Near Marion in the Shawnee National Forest, the 146-mile River to River Trail stretches from Battery Rock, on the Ohio River, to Devils Backbone Park, on the Mississippi, tracing footpaths or dirt roads through rugged country more suggestive of Missouris Ozarks than the flatlands of the Prairie State. The River-To-River Trail is a hiking section of the American Discovery Trail that extends coast-to-coast across the USA.
The River to River Trail passes through some of the most scenic areas in the country with a combination of plains, bayous, bluffs and upland forests. It crosses five of the seven Shawnee National Forest Wilderness', as well as designated natural areas, Giant City State Park, Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge, Ferne Clyffe State Park, historic landmarks and Devil’s Backbone Park. Enjoy numerous tranquil settings, such as the sleepy waters of Cedar Lake, vast scenic overlooks or a painted sky at sunset. The hiking trail passes many wonderous natural features, such as Camel Rock, Battery Rock, the Gap and small, seasonal waterfalls. Peaceful little towns like Alto Pass, Makanda and Rock Creek remind you of how things used to be. Trail visitors will encounter many challenges and experiences from crossing river levee roads, to riding through rugged wilderness terrain, to viewing scenic rock bluffs, to visiting small, quaint towns crossing rippling waters of the rocky creeks.
The ten-mile section from Camp Cadiz to High Knob, five miles east of Garden of the Gods, is especially popular with mountain bikers.
To reach the Garden of Gods trailhead from Marion, take SR 13 east 25 miles until you hit SR 145; then head south four miles to SR 34 and Karbers Ridge. Follow the signs to Garden of the Gods.
To reach the Herod trailhead from Marion, take SR 13 east 25 miles until you hit SR 145/34; then head south four miles and turn left onto State Route 34 and travel 7.5 miles to the Herod trailhead.
The Ohio River trailhead is located at Battery Rock: from Highway 1 turn east on Lambs Rd. Approx-imately 1 mile past the point when the road pavement changes to gravel there is a small trailhead parking lot. The Mississippi River trailhead is located in Devil’s Backbone Park: From Highway 3 turn west towards Grand Tower and follow signs to the park entrance.
Note: The River-To-River Trail Society publishes a detailed, section-by-section trail map, the River-To-River Trail Guide. It is available from the Society or from the National Forest. A newer version should be released in 2009.
Overall, River-To-River Trail - East is the 1st most popular hiking trail of all 17 hikes in Illinois.