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New Hiking and Biking Trails at Camp

Camp Ondessonk Trail Network

The staff at Camp have been getting a lot of projects done lately.  A big focus has been performing maintenance on existing trails, building new trails, and cleaning up overnight campsites.  Nealy all of Camp’s long-established on-site trails are now marked with colored diamond trail blazes.  This new color-coded trail system will help staff, volunteers, and visitors find their way around our beautiful 983-acre property and better know how our trails feed into the surrounding Shawnee National Forest trails. Click on the attached conceptual map to visualize Camp’s trail system of old and new trails. All of this work could not have been possible without our dedicated Spring Program Staff and our old friends at the Bike Surgeon of O’Fallon, Illinois.  Camp is very proud of our ongoing partnership with these fun and hardworking folks and over the past few years they have been an integral part of the great additions to Camp’s trail network.

Of the existing trails we’ve been hiking for 61 years, the Cedar Falls/East Side Trail to the Pakentuck area is now marked with red blazes, the Phantom’s Canyon/West Side Trail has blue blazes, and the Pine Lake Trail is marked in yellow.  Some small reroutes have been made in certain areas to divert trails from going directly through campsites and to keep routes more in the woods rather than “hiking” on roads.

We built the first of our new trails over the summer of 2018.  The Bridge Trail, marked in green blazes, “bridges” the West and East Sides of Camp’s Trail network.  It begins on the Cinder Path near Bush’s Garden, intersects the trail to Pine Alley before going up the ridge to Morgan’s Field.  Continuing east, the Bridge Trail reopens an old, somewhat forgotten trail going by an amazing triple natural sandstone bridge in the bluff line (hence the name) before terminating at the Cedar Falls Trail on the East Side. 

Last year the Bike Surgeon, Camp staff, volunteers, and CITs spent the year completing the Echon Trail (renamed from its original Lake Loop).  The Echon Trail, marked in white blazes, winds and wraps around Lake Echon for 4 miles; opening up rarely seen areas of Main Camp to hikers, mountain bikers, and trail runners.  This trail can also be used to access familiar routes like the Phantom’s Canyon Trail, Cinder Path, Cedar Falls Trail, and our newest trail, the Homestead Trail.

Over this past winter and early spring, the Bike Surgeon folks volunteered their time and effort to build the new Homestead Trail. Marked with purple blazes, the Homestead Trail is a spur of the Echon Trail and takes hikers and bike riders on a winding loop around the Durbin’s Barn and Morgan’s Field areas, giving users a new perspective on those familiar areas of Camp.  It also connects with the Cedar Falls and Bridge Trails to make a great extended hike or bike ride.

In 2020, we have more projects in the works.  We hope to develop a new loop in Camp’s acreage up the entrance road around the site of the old challenge course.  While this project has not yet begun, the concept is roughly drawn in orange on the attached map and will open up forgotten and beautiful parts of Camp’s property.  Another project is reopening the old trail down Ozark Creek from the Spillway to Blue Pool, through Bush’s Garden, and connecting with the existing Manchester Trail leading upstream to Pakentuck.  Another idea is to link the Echon and Pine Lake Trails with a connector from Upper Chabanel, over the Kane Lake dam, and across Pakentuck Road to the existing trailhead.  

A major next step in this process is making trailhead and directional signs, historical interpretive signs, and printing a professional-looking, user-friendly trail map for visitors.  If you would like to donate your time, talent, or treasure to this great effort, contact Greg at greg.santen@ondessonk.com or visit our donate page here.

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