Fern Clyffe State Park is in southern Illinois near the town of Goreville, just miles from Shawnee National Forest. The park’s 2,500 acres and diverse hiking trails will take you through mossy forests, striking canyon walls and caves, grand 100 ft waterfalls, and spectacular vistas. Below is a one-day itinerary to get your planning started. Please reach out with any questions!
The park has two campgrounds. Deer Ridge has electric sites, and Turkey Ridge is primitive camping only. The park also has equestrian and group camping available as well. Reservations can be made here- Fern Clyffe Camping. For hotel options, check out Marion, IL, about 12 miles north of the park. We visited several other parks while in the area and stayed at Shawnee Forest Campground outside the park in Vienna, IL. It was beautiful, and I would definitely recommend it. It was roughly 15 minutes from the park.
We mostly eat in while camping, but check out Goreville and Marion, IL, for dining options. Plan on bringing your lunch with you for the day. There are many picnic areas but no food to purchase inside the park.
Must Know Before You Go:
- In the right season, this park is full of wonderful waterfalls, but they are very dependent on the season and rainfall. The waterfalls are the most impressive in the spring😊
- Most trails can get muddy and rocky. Proper footwear is recommended.
- During the summer months, plan on bringing insect repellant.
- Fishing is allowed in Fern Clyffe Lake, with an Illinois fishing license.
Sporadic, no service on most trails.
1 Day Itinerary
Big Rocky Hollow Trail- Maps are limited throughout the park until you get to the wooden maps at the trailheads. Veer right at the split in the park road near the lake, and take it all the way to the end, near the restrooms. The trailhead is off the circle in the back of the lot.
This trail is an easy 1-mile hike, with minimal elevation gain, through a beautiful forest with giant cliff walls on either side. The turnaround point is the 100 ft Fern Clyffe Falls cascading over an enormous rock overhang. The path is easy to follow, well marked, and perfect for all ages!
Rebman Trail- The trailhead for the Rebman Trail is just north of the Big Rocky Hollow trailhead. We almost skipped this trail, but luckily, our eldest was adamant about checking it out. This easy 0.5-mile trail, with minimal elevation gain, is short but impressive with its massive rock formations and, in the right season, even a beautiful waterfall.
Hawk’s Cave Trail- The Hawk’s Cave trailhead is just a few steps from the Rebman Trail. This 1-mile trail has approximately 100 ft of elevation gain and takes you to a 150 ft rock shelf and a lovely waterfall. And if you have kiddos with you, they will love exploring and climbing all of the large boulders along the way.
Blackjack Oak/Fern Clyffe Lake Trails- There is a small parking lot right in front of the trailhead, but we didn’t bother moving our car and instead just walked the extra few steps from the Hawk’s Cave trailhead to the Blackjack Oak Trailhead. There are picnic tables between the two trailheads if you need to stop for lunch.
We combined the Blackjack Oak Trail (2 mi.) with the Fern Clyffe Lake Trail (1 mi.) for 3 miles roundtrip with approximately 300 ft of elevation gain. The Blackjack Oak Trail does follow the cliff ledge much of the way, so you will want to keep little ones close. Once you get down to the Fern Clyffe Lake Trail, it is a flat, easy loop around the beautiful lake.
If you have extra time today, consider checking out the Round Bluff Nature Preserve Trail.
Hope you have a wonderful adventure at Fern Clyffe State Park! 😊
Looking for another Illinois State Park? Check out our Starved Rock State Park Itinerary!
Also, check out our hiking gear and apparel below!