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Trail of Tears State Forest, IL

Status: Open year round.   Season Dates
Max reservation window: Thu Oct 16 2014   Later Dates


Trail of Tears, one of Illinois' five state forests, is located 5 miles northwest of Jonesboro and 20 miles south of Murphysboro. It lies within the southern section of the Ozark Hills, among one of the most rugged landscapes in Illinois. The site is accessible from Illinois Route 127 (on the east) and Route 3 (on the west). It encompasses 5,114 acres and includes the Union State Nursery, which is operated by the DNR's Division of Forest Resouces. Site management goals include the growing of timber for forest products, protecting watershed, providing places for outdoor recreation, and protecting ecosystem and wildlife habitat. The area once was used entensively by prehistoric Native Americans, who were pushed south and west around 1803, as settlers of European descent entered. In 1838-39 the Cherokee, Creek, and Chickasaw nations were forced by the U.S. Army to move from the southeast to reservations in Oklahoma Territory. They overwintered at makeshift camps 2 miles south of the forest, where bitter cold and starvation claimed hundreds of lives. The cruel trek came to be known as the "Trail of Tears," an event now memorialized by the state forest's name. In 1929, the state purchased 3,000 acres, first known as the Kohn-Jackson forest, later the Union State Forest and finally, in 1978, the Trail of Tears State Forest. Beginning with World War I veterans in the early 1930s, a series of camps was established at the site, including the Civilians Conservation Corps (CCC), temporary work camps for World War II prisoners of war and finally a state corrections youth camp, which closed in the late 1960s. The CCC, in particular, had a profund effect on the forest, as it built many of its stonework creek walls, log shelters and roads.

Services & Amenities:

Within Facility
  • Admin Service, Copying
  • Admin Service, Faxing
  • Ball Field
  • Camping, Primitive
  • Grills
  • Hiking
  • Hiking - Difficult
  • Hiking - Moderate
  • Hiking Trail
  • Historic Sites
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Information/Contact Station
  • Jogging/Running
  • Parking
  • Photography
  • Picnic Area
  • Picnic Pavilion
  • Picnic Shelter
  • Picnic Tables
  • Picnicking
  • Playground
  • Recycling Station
  • Restrooms
  • Shelters
  • Trails, Difficult Hiking
  • Trails, Easy Hiking/Walking
  • Trails, Equestrian
  • Trails, Moderate Hiking
  • Walking
  • Water, Drinking
  • Wildflower Viewing
  • Wildlife Viewing
Less Than 1 Mile
  • Sightseeing
Greater Than 1 Mile
  • Kayak Rentals
Within 10 Miles
  • Antiquing
  • Car Rentals
  • Cash Machine/Atm
  • Catering
  • Church
  • Cottages
  • Dining
  • Fuel, Vehicles
  • Geological Formations
  • Golf
  • Golfing
  • Grocery Store
  • Hospital
  • Mall
  • Medical Clinic
  • Motel
  • Newspapers
  • Orchard/Produce Farm
  • Propane
  • Restaurant
  • Retail, Drinks
  • Retail, Ice
  • Retail, Snacks
  • Retail, Store/Gift Shop
  • Shopping
Greater Than 10 Miles
  • Airport
  • Outfitter
Alerts and Important Information
Shelter Reservations are non-refundable unless the area is closed by the Department, in this circumstance the Site Manager will contact you prior to your reservation date to cancel and issue your refund.

Trail of Tears State Forest Walk-In (First-Come, First-Served) is from Dec. 1 through March 31 of each year. NO Reservations are taken at this time. * Park hours are 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. - you must be off the trails by dusk. *A responsible adult (18 years of age or older) from the camping party must register for the party and thereby acknowledge compliance with the rules and regulations of the park for the party. * At least one responsible adult must accompany each group of 15 minors. * Special camping rate reductions apply to Illinois residents only. * The maximum length of camping stay from May 1 through September 30 is 14 nights in any 30 day period. * All pets must be on a leash not to exceed 10 feet, pet owners are responsible for their pets waste and must dispose of it properly. Owners must keep their pets quiet between 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m (quiet time). * All campers visitors are required to leave the park at or before 10:00 p.m. * Groups of 25 or more are required to register in advance with the parks office. * Equestrian Campers - All pets must be kept on a leash not to exceed 10 foot. * Water available at the White Barn off of State Forest Road. * 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 through October 31. 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). For information on group camping or special access concerns (during the winter-spring months) contact the site superintendent headquarters at (618-833-4910). * 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. For additional hunting information see: Hunter Fact Sheet

For specific park information or questions regarding your reservation, please call the Park Office at 618-833-4910

Getting There:

GPS Info. (Latitude, Longitude):
37.48472, -89.34861
37°29'5"N, 89°20'55"W

Access to the Forest is from Illinois Route 127 (on the east) and Route 3 (from the west).

Contact Information:

Mailing Address:

Trail of Tears State Forest
3240 State Forest Road
Jonesboro IL 62952-2052

Phone Number:

Project Office:(618)833-4910

Special Events:

    The events listed here are not intended to be an all inclusive list. Please contact the park for further details.

  • Usually Mid - May every year - Reliving history in the 1700s from Mar 26 2010 to Dec 31 2010
  • Usually the 3rd weekend in April of every year - Runners cross the area as part of a 80 mile running relay race. from Mar 26 2010 to Dec 31 2010
  • The first weekend of August every year. ** Jakes Event (National Turkey Events*** We have this every year but the dates change from year to year. from Mar 26 2010 to Dec 31 2010