Ox Lot Cave
The Shawnee National Forest never ceases to amaze. This marvelous wonder of nature sits near Herod, IL. Just a few miles drive on Karber's Ridge Rd. down from Garden of the Gods awaits Rim Rock National Recreational Trail.
The trail starts from the parking area, makes it way along a ridge with several scenic views, and comes to a landing for more vistas. This section of the trail is fairly easy to traverse and has a few benches to rest upon. Beyond this point it becomes a bit more strenuous. Wooden stairs lead down to narrow passages between towering rocks of sandstone covered in moss.
|Narrow passage with stone steps|
|Descending into Rim Rock|
|Boulders near landing|
As you exit the passages that take you down to the forest floor you are presented a view that will take your breath away. Sandstone bluffs rise on both sides, a small creek meanders next to the far bluff, the forest is alive with birds chirping and squirrels scury about. Coming into view is Ox Lot Cave, used originally by Native Americans and later by settlers to shelter livestock, including oxen and horses used by loggers.
The trail continues past Ox Lot Cave and follows Rim Rock along the forest floor, providing stunning views all around.
|Fall Scene of Rim Rock from trail|
|Green moss makes amazing backdrop for Fall colors|
|View of Sandstone bluff opposite of Rim Rock|
Continue on Rim Rock Trail and you come to an intersection. Straight over a small wooden foot bridge takes you along the Beaver Trail to Pounds Hollow where you'll find a very nice pay use camping area, lake with beach, and picnic areas. I camped there with family a few Summers ago and swam at the beach as a child which was pay use then and also rented paddle boats. The beach is now free but with no lifeguard on duty, swim at your own risk. There are limits for boating on the lake making for a more enjoyable experience all around. The area is patrolled by rangers and police regularly to enforce rules and laws which keeps the partying to a minimum and keeping it the family friendly outdoor experience everyone can enjoy.
|View between Sandstone bluff and Rim Rock Trail|
|Rim Rock Trail near Beaver Trail intersection|
Staying on trail, go right which keeps Rim Rock itself on your right. The trail continues through the canyon to a larger wooden foot bridge over a rocky creek bed.
|Wooden foot bridge|
The trail passes over this bridge and continues back toward the parking area, sloping uphill. Several more smaller foot bridges dot the trail back up and out of the canyon.
I've hiked this trail more times than I can remember and have numerous tales that I couldn't begin to fit in one blog. I will give you the highlights; Female cousin running near trail head, tripped, fell, and tumbled several yards downhill. Further down trail and this could have been very disastrous.
Another one of "good ol' Dad's" Army Mission hikes where it's either keep up or be left behind, we were always left behind. Only this time dark was approaching adding an extra bit of fear. Young, alone, and hiking the Shawnee in the pitch black. Clearly I survived but my city cousins and God-Sister may have been traumatized. Just kidding!
Hikes with our first family dog, pulling us through the forest at a record pace. To one of our last hikes with our friend and his young daughter who when told about the Native Americans in Ox Lot Cave insistied we all have Indian names.
I strongly suggest planning an extended weekend stay camping at Pounds Hollow or booking a stay with Rim Rock's Dogwood Cabins, or for a even more unique stay check out Timber Ridge Outpost and sleep in a treehouse nestled in the forest canopy of the Shawnee Hills near Elizabethtown, IL. I will also advise don't expect to see all The Shawnee National Forest has to offer in one trip. I been exploring the area for years and still haven't seen it all or even come close to it.