Little Grand Canyon Trail
Near Pomona (Jackson County)
This three-mile loop is one of my favorites in the Shawnee National Forest. As you descend into the canyon, you feel as though you’re in a rainforest, and when you reach the canyon floor, 300-foot-high bluffs loom over you. The rating is moderate to difficult and the only way in and back out is over a slick, rocky, creek bed. This is a remote area, so bring your stamina, a water bottle and a snack to eat while in the canyon.
If you’re still hungry after your hike, drive 20 minutes north on Hickory Ridge Road to Murphysboro, where 17th Street Barbecue cooks up award-winning ribs and beef brisket.
Two More Recommended Stops
If you still have an appetite for more of Southern Illinois’ natural wonders, drive 20 minutes south on Hickory Ridge Road to the Pomona Natural Bridge, a 60-foot-long sandstone formation that’s only a few hundred feet from the parking lot. The bridge reminds me of the amazing natural bridges and arches in Utah’s national parks, but this one is a lot closer to home.
Before you head home, I highly recommend watching the sunset at Inspiration Point near Wolf Lake in Union County, about 10 miles southeast of Pomona. The view from the top of a 100-foot-tall bluff is spectacular.
I’ll continue to explore the natural beauty of this region, and I invite you to do the same. If you think all of Illinois is flat terrain and farmland, the bluffs at Little Grand Canyon and the waterfall at Ferne Clyffe may change your mind.