Rocky Bluff Trail – Illinois

I had seen pictures on the Shawnee National Forest group Facebook page about the Rocky Bluff Trail. The Rocky Bluff Trail is a 2.2 mile loop trail located in the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge.

You do have to have a permit to enjoy this area. A day permit for $2 can be obtained at the new Visitor Center located off of Highway 148 near Marion. They recently built a brand new center and while it was not fully open to the public yet, I look forward to returning in the future to learn more about the Wildlife Refuge.

This trail is about a 12 minute drive from the Visitor Center on Tacoma Lake Road. After passing by Devils Kitchen Lake and over a bridge, there is a small parking lot on the left hand side of the road for the trailhead.

The waterfall is literally feet from the trailhead if you use the trail to the left of the kiosk so after reading a few reviews on All Trails, we hiked the loop counterclockwise so that we would end our hike with the waterfall.

The trail first crosses a stream which appears to be what feeds the waterfall during a good rain!

After just a short hike, there is a “shortcut” trail just before crossing over another creek, but we wanted to hike the full loop so we continued on. It does look like another decent sized waterfall could be here based on the small gorge the creek falls into.

The Rocky Bluff trail then meets up with the Wild Turkey Trail for about a quarter of a mile so be sure to watch for the Rocky Bluff trail to spur off to the left. I loved how this trail had maps along the way!

The trail continues on, slowly descending down the ridge to then follow along Grassy Creek.

This half mile of the trail is some of the most phenomenal views of the whole trail. If you take the shortcut trail, you would miss this section of the hike.

Towering bluffs come into view and the designs in the rocks are so unique. This reminded me a bit of the Rim Rock Trail that is also in the Shawnee National Forest. We took our time and really enjoyed this part of the trail.

Finally, at the very end of the trail, the waterfall comes into view. The creek from above tumbles down two ledges to create a beautiful sight. This is a wet weather waterfall so it was more of just a trickle when we were there even though we had some rain the previous couple of days.

A set of stairs leads up to the trailhead. I really enjoyed this trail and it might be one of my new favorite trails. I highly recommend hiking the entire loop, but if you are just hoping to catch a picture of the waterfall after a good rain, it’s just a few short steps from the trailhead!

Categories: Rocky Bluff Trail, Shawnee National ForestTags: , , , , , ,


  1. Very pretty! Looks fun – obviously not dog friendly though!


  2. This is definitely my favorite trail around. You definitely need to come back early Spring. There is an abundance of various types of wildflowers and almost every week shows new flowers. The Celandine poppies, the trilliums, and blue-eyed Mary’s are some of our favorites.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You must see it in April, the wildflowers are amazing! I posted some pictures here of what it looked like this spring. I have been several times and have yet to catch that waterfall flowing well. It was even raining while we hiked!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: