If city life has you feeling blue and you're in search of some green to set you right, then pack the campervan and head to Illinois. Ferne Clyffe State Park, so named due to its abundance of ferns, has been the destination for beautiful scenic views and natural features for more than a century. The park, located in Goreville, Illinois, features impressive rock formations, rare plant communities, and a serene atmosphere, the perfect combination to suit your RV camping desires. With its 18 straight and winding trails through attractive woods and incredible vistas, a 100-foot tall intermittent waterfall, a 150-foot long shelter bluff, great camping facilities, and picnic spots, Ferne Clyffe is the place to relax and enjoy nature in its purest form.
Ferne Clyffe State Park covers 2,430 acres of the resplendent Shawnee Hills. Activities in the park which include hiking, hunting and fishing, picnicking, horseback riding, rock climbing, and sightseeing, bring over 250,000 campers and visitors to the park annually. For decades, Ferne Clyffe State Park has been the preferred destination for picnicking thanks to its great picnic spots and facilities including cooking grills, picnic tables, and playground equipment.
The park features a 16-acre lake up to 22 feet deep with a one-mile hiking trail on the shoreline. Bank fishing activities are allowed at the lake, but swimming and boating are prohibited. Beautiful views of the lake are seen from Lakeview Picnic Shelter and Blackjack Oak Trail.
RVers will find ample room to park their rig in four spacious campsites, along with electric hookups in the park's pet-friendly campground.
Ferne Clyffe State Park is located in southern Illinois, just two hours from St. Louis, Missouri. Situated on IL-37 in Johnson County, one mile south of Goreville, the park is easily accessible for RVs, trailers, or any other vehicle. Although snow is often present in the wintertime, the well-traveled roads into the park are usually maintained. The park stays open from April through December, and if you do plan on visiting the area during the off-season, its always a good idea to check the local weather forecast and road conditions before heading out.
Once you reach the park, local paved roads can take you anywhere you want to go. Motorized vehicles, RVs, trailers, and bicycles are not permitted on the trails inside of the park. The park has 13 parking lots scattered throughout the park. The parking lots are well distributed around the campgrounds and campsites so that you can have your campervan, motorhome, or travel trailer wherever you want to go inside of the park. Special parking lots, such as equestrian parking lots, are also available, so it isn't a challenge to park your horse trailer.
Deer Ridge Campground in Ferne Clyffe State Park has four campsites with Class A facilities equipped with electric hookups for your RV. Rigs measuring a maximum length of 70 feet or less will fit onto the campground's gravel pads. Other amenities include picnic tables, cooking grills, showers, flush toilets, and a sanitary dump station. Reservations are not necessary to use the Deer Ridge campground; however, they are recommended during the peak season if you're hoping to RV camp. This pet-friendly campground is open from the beginning of May through the end of September.
You can pack your bag and leave the RV behind for a few days while you head to the backpack campground to enjoy your commune with nature. The individual campsites are situated within the woodlands and have cooking grills, and fire pits. Toilets and showers are not too far from the campsites, either. If you plan on utilizing a backpack site, advanced reservations are required.
If you are on your RV vacation as part of a group, then you may wish to check out the Youth Group campground, which is a Class D facility designed for group activities. RV hookup facilities are not available; however, the campground is equipped with drinking water, cooking grills, picnic tables, and a parking lot for your RV or trailer. Reservations are not necessary to access the group campground.
Turkey Ridge Campground in Ferne Clyffe State Park is a Class C walk-in campground made up of campsites for RV campers who want a serene outdoor experience. RV hookups are not available. Facilities at Turkey Ridge include camp pad, picnic tables, cooking grills, and showers. The Turkey Ridge campground has a parking lot where you can park the rig before heading out into the backcountry and is accessible by road from all parts of the park. Drinking water and toilet facilities are available.
If you weren't able to secure a site at Deer Ridge Campground, there are several alternative options for RV camping in the area. Shawnee National Forest is just 20 minutes east of the park and offers nearly 100 RV friendly sites, some of which are equipped with electrical hookups. Giant City State Park is nearly as close, just 25 minutes to the west, and offers 85 electrical sites for RVs and trailers.
If you've brought your horse to Ferne Clyffe State Park, you'll find a spacious, Class C equestrian campground located on-site. You can either ride in or drive into one of the 25 sites shaded by trees. Hitching rails are available, as are picnic tables, drinking water, cooking grills, toilets, showers, and a large parking area.
The 53-acre Round Bluff Nature Preserve in Ferne Clyffe State Park has a glorious mix of unusual plant species and unique geological formations. The Nature Preserve is most colorful during spring and fall with spectacular blends of reds, purples, golds, and browns covering every hillside. Hiking on marked trails in the Nature Preserve is a pleasurable experience. The beautiful scenery should not be missed. If you love to explore and see an areas's distinctive features, then you won't want to miss seeing the preserve when you bring your Sprinter van to the park.
Ferne Clyffe State Park is home to spectacular plant and animal life. With over 700 species of plants, such as flowering dogwood, redbud, spicebush, sweetgum, the woodland flowers in Ferne Clyffe State Park, the landscape sets a magnificent backdrop for recreational activities during the spring and fall seasons. RV camping in late April, early May, and October are the most appropriate times of year to view the beautiful foliage. During the offseason, animals like deer, squirrels, rabbits, doves, bluebirds, quail, and wild turkey are more visible because there is less foot traffic. If you plan a walk during one of these seasons, and you tread lightly, you might get to spot some of the park's full-time residents.
Bring your love of fishing or hunting to Ferne Clyffe State Park. The lake and the 1,750-acre forest habitat help to nurture the species you hope to catch or hunt. The lake's fish species include largemouth bass, bluegill, redear, and channel catfish. The forest has a decent population of squirrel and deer with rabbits and quail also present in considerable amounts. Food patches are usually planted in open areas of the park to encourage the presence of upland game species for hunting. Be sure you are up to date on your current Illinois hunting and fishing license before your search for dinner begins because you want to leave the park with your catch and not a ticket or a fine.
Whether you're a professional photographer, or just trying to capture the memories of your RV camping trip, you'll have plenty to photograph when you visit Ferne Clyffe State Park. As the name suggests, you'll see plenty of ferns along with an abundance of other plant life, including flowering dogwood, and woodland wildflowers in the spring. Along the trails, you may also see quail, the occasional turkey, and plenty of songbirds. Don't miss the 100-foot waterfall along Big Rocky Hollow Trail and the massive shelter bluff known as Hawks' Cave. Spring and fall are especially good times to visit if you're looking for a vibrant color show.
If you are passionate about horseback riding, you will enjoy the horseback trail at Ferne Clyffe State Park. What’s more, there’s a dedicated Class C equestrian campground for you to park your rig while you enjoy your ride. The campsite is equipped with picnic tables, drinking water, cooking grills, toilets, parking, and showers. Note that horse rental is not available at the park, so come along with your horses. Equestrian trails are closed to horses from November through April, and all of the equestrian campsites are available on a reservation basis.
Don’t get carried away by the lush 2,430-acre vegetation in Ferne Clyffe State Park and miss the rock formations that exist directly below the soil. These beautiful outcrops of rocks in the park present excellent rock-climbing opportunities, and rock climbing is the perfect addition to your Airstream adventure. The Big Rock Hollow and the Cedar Bluff areas are two main spots where you can enjoy rock climbing. You can do traditional or sport climbing in Cedar Bluff, but expect the exercise on the short routes to be difficult. If you are a new climber, not to worry, there are top-rope access and solid anchors to make your climb challenging but fun.
Ferne Clyffe State Park features eighteen diverse trails, varying in difficulty from easy to strenuous. The trails wind through the park and lead to caves, waterfalls, the lake, the Cedar Bluff Nature Preserve, and the climbing and rappelling areas. Hikers have the opportunity to assess Ferne Clyffe in all its beauty while out on a walk. Each trail in the park has an assigned name and number, which provides an easy way to navigate through the diverse terrain. Some of the hiking trails are wheelchair accessible. All hikers should understand that some naturally-occurring hazardous areas exist in the park, so campers are warned to remain on designated trails.
After a long day of hiking, fishing, or horseback riding, you'll be ready for a relaxing picnic at one of the seven picnic areas in the park. The picnic areas are equipped with tables, cooking grills, restrooms, playgrounds, drinking water, and ample parking for large vehicles, and it's no wonder that Ferne Clyffe is known for its top-notch picnic facilities. If you prefer a more intimate lunching experience, enjoy a private picnic right outside of your pop-up camper near your campsite.