camping area turnoff

Hike 0.3 miles to Giant City Campground

Camp at Giant City

Mileage Today: 10.2. Total mileage: 121.5

Possible bailout: Rocky Comfort Rd.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Hike 0.3 miles back to River to River Trail

Hike 4.4 miles to Makanda Road

Hike 4.2 road miles to Lirley Cemetary trailhead at Rowan Rd.

Hike 4.0 miles to Cedar Lake

Camp at Cedar Lake

Mileage Today: 12.9. Total mileage: 134.4

Possible bailout: US Route 51

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Hike 3.3 miles to Alto Pass Waterworks Rd (Cedar St)

Road Walk 1.3 miles to downtown Alto Pass

Road Walk 3.0 miles to the Godwin Trail

Hike 3.0 miles to Hutchins Creek

Hike 3.4 miles to Pine Hills Road

Hike 1.2 miles to McCann Springs Trailhead

Dispersed Camp at-large somewhere in this area practicing Leave No Trace principles

Mileage Today: 15.2. Total mileage: 149.6

Possible bailout: Alto Pass

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Road Walk 9.9 miles to the Western Terminus of the River to River Trail, Grand Tower. Inexplicably there is a campsite here, but happily we're headed back to St. Louis.

End of hiking

Mileage Today: 9.9. Total mileage: 159.5

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.

Friday, May 6, 2022

Check out of Hotel

Take Free airport shuttle (Covid depending)

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