Visitors Guide to the
Trail of Tears State Forest
3240 State Forest Road
Jonesboro, Illinois

Accessible Parking Accessible Picnic Facilities Accessible Illinois Historic Site Hiking Trails Wildlife Viewing Horseback Riding Trails Hunting Opportunities Primitive Camping Accessible Restrooms


Trail of Tears State Forest is one of five Illinois' state forests in a system that 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. 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.

Trail of Tears State Forest consists of just over 5,000 acres and lies within the southern section of the Illinois’ Ozark Hills region, one of the most rugged landscapes in Illinois. The hills are composed of chert with shallow soils that are susceptible to erosion. Ridge tops are narrow, rocky, and dry. Clear streams with gravel bottoms are in the narrow forested valleys, hemmed in by the steep terrain. Trail of Tears State Forest has been extensively by humans since the prehistoric Native Americans. Individuals and small groups hunted game or gathered nuts within the Ozarks, but established their settlements closer to the Mississippi River or Clear Creek. Chert was mined (for making tools) at Iron Mountain, east of the Forest. As settlers of European descent entered the region in the early 1800s the Native Americans were pushed south and west. In the winter of 1838-39 the Cherokee, Creek, and Chickasaw nations were forced by the U.S. Army to move from their homes in the southeastern United States to reservations in Oklahoma Territory. They overwintered at makeshift camps 4 miles south of the Forest's southern boundary. Bitter cold and starvation claimed hundreds of lives. The cruel trek came to be known as the "Trail of Tears." The State Forest's name memorializes the tragic event. In 1929, the State purchased 3000 acres as the Kohn-Jackson Forest, later renamed Union State Forest.

During the 1930s a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp operated in the Forest. The CCC constructed many of the stonework stabilization walls and log stone shelters within the picnic area and along the Forest roads. The park features two large shelters in the main picnic area that are ideal for reunions and group gatherings. Two smaller rustic log shelters are suitable for smaller groups. Other picnic sites exist along the Forest's gravel roads. Horseback riding is permitted along designated horse trails. Access and trailer parking are available at the equestrian trailhead along the county blacktop road. Motorized vehicles and bicycles are not allowed off paved or graveled roads and ATVs are prohibited. Both Class C (tent camping with vehicle access) and Class D (backpack) camping sites are available at the State Forest. There 22 miles of trails for hiking and equestrian use. The fire trails are open all year for hiking. One trail has been designed for cross country running. Other trails pass through hills and valleys where one can appreciate the lush vegetation and abundant wildlife.

There are a variety of environments that a visitor to Trail of Tears State Park may encounter. Dry ridgetops and south-facing slopes have black oaks, white oaks and hickories. Extremely dry sites contain prairie-like openings. The shaded north-facing slopes and protected coves support stands of American beech, tuliptree and sugar maple, or red oak, tuliptree and sweetgum. A rich understory of shrubs exists in moister sites. In stream valleys, there are canopies of American elm, sweetgum, tuliptree, sycamore, and sugar maple. The wildflower flora of the Forest's lower slopes and valleys is lush and diverse. On a walk in the spring, a visitor can see many of the woodland wildflowers native to southern Illinois. In all, 620 species of flowering plants, ferns and fern allies are reported to occur at the State Forest. There are many species of songbirds, including those restricted to large woodland tracts. Woodland mammals such as fox and grey squirrels, chipmunks, flying squirrels, opossums, skunks and raccoons, are common. Larger mammals known to inhabit the Forest are white-tailed deer, red and grey foxes, coyotes and the wary bobcat.

  Bird Watching
Trail of Tears State Forest is listed on the National Audubon Society's Great River Birding Trail. The site is an excellent place to visit during spring migration. Watch for warblers, vireos, thrushes, and tanagers. Worm-eating warblers are often seen along with orioles, blue grosbeaks, and Dickcissels.
  Visiting the Trail of Tears State Forest
          8 am - 10 pm

There is no charge to visit the Trail of Tears State Forest.
Directions: Trail of Tears State Forest is located northwest of Jonesboro. Access to the Trail of Tears State Forest is from IL-127 (on the east) and IL-3 (from the west).
  GPS Coordinates
37° 29.787'
W 89° 19.899'
  Learn more about the Jonesboro area.  
  Trail of Tears State Forest
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Trail of Tears State Forest maintained by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
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