1.2 miles

Elevation Gain

32 ft

Route Type



Added by Lucas Bremer

Take a hike back in time to a scenic stop on the Underground Railroad.

Shawnee National Forest played a crucial role in the Underground Railroad in the mid-19th century. As slaves escaped and headed north, the dense forest and rugged terrain offered natural hiding places. On the route through Pope County, Illinois, freedom seekers often used Sand Cave for shelter and protection.

The mouth of Sand Cave is nearly 30 feet wide and set into the rock approximately 100 feet.

The trail here is remote. There is no trail head and very little signage along the easily identifiable path. Follow the main trail back about a half mile to a small opening where a Natural Area sign cautions visitors about the rare and fragile ecosystem all around them. Shortly past this relatively open meadow-like area, the trail forks.

Follow the right trail around the edge of the bluff for another half mile and all of a sudden you will come upon the cave’s mouth. Hike the left trail to take a slightly longer trek through the glade and around to the Sand Cave entrance, but don’t stop there. Hike along the vertical cliffs just past the cave opening to a "fat man's squeeze", vertical walls with occasional waterfalls, and some small slot canyons. 

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Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!


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