Nestled among the rolling farm fields of southern Illinois, is a hidden gem. Piney Creek Ravine Nature Preserve is absolutely beautiful. This nature preserve is about an hour and a half southeast of St. Louis. There is a small parking lot just off of Piney Creek Road with a large sign so you know you are in the right place.
A half mile access pathway between two fields leads to the start of the trail. The trail was very well marked.
After heading through the forest for a bit, you reach the first creek crossing. Piney Creek is mostly a rocky bottom, but the rocks can get slick and be careful during high water.
The trail parallels the creek and you can just barely catch a glimpse of a waterfall. Another creek crossing awaits. It seems like every where you look, there are beautiful rock formations.
One of the unique features about Piney Creek Ravine Nature Preserve is that it is home to the largest body of prehistoric rock art in Illinois. About 200 designs date back to the Late Woodland period (A.D. 500-1000) and the Mississippian period (A.D. 1000-1550. We were able to identify a couple designs with the help of an informational sign nearby, but unfortunately, modern graffiti and carvings have taken over a large part of the area. It was still really eat to see though.
We continued along the trail as it lead up the hillside and high above the ravine. The trail begins to descend back down to the ravine.
This area was really neat. A large flat rock shelf creates a creek crossing, but be sure to explore this area. Large rocks create small waterfalls, cascades and chutes.
On a side note, my friend and I were looking around taking in the natural beauty and all of a sudden we hear a “kerplunk!”. El had been running all around and tried to jump the creek between a couple rocks and misjudged the distance and fell right in the creek! She was actually stuck in the creek due to the steep, straight walls of the rocks. I had to pull her out by her harness!
We hopped back up on the trail as it climbs high above the ravine and eventually joins back up to the mail trail to create a loop. Overall, we hiked around three miles here. You could really spend all day here, just exploring the creek and rock formations. I highly recommend this place! Dogs are even allowed here!