If you are looking for a long distance hike this fall, you might consider the River to River Trail in Southern Illinois. When I hiked this trail in October, it was still nice and warm and provided some awesome fall colors.
The River to River Trail spans 160 miles from Battery Rock on the Ohio River to Devil’s Backbone Park in Grand Tower on the Mississippi River. The Shawnee National Forest covers most of the east-west portions, and the trail passes through or near such spectacular sites as Garden of the Gods Recreation and Wilderness Area, Lusk Creek Canyon National Scenic Area, Panther Den Wilderness Area, Giant City State Park, and Ferne Clyffe State Park. Most of these parks have much to offer. On my trip, I camped at Panther Den Wilderness under a cave type cliff. No need to pitch a tent when it’s warm.
The entire trail takes hikers an average of fourteen days to complete. The Trail is marked with wooden diamonds painted white overlaid with a blue “i” which has been the symbol of the trail from the beginning. Some “i”s may be painted on trees. Generally, when a trail turns, the diamond will be pointed in the direction of the turn. Interesting side trails may be marked with only the white diamond. A Backpacker hiking this trail should have a watchful eye. Sometimes the trail signs can be easily missed, and there will be times when you are hiking on old access roads.
Make sure you bring plenty of water, and moreover, plan where you will get your water. When I was hiking in October, water was a bit scarce. But there are a few lakes that you pass if you feel the need to get water from them. The Terrain is moderate at best. A few climbs, but most of them are bluff climbs and not to hard.
There are shuttles available. The best resource for shuttle info is on the River to River Web Site. Here you will find the tail book that you will for SURE need. You will probalby see horses on the trail, so use caution when approaching a horseback rider.
For directions and Park Info, go to the Shawnee National Forest Web Site and Contact Info
See you on the Trail