Thursday, October 9

Peter Cave Trail

Continuing with our series, "Adventures With Uncle Bob-Guide to Self-Adventure in Southern Illinois," we feature the above trail this month. It is unclear whether this is on Shawnee National Forest land or that of a willing landowner. Respect the "keep out" signs on the side trails and land.

Directions: Tunnel Hill exit on I-24. Follow thru Tunnel Hill, cross Rt 45, and proceed to Rt 147. Turn left and go several miles, and look for Cedar Grove Road (just before the Rt 145 junction). Turn left and proceed approx 2.4 miles, keeping your eye out for the River to River Trail crossing signs. Park on either side of the road and walk east (right) on the R-R trail. It starts out as a narrow trail thru pine plantations for 0.5 mile. Now we encounter an old forest service road-turn left. 0.5 mile later, we reach Crow Knob Ecological area. This is a pretty, circular bluff, although brush impedes circling the bluff at its base. You can walk on the top. Continue another half mile to a couple marked side trails. One is trail 497 to Jackson Hole; the other is for Peter Cave (no trail number). I estimate the distance to the cave as 1.1 miles. It seems to be adequately marked; however, there is a stretch of trail heavily damaged by horse traffic and no way to circumvent it. This trail is level grade up until the end approaches. Now we suddenly descend into a valley where beautiful tall cliff walls form a "U" shape configeration. Note the pole line where you can tie up horses. Climb up 30 ft to enter this huge rockhouse/shelter bluff (not really a cave). I estimate the length at 200 ft, depth at 75 ft,and 30 ft high. Take time to also hike along the base of the cliff line. Two other trails from Hayes Creek Canyon terminate here too so make note of your trail as you return to the car. Remember to turn right upon reaching the junction with R-R trail.I cannot find GPS corrodinates for the cave;However,here are the ones for crow knob which you pass on the way to the cave:37 29' 55"N and 88 37' 56"W. During a 2010 Sierra hike in the winter,there was a 60ft waterfall flowing over the top of the cave-spectacular!
I have forgotten to deal with the ownership issue. The trail and cave are private property according to the owner I ran into during a Sierra hike.  He said it is open to the public-just don't go off trail or leave trash.

I'll deal with Jackson Hole trail in the future when finding an easier access is found: Trail 497 is a real "gut buster" in the first 2 miles. More info from Bob Tyson at 684-5643 or