Off the Beaten Path: Exploring the Bluffs of Cave Creek Valley in Pomona, Illinois

Cave Creek Valley is tucked away in the scenic landscape of Pomona, Illinois. Nestled near the Pomona Natural Bridge, this forest service road offers an enchanting journey for hikers and nature enthusiasts alike.

Begin your exploration by venturing down the gravel road north from Pomona, as if you’re headed towards the Pomona Natural Bridge. As you cross over Cave Creek, keep a lookout for Forest Post 353 marking the entrance to the trail (this will be the only signage). Park your vehicle to the right and proceed to this, (arguably) easy to moderate but lesser maintained, trail.

This former railroad route follows Cave Creek and offers a beautiful wildflower trail with a variety of flora and fauna. As you hike along the trail, approximately 1/3 mile in, you’ll see towering bluffs and striking rock formations to your left. To explore you will go off trail so be sure to ensure you are aware of where the trail is and how far you go.

Once back on the trail you’ll encounter another set of bluffs and eventually reach a point where the trail becomes impassable, signaling the turnaround point for your out-and-back adventure. The conditions of this trail will vary depending on season, weather, etc. Turning around after the first set of bluffs makes for an easy, enjoyable nature walk.

Along the way, keep a lookout for remnants of the valley’s railroad past, including the occasional railroad culvert hidden amongst the foliage. These silent relics serve as reminders of a bygone era, adding a touch of nostalgia to your journey through Cave Creek Valley.

Whether you’re seeking solace in nature’s embrace, marveling at geological wonders, or simply enjoying a leisurely hike, Cave Creek Valley is a neat trail for those looking for something off the beaten path.

Be sure to use best practices when exploring the Shawnee National Forest

  1. Pack out what you pack in.
  2. If hiking solo, let someone know where you are going.
  3. Where appropriate footware
  4. Bring water
  5. Wear bug spray, tics are out!
  6. Stay on trail and/or where trail is if venturing slightly off.

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