Tunnel Hill State Trail

Illinois

At a Glance

Name: Tunnel Hill State Trail
Length: 55.3 Miles
Trail activities: Bike, Wheelchair Accessible, Walking, Cross Country Skiing
Counties: Johnson, Pulaski, Saline, Williamson
Surfaces: Concrete, Crushed Stone
State: Illinois

About this Itinerary

If you enjoy riding over trestle bridges and through dark tunnels you must experience the Tunnel Hill State Trail (THST) in southern Illinois. This trail is 55.6 miles long and has 23 trestle bridges and a 543-foot tunnel. The trestles range in length from 34 to 450 feet long.

The rail-trail is part of a former railroad founded by Civil War General Ambrose Burnside, who is best remembered for his sideburns. General Burnside and others began the Vincennes and Cairo Railroad. Like so many other railroads, ownership changed hands over the years. The last owners, Norfolk Southern Railroad, gave the railroad between Harrisburg and Kamak to the State of Illinois in 1991. The first part of the trail opened in 1998 and was completed in 2001.

The trail can be completed in one day if you’re an experienced cyclist. If you want to do the trail but are concerned about riding the trail both ways in one day, make arrangements for someone to pick you up at the end of the trail. Another option is to split your trip over two days and take your time to stop and take pictures or have a picnic lunch. The trail runs from Karnak to Harrisburg and is simply magnificent.

Getting to THST takes a bit of planning but is well worth it. If you fly into Lambert-St. Louis International Airport and rent a car it will take you a little more than two-and-a-half hours to drive to Marion, Illinois. Alternatively, you can fly from St. Louis to Williamson County Regional Airport (MWA) in Marion, which has daily flights between the two destinations.

We recommend staying at the Comfort Inn Marion in Marion. The hotel is located in the heart of southern Illinois and close to restaurants, the Williamson Airport and a number of fabulous outdoor attractions.

Two Marion restaurants we recommend are Don Sol Mexican Restaurant, which is known for their pollo loco and pollo paya (a.k.a. chicken on the beach), and Asian Bistro, which offers Thai, Korean and Chinese options. We also recommend dinner at the Bald Knob Restaurant at Giant City Lodge, which is about 20 minutes from Marion. The lodge was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s and has maintained the rustic beauty of a mid-western lodge. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can order bison steak. If bison isn’t on your wish list, we suggest you try their famous family-style chicken dinner or any of the other delicious items on their menu.

Day 1

This itinerary starts at the Barkhausen-Cache River Wetlands Center in Cypress on the western end of the trail. Before hitting the trail, we recommend you a stop at the center, which doubles as a nature center and natural history museum. Here you can watch a 12-minute video on the cultural and historical impact of the watershed and the Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge. The center is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The trail continues through four counties and is surrounded by scenic views, ghost towns, forests, farmlands and neighborhoods. THST is extremely user friendly with privy toilets and drinking water; the surface is crushed limestone. At times, trees are towering over you and other times you are riding in the open landscape.

The wildlife along the trail is abundant on the ground, in the trees and in the water when crossing the trestles. You can see deer, raccoons, rabbits, bluebirds, snakes and turtles. Turkeys have been known to crowd the trail from time to time.

The trail is mostly flat and easy to ride. In the middle, you go through a 543 foot-tunnel, which is the trail’s namesake. The tunnel is dark and we recommended you bring a headlamp. Other than the tunnel, the highlights of the trail are the trestles. We recommend you stop to hear the water hit the rocks or simply take in the beauty of your surroundings. There are interpretive signs along the length of the trail that point out old coal mines and a sandstone quarry.

Day 2

If you completed the trail in one day, there are many nearby attractions to explore on your second day in the area. Giant City State Park is about 30 minutes from Marion. The park is ideal for a day trip to hike, fish or horseback ride while enjoying the beauty that is around you. If you’re planning on rock climbing, you need to bring your own equipment and tackle the cliffs at your own risk. If you want to combine a hike with a picnic, stop by McAlister’s Deli in Marion for sandwiches.

If you like wine, food and entertainment while taking in amazing scenery, we recommend taking a trip to Walker’s Bluff. The winery is located in Carterville, less than 30 minutes from Marion and has something for everyone including a winery, a full-service bar, a restaurant and a general store, where you will find casual food, jewelry and fun gifts.

Attractions and Amenities

Restaurants, Wineries, Ice Cream, Pubs
Accommodation/Lodging

Nearby Trails

George Rogers Clark Discovery Trail

Illinois - 3.9 miles

The George Rogers Clark Discovery Trail has a name from the history books, and it runs entirely through Fort Massac State Park—Illinois’ first State...

Paducah Greenway

Kentucky - 4.5 miles

The Paducah Greenway (simply, The Greenway to locals, and officially, the Clyde F. Boyles Greenway Trail) is a 4.5-mile non-motorized pathway that...

Cape LaCroix Recreation Trail

Missouri - 4.4 miles

Cape LaCroix Recreation Trail meanders through the city of Cape Girardeau in southeastern Missouri following the Cape LaCroix Creek. Along the way,...

Accordion

Equality to Glen O. Jones Lake Bike Trail

Illinois - 5.6 miles

The Equality to Glen O. Jones Lake Bike Trail traverses an area where salt mining figured much in its early history. So did the Ohio River, which lies...

Eldorado Bicycle and Walking Path

Illinois - 2.2 miles

The City of Eldorado Bicycle and Walking Path is an excellent example of trails as linear parks. The City of Eldorado and the Eldorado Garden Study...

Rend Lake Bike Trail

Illinois - 20.6 miles

The Rend Lake Bike Trail, in the heart of southern Illinois, goes around nearly half of the second-largest man-made lake in the state. Along the way,...

Blackford Pedestrian Bridge

Kentucky - 0.9 miles

The Blackford Pedestrian Bridge qualifies as a rail-trail because it crosses a refurbished railroad bridge over the Tradewater River, linking...

Brian Brown Memorial Greenway

Tennessee - 1.1 miles

The Brian Brown Memorial Greenway—named for a local trail advocate whose untimely death while biking on a busy road emphasized the need for trails in...

Cadiz Railroad Trail

Kentucky - 2.5 miles

The Cadiz Railroad Trail runs for 2.5 miles between an old railroad depot on State route 139 and Fortner Drive at the east end of town. The trail...

Hopkinsville Rail Trail

Kentucky - 3.1 miles

Hopkinsville Rail Trail, sometimes referred to as the Pennyrile Rail Trail, will one day be more than 7 miles long along the former Fort Campbell...

White Plains Trail

Kentucky - 1.5 miles

The White Plains Trail runs for 1.5 miles through White Plains, between JP Hanks Road and just east of town, where enters a thickly forested area. The...

Pigeon Creek Greenway Passage

Indiana - 6.7 miles

The Pigeon Creek Greenway Passage is a multi-use trail in Evansville, part of which follows along the Ohio River and, of course, Pigeon Creek. The...

Explore by City

Explore by City

Explore by Activity

Explore by Activity

Log in to your account to:

  • View trail paths on the map
  • Save trails to your account
  • Add trails, edit descriptions
  • Share photos
  • Add reviews
OR

Register for free!

Join TrailLink (a non-profit) to view more than 30,000 miles of trail maps and more!
OR