Located in the heart of Shawnee National Forest is a hidden gem called Bell Smith Springs Recreation Area. It is south of Harrisburg, with the closest town being Eddyville, Illinois. It is definitely a little hard to find and to get here. Do not let the Fire Roads (FR), which are usually rock roads, deter you. The hike is worth the drive.
We started out from the main parking area and you must first descend a set of rock stairs to get to the bottom of the canyon.
There are several trails through this area that feature impressive rock formations, a natural bridge and a seasonal waterfall. The trails range in length from 1 mile to 2.7 miles. I cannot remember exactly which trails we hiked since it has been a while since we visited, but I know we did hike the Natural Bridge Trail which is 1 mile long.
One of my favorite parts of the hike was where you could climb up the side of the rock using steel rungs that were anchored into the side of the rock. There were really sturdy and a lot of fun. But don’t worry, there is a trail that leads to the top in case the rungs aren’t for you.
There is an informative publication on the area HERE which is by the Forest Service.
This is a great area in the heart of the Shawnee National Forest and a place not to be missed!
Have you been to Bell Smith Springs or have any questions? Please leave a comment!