Bell Smith Springs Recreation Area

Area Status: Open
A stone natural bridge with a tree.
Bell Smith Springs is one of the most beautiful recreation areas the Shawnee National Forest has to offer. It contains a series of clear, rocky streams and scenic canyons bordered by high sandstone cliffs and an abundance of vegetation unique to Illinois. The trail system consists of eight miles of interconnected trails featuring strange and wonderful rock formations, such as Devil's Backbone, Boulder Falls and a natural rock bridge. Hiking this system of trails is a favorite activity because of the rock features, scenic overlooks, hidden springs and lush flora and fauna. 

At a Glance

Current Conditions: No water available at Redbud Campground.
Operational Hours: Bell Smith Springs Trail System is open year round. Redbud Campground is open 3/15 - 12/15
Reservations: Campground is first come- first served.  No reservations. 
Area Amenities: Interpretive Site, Accessible, Tent camping, Camping trailer, Picnic tables, Toilets, Parking
Fees: Campsites $15/night - 8 people & 2 vehicles max. Payment cash or check only.
Busiest Season: April through October
  • Forest Order is in place that prohibits possessing any food or beverage glass containers in the Bell Smith Springs Recreation Area, excluding the Redbud Campground. (persuant 36 CFR 261.58cc)
  • Pets are allowed only on a leash.
  • Stay on the designated trails.
  • Use trash receptacles. Pack It In, Pack It Out rules apply to the entire trail system.
  • Camp only at designated sites in the campground.
  • No camping allowed in Natural Area.
  • No horseback riding is allowed in the day-use areas.
Closest Towns: Michellsville, IL 62946
Water: Water is currently unavailable.
Restroom: vault toilets
Operated By: Campground Operated by Gary & Andrea Dahmer (618) 658-0607 
Information Center: Hiking & General Info.Contact: Hidden Springs Ranger District (618) 658-2111 For Redbud Campground Contact: Concessionaire, Gary and Andrea Dahmer (618) 658-0607 

General Information

General Notes:

Know Before You Go

Glass containers (food and beverage) prohibited in Bell Smith Springs Recreation Area

Bell Smith Springs Trails: In springtime water in the creeks will be calf-high or more and deep pools exist along the creek any time of year - Use cautious when crossing creeks. Due to the remoteness of the canyon precautions should be taken: Carry water, food, first-aid kit, etc. Cell phones do not reach out of the canyon. Expect longer response times by emergency personnel. Poison ivy & venomous snakes are present.

There are 8 miles of interconnected Hiker-Only Trails.  The level of difficulty = Moderate – Difficult. To reach the canyon floor from the main trail, you must descend a stone stairway.  For trail markings and distances download the Bell Smith Springs brochure/map.


From Harrisburg: Take Highway 145 south 11 miles to Burden Falls Road. Turn right, go 5 miles to Ozark Rd. Turn south (left). Go to Bell Smith Springs Rd. Turn southwest (right) and proceed 2 miles to Bell Smith Springs.
From Vienna: Take Highway 45 north 12 miles to Ozark Road. Turn east (right). Go 10 miles to Bell Smith Springs Rd. Turn southwest (right) and proceed 2 miles to Bell Smith Springs.


Parking available at the main Bell Smith Springs Trailhead and Hunting Branch Trailhead.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Campground Camping

Day Hiking

Viewing Wildlife

Viewing Plants

Viewing Scenery

Interpretive Areas


Interpretive Site: at Bell Smith Springs Trailhead
Camping trailer: Small trailers/pop-up trailer; NO water or electric hook-ups
Tent camping: non-electric
Toilets: vault toilets
Accessible: some campsites and interpretive signs at trailhead

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities

Featured Events


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