Hiking Project Logo

River to River Trail



161.0 mile 259.0 kilometer point to point


Ascent: 16,981' 5,176 m
Descent: -16,975' -5,174 m
High: 921' 281 m
Low: 351' 107 m


Avg Grade: 4% (2°)
Max Grade: 29% (16°)


Driving directions Take a virtual tour
Zoom in to see details
Map Key

Trail shared by Joe Kempf

This 160-mile trail spans from the Ohio River to the Mississippi River. Updated trail based on 2017 cartographer maps.

Joe Kempf

Features Birding · Cave · Commonly Backpacked · Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Spring · Views

- Free primitive camping year-round at least 1/4mi outside campground/picnic areas. Camping in one location 14 days max. No permanent structures.
- Stay on trails.
- Designated wilderness' for primitive recreation. Garden of the Gods, Lusk Creek & Bay Creek Wilderness', groups limited to 10 people.
- Use exisiting campsites. Follow Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics.
- No camping in Natural Areas; marked on ground w/yellow posts labeled "Natural Area".
- Camp/wash min. 150ft away from trails.


The trail passes through some of the most scenic areas of southern Illinois: upland forests, wetlands, grasslands, bluffs, heading through five nationally designated wilderness areas, designated natural areas and a number of state parks. You may see bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, bobcats, armadillos, red foxes, while being home to some 250 bird species.

The majority of this long distance trail heads through public lands (national forest / state parks), however, a couple segments use easements on private land, please respect these parcels as you cross them. Along the trail, revel at the quiet beauty of the bluffs above Cedar Lake, breathtaking sunsets at Garden of the Gods, and migrating waterfowl who use the surrounding floodplains of the Mississippi River to roost or find temporary shelter.

- No permits/reservations necessary.
- No permits required for designated wilderness camping.
- Open Seasons Year-round
- Busiest Seasons: April/May and September/October
- Forest HQ: (618) 253-7114

- Treat/filter water. Creeks/streams not reliable sources during periods of no rain.

- Overnight parking allowed at trailheads & along Forest Roads. When parking along Forest Roads, do not block traffic or cause resource damage on soft soil/vegetation.

Campgrounds near the River to River Trail (fee / not free):
- 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.

Hiked this trail?

We need help with the following missing trail information:

Family Friendly, ADA Accessible, Need to Know, Flora & Fauna


Rate This Trail

Rate Quality

   Clear Rating

Rate Difficulty

Share This Trail

Check In


Sep 13, 2019
Jason Burns

Trail Ratings

  4.0 from 2 votes


  4.0 from 2 votes
5 Star
4 Star
3 Star
2 Star
1 Star
Trail Rankings


in Illinois


140 Views Last Month
3,648 Since Nov 16, 2017



Cooking dinner and taking in the view at sunset at Buzzard Point.
Oct 10, 2016 near Rosiclare, IL
Natural arch along river to river trail just below the Pharaoh Campground.
Oct 10, 2016 near Rosiclare, IL
Viewpoint and suitable backpacking campsite off the River to River trail. (Very close to trail, unfortunately).
Oct 10, 2016 near Rosiclare, IL
Dinner and a view at Buzzard Point.
Oct 10, 2016 near Rosiclare, IL
Early morning at Garden of the Gods in Southern Illinois.
Aug 13, 2016 near Rosiclare, IL
Mar 1, 2018 near Rosiclare, IL

Hiking Project is part of the REI Co-op family,
where a life outdoors is a life well lived.

Shop REI Hiking