“This 160-mile trail spans from the Ohio River to the Mississippi River. Updated trail based on 2017 cartographer maps.”
— Joe Kempf
Birding · Cave · Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Spring · Views · Commonly Backpacked
- 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.