Monday, February 7

Secret Canyon Trail

Continuing with our monthly series, "Adventures With Uncle Bob-Guide to Self Adventure in Southern Illinois," we feature Secret Canyon which is part of Lusk Creek Wilderness in Shawnee National Forest. I have described other areas of this wilderness previously: scroll down this blog for Lusk Creek to see the trail for Natural Bridge/Saltpeter Cave. Also, our website to see Indian Kitchen Trail (

Directions: From Harrisburg, IL, take Rt 145 south for approx 9 miles and turn left onto Oak Road. Drive this winding paved road 4.2 miles and turn right onto Oak Blanchard Road. You can also access this spot from Herod, IL, by taking Williams Hill Road to Blanchard. Commence this gravel road and look to the left for a fantastic ridge top view over the valley! We will drive 1.7 miles until you see a small parking lot on the right and brown sign for trails 457/492A. There is also sufficient room on the shoulders of the road for 5 cars. This road was fine during my January,2011, visit; it may not be desirable after a rainy season. Since this is a designated wilderness, groups are limited to 10 hikers or horse riders.

492A proceeds in a circular fashion with excellent tread and easy grade subsequent to its reconstruction last year. Early on, there is an unmarked junction-veer left. We travel thru woods and ravines until a "T" junction. The sign says left for Secret Canyon (trail 457). Pressing on, we arrive at an overlook and waterfall at the mouth of the canyon. The trail slowly descends to the base,and now we have a continuous steep cliff line on both sides. This trail moves in a serpentine direction, showing off the long icicles, rock formations, small caves, slot canyons, and a huge shelter cave. The latter was approx 75 ft deep, 100 ft wide, and 25 ft high. There is a horse highline at that spot. GPS coordinates here are 37 32' 18"N and 88 31' 48" W.

Eventually, the trail gradually ascends thru cliffs which diminish upon arriving at a junction. The sign says left on 457 to Natural Bridge, or straight ahead for 492D. I retraced my route back to the car. While returning, there is one place that looks like an intersection-veer left at the orange ribbon. From the mouth of the canyon back to my car, it was 30 minutes. For any questions contact Bob Tyson at 684-5643 or

11/01/2011: sign for oak blanchard rd gets turned around in the wind. If unsure, when oak rd suddenly becomes williams hill rd, start looking on the right for this road. 10-12-12: I have found another route which may be either shorter or quicker. Take Rt 145 to Rt 34, go on 34 to the first county rd on the right. Follow this several miles. It will end at a intersection( a T). go left and travel to the next right turn. this will be the road to secret canyon.

Photo courtesy of Scott Campbell from the River to River Trails Society.