Burden Falls is a more off the beaten path waterfall to visit in the Shawnee National Forest. The rugged beauty of this spot in far southern Illinois is well worth the drive. Even better, you can see part of the waterfalls right from the parking lot.
Burden Falls Trail
- Length: Upper Falls can be seen right from parking area. Lower falls require a one mile each way or you can make a loop by doing some sketchy rock scrambling.
- Difficulty: 1/5 to upper falls, 3/5 to get to the lower falls by using the longer out and back path. Can be slick and muddy. Somewhat steep and a creek crossing required.
- Scenic Value: 5/5. Beautiful year round but best after a good rain to see the falls flowing.
- Restrooms: None
Getting to Burden Falls does require a short drive down a gravel road. The road is typically in good condition, but watch for potholes or areas of wash out. You will know when you get to the falls because the water crosses right over the road on a concrete low water bridge. Don’t cross if the water is too high, but it is rarely deep. If there is no water over the road, then expect the falls to be dry as they are wet weather falls.
The parking area is right next to the water crossing and it not super big. During the summer it can get busy as it’s a fun spot to cool off, but it’s usually not that busy at other times.
The upper falls can be seen right from the parking area. Drop down a few feet from the upper ledge to see the falls up close. This is a good spot for kids to play as the water is clear and shallow.
Keep an eye on the kids though and don’t let them go too far downstream as that is where the large drop off is located for the lower falls. Many people like to get closer for a better look, but please be very careful as deadly falls have occurred here and there are no guardrails.
There are two ways to get to the bottom of the taller, lower falls. Some people like to cross over the top of the waterfall to the other side and scramble down the large rocks to get to the bottom. I’ve done it before but it is tricky and the rocks can be slick. I would not recommend this route, and never with kids due to the risk of injury.
The better way to get to the bottom is to follow the trail to the left side of the parking area. It runs along the edge of the bluff and offers some nice views of the canyon below. Again, use caution with kids but most of the trail stays back from the edge. The trail can be muddy and slick where it crosses over the rocks.
The path will continue for about 1/3 mile or so. The trail will appear to disappear at the edge of a short cliff. Look to your right as the trail turns and heads downhill. The path down is somewhat steep, but nothing too difficult.
Soon you will reach the creek again. Follow the creek back upstream to the waterfall. At one point you will have to cross the creek. There isn’t a designated area to cross. Just look around upstream and downstream to see if you can find the best spot to avoid wet feet.
Once you cross, you are almost to the falls. Climb around carefully on the rocks below the falls to get an up close view. It’s a beautiful sight from any angle. The lower falls are one of the tallest waterfalls in the entire state.
After enjoying your view of the falls, retrace your steps back across the creek and up the hill to the parking area.
Things to Know
- A map and information can be found HERE
- The falls are located on Burden Falls/McCormick Road in Stonefort, IL off Highway 145 near Eddyville, IL
- The falls are wet weather dependent. Try to visit after recent rains or they may just be a trickle or completely dry.
- Other nearby trails to explore include Jackson Falls and Bell Smith Springs.
- Pack out what your bring in and leave no trace.