Trail of Tears, one of Illinois' state forests, is situated in western Union County, five miles northwest of Jonesboro and 20 miles south of Murphysboro. Just over 5,000 acres are within the State Forest.
The State Forest System in Illinois was established to set aside lands for the growing of timber needed in production of forest products, for watershed protection and to provide outdoor recreation. Trail of Tears State Forest is a multiple-use site managed for timber, wildlife, ecosystem preservation, watershed protection and recreation.
Two large shelters in the main picnic area are ideal for reunions and group gatherings. Two smaller rustic log shelters are suitable for small groups. Each picnic spot contains a table and grill, with privies and drinking water nearby. A ball diamond and smaller playing areas are also present. Other picnic sites exist along the Forest's gravel roads.
The fire trails are open all year for hiking. There are hiking trails at the Forest, including one designed for cross country running. Other trails pass through hills and valleys where one can appreciate the lush vegetation and abundant wildlife.
Horseback riding is permitted along designated horse trails. Access and trailer parking are available at the equestrian trailhead along the county blacktop road. Horseback use and horse trailer parking is not permitted on or along roads or fire trails (except where those are part of a horse trail), on hiking trails or anywhere south of the blacktop road. The horseback trails are open for use from May 1 to October 31st. These trails may be closed temporarily in the event of heavy rains during the riding season; it is best to call the site for a current report on trail conditions (618-833-4910). A detailed map of the horseback trails is available upon request.
Motorized vehicles and bicycles are not allowed off paved or graveled roads. All terrain vehicles are prohibited. In winter and early spring, gravel roads are closed to vehicles.
Both Class C (tent camping with vehicle access) and Class D (backpack) camping sites are available at the State Forest. Some locations have log shelters with adjacent privies. Group camping is available at a few sites. The forest's gravel roads are closed to vehicles from December 24 through the end of the spring wild turkey hunting season (generally the second week in May). All camping access is by foot only during that period (Class D).
Squirrels, deer, turkey and raccoon are common game species of the Forest. Please be aware of the areas closed to hunting: the Ozark Hills Nature Preserve, the restricted area around the main picnic and day-use area, within 300 yards of any building or the tree nursery beds, or within any road right-of-way. Hunters must report their harvest at registration boxes (provided at access points). Please observe all State and Federal regulations when hunting the State Forest.
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