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St. Louis, MO: Kinkaid Lake

Traversing trickling falls, spongy boulders, and finger coves along Kinkaid Lake’s western shore, this 9.2-mile out-and-back ends high above the lake—and leaves you dry.

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Miles of undeveloped shorelines along 2,750-acre Kinkaid Lake attract anglers and hikers to this Jackson County gem—also some of southern Illinois’s only muskie territory. This 4.6-mile one-way follows a section of the 15-mile Kinkaid Trail through dripping wet terrain in the northwestern edge of the Shawnee National Forest. Beginning at the Buttermilk Hill Trailhead, the trail drops 300 feet toward the lake. In its first mile, large pines give way to maple and oak. Notice the scattered, fallen trees. A 2006 tornado devastated the forest south of here and choked off northern trail access to the Buttermilk Hill picnic area. As it turns northwest along the lakeshore, the trail traverses trickling creeks and skirts a series of moss-covered waterfalls before passing through boulder fields. Especially during spring and early summer, allot time to explore the abundant falls or stop for a picnic under the forest canopy. After hoping stones across a large stream near mile 4, this mapped route turns uphill for a 0.5-mile climb that ends at an unmarked junction with the Hidden Cove Trail. As an out-and-back excursion, this hike is 9.5 miles, but you can shorten the trip by leaving a vehicle near the Hidden Cove Trailhead. To extend the trip, continue north along the Kinkaid Trail, or turn west then south to follow the Waterfall Trail back to the Buttermilk Trailhead. -Mapped by Ted Villaire

To Trailhead

From Murphysboro, IL, head west on IL 149 to IL 3 N/Great River Rd. In 1.4 miles, turn right onto Buttermilk Hill Rd. In 0.7 mile, turn right onto Taylor Rd. Go 0.6 mile to the trailhead.

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