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This 15.9-mile, two-section out-and-back hike crosses rolling, ravine-scored landscape that’s more Ozark than Prairie State. From the east Godwin trailhead (part of the 160-mile River-to-River Trail), descend west into hollows thick with maple, elm, and oak trees. Turn north at .1 mile to enter the Bald Knob Wilderness, then stay southwest at the junction with the Bridgeman Trail .2 mile later. Wrist-thick wild grapevines (fruiting from May to June) dangle overhead as the trail drops 300 feet to the bottomlands paralleling a small, unnamed creek.
Continue west, and you’ll crisscross the usually dry creekbed five times before reaching wide and shallow Hutchins Creek at mile 2.6. Cross the creek (knee-high in spring; dry by September) into the Clear Springs Wilderness and head upstream to rejoin the Godwin Trail (look for the white “i” blaze just north). Continue another .1 mile to the junction with Hutchins Creek Trail. Turn right and follow the creek through thick patches of leatherwood fern and wild ginger.
Stop for a dip at the seasonal swimming hole at mile 2.9 (deepest in early summer). At mile 3.3, cross spring-fed Hutchins Creek and reach an early 20th century homestead. Continue to your next Hutchins crossing at mile 3.6; scout a campsite on the wide gravel bars just above the deepest rivulets of water. (Tip: Conduct a thorough tick check.)
Next morning, head back to the Godwin Trail and stash your pack. The trail west climbs steeply, adding 200 feet in .3 mile, to gain the top of a ridgeline. Thread between two sharp-angled ravines (beware abundant poison ivy on this stretch in summer and fall) for 3.3 miles, watching for deer, wild turkey, and bobcat. Turn right onto Pine Hills Road and hike .4 mile along the dirt path to the Inspiration Point trailhead. Follow the .2-mile trail to the sandstone bluff, where a vantage point offers views across the wetlands and prairies below. Retrace your steps back to your car.
PERMIT Not required
GEAR UP Shawnee Trails Wilderness Outfitters, 222 West Freeman St., Carbondale. (618) 529-2313
MAPS USGS quads Wolf Lake and Cobden ($8, store.usgs.gov)
-Mapped by Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan
- Distance: 25.5
Location: 37.568664, -89.361355
Begin your hike at the East Godwin Trailhead, part of the 160-mile River-to-River Trail.
Location: 37.568766, -89.363008
Turn right on the Godwin Trail and enter the Bald Knob Wilderness here.
Location: 37.570756, -89.365647
Stay left at this junction with the Bridgeman Trail.
Location: 37.564565, -89.379594
When you reach this junction with an unmarked trail, bear another left.
Location: 37.565416, -89.380217
If you’re short on time, pitch a tent here. This clear, open campsite is perched above a usually-dry creekbed.
Location: 37.56363, -89.394078
Here you’ll hit your first of several crossings of the dry creekbed (it holds water only after heavy rains.)
Location: 37.561419, -89.400322
Cross Hutchins Creek, heading upstream to rejoin the Godwin Trail (look for the white “i” blaze just north).
Location: 37.56192, -89.402141
Turn right at this junction with the Hutchins Creek Trail.
Location: 37.563233, -89.402025
Look for a nice swimming hole in Hutchins Creek near this spot at mile 2.9. It’s deepest in early summer.
Location: 37.563563, -89.402272
Cross another dry creekbed to pick up the trail.
Location: 37.564153, -89.40115
Continue north through a forest of tulip tree and maple.
Location: 37.568154, -89.399035
Look left to glimpse an abandoned farmhouse, left behind from the early twentieth century.
Location: 37.568154, -89.398606
Cross Hutchins Creek here. Camp on the wide gravel bench, or continue west along the Hutchins Creek Trail for more options.
Location: 37.568122, -89.397327
Look to the right to spot two more early twentieth-century buildings, plus rusting farm equipment hidden in the understory.
Location: 37.570678, -89.397413
Camp on the wide, flat gravel bar above Hutchins Creek here. Backtrack to WPT 8.
Location: 37.561937, -89.402216
Reach the junction with the Godwin Trail and turn west to begin your climb – 200 feet in .3 miles – to the top of a steep ravine.
Location: 37.563098, -89.402329
Continue on the Godwin Trail as it begins to switchback up the hill.
Location: 37.567821, -89.414735
Begin to crest the ridge here as two ravines form on either side of the trail.
Location: 37.581493, -89.422284
The trail steepens at this point; continue northwest.
Location: 37.583014, -89.431601
Godwin West Trailhead. Turn right and walk .4 miles along Pine Hills Road to the Inspiration Point Trailhead.
Location: 37.58564, -89.436157
Arrive at Inspiration Point Trailhead. Follow the trail to the sandstone bluff, where a vantage point offers views across the wetlands and prairies below.
Location: 37.585475, -89.438801
After .2-miles you’ll reach Inspiration Point. Close the hike by retracing your steps to your car.
Location: 37.563239, -89.401932
Flora of the Shawnee
Location: 37.563937, -89.401919
Maidenhair fern, leatherwood fern, and wild ginger are among the understory plants you’ll see.
Historic farm equipment
Location: 37.568035, -89.397104
Location: 37.568171, -89.397104
Location: 37.574345, -89.393553