The River To River Trail
Midwest Backpacking

The River to River Trail

One of the popular backpacking trails in Illinois is the River to River Trail. The River to River Trail is a long-distance trail that stretches approximately 160 miles from the Ohio River to the Mississippi River, traversing through the southern part of the state. It offers backpackers a unique opportunity to explore the diverse landscapes of Illinois, from rolling hills to lush forests, and to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of the region.

Here are some key features of the River to River Trail:

  1. Scenic Diversity: The trail takes hikers through a variety of landscapes, including the Shawnee National Forest, Illinois Ozarks, and the Cache River Wetlands. This diverse range of ecosystems provides breathtaking views, serene woodlands, and the chance to encounter a wide array of plant and animal species.
  2. Challenging Terrain: While not as rugged as some trails in other states, the River to River Trail still offers a fair share of elevation changes and challenging terrain. Hikers can expect to encounter rocky sections, steep ascents, and descents, making it a rewarding choice for those seeking both physical and mental challenges.
  3. Natural Attractions: Along the trail, you’ll come across natural attractions such as the Garden of the Gods, with its unique rock formations and sweeping vistas, and the stunning Bell Smith Springs Recreation Area, known for its waterfalls, canyons, and lush vegetation.
  4. Seasonal Beauty: The River to River Trail offers a different experience in each season. Spring brings blooming wildflowers, while summer provides opportunities for cooling off in creeks and rivers. Fall treats hikers to a colorful display of changing leaves, and winter offers a quieter, more peaceful trek through the snow-covered landscape.
  5. Camping Options: The trail features designated camping areas along its route, allowing backpackers to set up camp and rest after a day of hiking. These campsites are equipped with basic amenities, such as fire rings and pit toilets.
  6. Section Hiking: Given the trail’s length, many hikers choose to tackle it in sections rather than all at once. This allows for more flexibility and the chance to explore specific areas in greater detail.
  7. Wildlife Viewing: The diverse habitats along the trail support a wide range of wildlife, including deer, turkeys, various bird species, and more. Wildlife enthusiasts will find ample opportunities for observation and photography.

Things To Consider

Before embarking on a backpacking trip along the River to River Trail, it’s important to plan carefully. Make sure to check current trail conditions, obtain any necessary permits, and prepare for changes in weather and terrain. Additionally, familiarize yourself with Leave No Trace principles to ensure you’re minimizing your impact on the environment.

Summing Up

The River to River Trail offers a unique backpacking experience in the state of Illinois, allowing hikers to explore its natural beauty, diverse ecosystems, and challenging terrain. Whether you’re a local looking for an outdoor adventure or an out-of-state backpacker seeking new trails, the River to River Trail has something to offer for every nature enthusiast.

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