Monday, September 24

Mill Branch Trail

Continuing with our monthly series, "Adventures with Uncle Bob - Guide to Self-Adventure in Southern Illinois," we feature Mill Branch Trail in Bell Smith Springs.

Directions: Going east from Marion, take Rt 166 thru Creal Springs to US 45. Turn right and proceed to the Village of Ozark. Turn left at the brown sign for Bell Smith Springs and follow approx 10 miles to its entrance road. Rather than driving all the way to the deadend and main parking area, turn at the sign for Hunting Branch Picnic area.

Upon parking, cross a small creek bed and look up to the right for the red diamonds. There is also a white diamond trail straight ahead that will take you to a huge shelter bluff; beyond that, the trail just goes in circles. Our red trail is a 2 mile easy rim loop trail and its main features include frequent views into massive stone glade canyons and waterfall cascades. Near the end of the loop, there is an unmarked trail junction; turn left and continue downhill back to the parking lot.Approx GPS coordinates N 37.565807 and W -88.607482.

While here, consider driving on to the main parking area where there are more trails, including the yellow diamond Natural Bridge Trail. Brochures are available at Forest Service offices. Any questions, contact Bob Tyson at 684-5643.

9-25-10. If the Forest Service still has the turn into Hunting branch Picnic area blocked, continue to the main parking area for Bell Smith Springs. Go to the stone overlook and take the trail on the right as a rim trail. Go about 1/4 mile, descend on the rocks to the bottom, and commence the trail behind the signboard.

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