River to River Trail

Area Status: Open


Spanning from the Ohio River to the Mississippi River, this 160-mile trail passes through some of the most scenic areas of southern Illinois, including upland forests, wetlands, grasslands and bluffs. The trail leads through some of the most remote areas of the Shawnee as it passes through five of the seven nationally designated wilderness’, designated natural areas and several state parks. Abundant with wildlife you may see bald eagle, red-tailed hawk, bobcat, armadillo, red fox and is home to some 250 bird species.  

Most of the trail is on public lands (national forest or state parks), however some segments are along roads and across private land (where allowed). Enjoy tranquil locations such as bluffs overlooking Cedar Lake, painted sunset sky at Garden of the Gods, or migrating waterfowl resting in the floodplains of the Mississippi River.

Download Geo-referenced River to River Maps to use them on your tablet or smartphone for GPS navigation along the trail.

At a Glance

Reservations: no permits or reservations necessary.
Rentals & Guides: Contact the River to River Trail Society for information:  www.rivertorivertrail.net 
Area Amenities: Tent camping,Picnic tables,Toilets,Parking
Permit Info: No permits are required for camping in designated wilderness. 
Open Season: Year-round
Busiest Season: April and October
  • Primitive camping is allowed a quarter-mile outside campgrounds and picnic areas. Primitive camping is free and allowed any time of year. Campers may stay in one location up to 14 days, but no permanent structures may be built.
  • Stay on designated trails.
  • Pets are allowed only on a leash.
  • Designated wilderness are non-motorized areas for primitive recreation. In Garden of the Gods, Lusk Creek and Bay Creek Wilderness' groups are limited to 10 people or less.  Use exisiting campsites and naturalize your campsite before leaving to lessen visitor impacts.
  • No camping allowed in designated Natural Areas; these areas are marked on the ground with yellow posts labeled "Natural Area".
  • Camp and wash at least 150 feet away from trails and any waterbody (lakes, rivers, streams, creeks, etc.)
  • Follow Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics
Closest Towns: Grand Tower, IL on the Mississippi River
Elizabethtown, IL on the Ohio River
Water: Treat or filter your water. Creeks & streams are not reliable sources during periods of no rain.
Information Center: Forest Headquarters (618) 253-7114

General Information


Overnight parking is allowed at Forest Service trailheads and along Forest Roads. When parking along Forest Roads do not block traffic or cause resource damage on soft soil/vegetation.


A locator map and detailed trail maps for the River to River Trail are provided in partnership with the River to River Trail Society.  Visit the River to River Trail Society website for trail information and links for digital River to River Trail maps.

General Notes:

Campgrounds near the River to River Trail:
Camp Cadiz
Garden of the Gods
Ferne Clyffe State Park
Giant City State Park

Primitive Camping Outside of Campgrounds:

Primitive camping is allowed in the Shawnee National Forest with the exception of developed recreation areas, 80 natural areas, on lake shores, near streams or on trails. Equestrian camping is not allowed in Wilderness. Primitive camping is free and is allowed any time of year. Do not trespass on private land and do not cut down live trees, shrubs or other vegetation. Clean up all personal garbage and make sure all fires are completely out. Campers may camp up to 14 continuous days, but no permanent structures may be built.


Day Hiking


Horse Riding

Viewing Wildlife

Viewing Scenery


Picnic tables: at picnic areas
Tent camping: see primitive camping section above
Parking: overnight parking allowed at trailheads - See above
Toilets: at campgrounds, picnic areas & some trailheads

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities