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River To River Trail, IL

Apr 9 - Apr 17, 2016 -- $1200 ★★

Backpacking in Illinois? You're kidding, right?

No, we're not kidding. At the Southern end of Illinois, a fairly secluded trail winds its way from the Ohio River to the Mississippi River, visiting bluffs, promonotories and an occasional tower. The so-called River To River Trail connects the two eponymous rivers, primarily traversing the Shawnee National Forest. Although difficult in places, this is a pretty good destination for first timers as elevation changes aren't dramatic and we will be staying in a few frontcountry campgrounds along the way.

Our route will begin on Route 7 (like you know where that is) near the intersection of the Elizabethtown and Battery Rock trails. We will progressively visit many of the highlights of the area: High Knob, Garden of the Gods, One Horse Gap, Lusk Natural Area, High Point / Owl Bluff, Millstone Lake and Trigg Tower.

Here are topo maps of our proposed route


Weather is always an important concern when backpacking. Historical April weather averages high 50s low 60s during the day, which is nice for backpacking although a bit cool. Expect 40s at night. Be prepared for rain as well, often in the form of a violent but short thunderstorm.

Trip Leaders

Steve Silberberg
Beau Devlin


$1200 per person double occupancy. Here, double occupancy means that you will share a hotel room with another trip participant. You will also be responsible for transportation to and from St. Louis, MO (STL) as well as personal equipment, and any restaurant meals.

Covered expenses include 2 nights in a hotel, one night in a cabin, 6 days of trail meals, ground transportation, permits, fees and awesome guides.

Important Note

This is Fitpacking's first visit to Illinois and the River To River Trail

Some photos courtesy of noel

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Guides for this trip
Important Note
Difficulty (Please Read)
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Saturday, April 9, 2016

Fly or drive into St. Louis, MO (STL)

Take free airport shuttle to Springhill Suites Marriott Airport/ Earth City, 3099 Rider Trail South, Bridgeton, MO, 63044, 314-739-9991.

Equipment shakedown

Before body composition measurements taken

Trail mix distribution

Buy common last minute and forgotten items at REI, 1703 S Brentwood Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63144, (314) 918-1004

Go out for dinner in town. Dinner not included in trip cost.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

2nd set of before body composition measurements taken

Free breakfast at hotel

Store all items you won't bring on the trail at either the hotel or a storage unit

Drive / shuttle 2.5 hours to the River To River Trail in Illinois

Begin hiking at Highway 7

Hike 0.9 miles to the ETown / Battery Rock trail intersection

Hike 2.2 miles to High Knob access road

Hike 0.3 roundtrip miles to the top of High Knob Lookout Tower, elevation 929'

Hike 4.3 miles to the Garden of the Gods

Camp at the Garden of the Gods campsite, 100 yards east of here

Mileage Today: 7.7. Total mileage: 7.7

Possible bailout: High Knob

Monday, April 11, 2016

Take 15 minutes to day-hike the Garden of the Gods Observation Trail

Hike 5.9 miles to Herod

There is a hiker friendly house on the road where we can water up and take a break in their Gazebo

Hike 2.0 miles to an established wilderness campsite with water

Camp at wilderness campsite.

Mileage Today: 7.9. Total mileage: 15.6

Possible bailout: Herod

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Hike 2.6 miles to a cave

Hike 0.8 miles to another cave

Hike 0.3 miles to One Horse Gap

Hike 3.3 miles to Concord Cemetary

Hike 2.5 miles to Little Lusk Creek

Dispersed camp at unmarked campsite near Little Lusk Cree practicing Leave No Trace

Mileage Today: 9.5. Total mileage: 25.1

Possible bailout: Gravel Road near Concord Cemetary

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Hike 3.1 miles to Four Corners Trail Junction

Hike 1.9 miles to Owl Bluff / High Point. There is a dramatic lookout view 100 feet West of the trail.

Hike 3.1 miles to Lusk Creek Wilderness Trailhead

Hike 0.9 miles to surface water

Dispersed camp near surface water practicing Leave No Trace

Mileage Today: 9.0. Total mileage: 34.1

Possible bailout: Eddyville

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Hike 1.6 miles to Eddyville

Hike 2.2 miles to Petticoat Junction

Hike about 4.8 miles, the last mile or so on horse trails to Bay Creek Ranch & Campground

Frontcountry camp at Bay Creek Ranch

Mileage Today: 8.6. Total mileage: 42.7

Possible bailout: Eddyville

Friday, April 15, 2016

Hike about 1.5 miles on horse trails to Millstone Lake

Hike 0.5 miles to Tin Whistle Tunnel. Yee haw, a tunnel!

Hike 4.0 miles to Trigg Tower turnoff

Hike 0.5 round trip miles to Trigg Fire Tower with great views

Hike 0.9 miles to Gum Springs Rd

We will be shuttled by vehicle almost 2 miles to Camp Ondessonk

Stay in bunk rooms (4 bunks per room) at Camp Ondessonk. You may tent camp if you prefer. Free hot showers available.

Mileage Today: 7.4. Total mileage: 50.1

Possible bailout: Gum Springs Road

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Shuttle picks us up and drives us about 2 miles back to the River To River Trail

Hike 4.6 miles to Highway 4

While we are planning to get picked up here, we might have to continue hiking 5 additional miles down the trail to get picked up at Highway 45

Mileage Today: 4.6 (or 9.6). Total mileage: 54.7 (or 59.7)

Possible bailout: Highway 4

Shuttle back to St. Louis

Check back into Springhill Suites Marriott Airport/ Earth City, 3099 Rider Trail South, Bridgeton, MO, 63044, 314-739-9991.

"After" measurements taken

Dinner in town (cost not included in trip cost)

Awards Ceremony

This is the official end of the trip. You are welcome to spend the night at the hotel, however if you drove and would like to get on the road or if you flew and would like to schedule a late flight (or a red-eye if this is a West Coast trip) you can definitely do so.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Check out of Hotel

Take Free airport shuttle

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