Deep within the Shawnee National Forest, approximately 30 minutes outside the small town of Harrisburg, Illinois in Saline County, sits a pretty cool-looking rock formation that resembles the face of an old woman (or man). Part of the Stoneface Research Natural Area of the Shawnee National Forest, it’s in a lesser known area home to interesting and fun bluffs and alcoves. It’s an easier hike, approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour, however, be forewarned – the last time I attempted to hike at Stoneface, we were run off by the massive overgrowth and ticks falling all over us, as trail upkeep is solely done by volunteers.
(Also, there’s debate on whether it’s “Stoneface” or “Stone Face”. I grew up seeing it written as the former, so that’s what I’ll be using for this blog!)
If you type “Stoneface” into an iPhone GPS, you will get nothing, as it’s not an official trail or park, but rather, an official research area. However, getting there is relatively easy – coming from Harrisburg on Route 34, turn left onto Whitesville Road and follow that for approximately 8 miles. Then make a left onto Stoneface Road and follow that for about a mile until you see a sign for Stoneface on the right. There is a short, gravel road that will lead you to a small parking lot. The GPS coordinates are approximately 37.665810, -88.439631.
Importantly – there are no restroom facilities located at Stoneface.
There’s one main trail called Stoneface Trail, which is an easy, 1.6-mile, out and back trail. It’s open year-round and dogs are welcomed (leashed only). It’s user-made and therefore can sometimes become overgrown, as it’s not maintained by any official entity. It initially starts out like a typical trail through the woods, but soon the rocks will appear and it gets super cool. Here is where you’ll find all the little caves and alcoves. As you continue up the trail, you eventually find yourself basically on top of the rock formations you just walked past. You can continue hiking to an opening with power lines, where you can see out for miles.
The main star of Stoneface is, of course, the Old Stoneface (please see below), a very unique rock formation that resembles the face of an old woman (or man, based on your interpretation). It’s located along the upper portion of the trail and towards the end.
Overall, Stoneface makes for a lovely little day trip/hike and will leave you plenty of time to visit other outdoor spots if you choose. Many of them aren’t that far away! (See: The Hidden Treasures of Southern Illinois. and Garden of the Gods (Illinois). ☺️).