Union County High Point Trip Report

Bald Knob

Author: John Mitchler

A famous hill in extreme southwestern IL with a huge cross on the summit, this region cries out for exploring with wineries, bike trails, natural arches, funky towns, and wilderness areas. Combine this with Jackson County. Mike Beavers' report is accurate except the road is Milligan Hill Road, not Mulligan Hill Road.

From Murphysboro, from IL149 go south on IL127 for 13.9 miles to Alto Pass, passing the town's business district turnoff at 13.5 miles. Take the Milligan Hill Road exit and go up and over IL127 and head west. At mile 0.7 stay left on Bald Knob Road and descend to Seminary Fork and then ascend Bald Knob. After 3.6 miles you'll arrive at the gift shop on Bald Knob. I found BM Bald Knob 1930 near the old tower base.

The knob is in the Shawnee National Forest, just east of the Bald Knob and Clear Springs Wilderness Areas. The first cross on this hill was erected in 1938, and the current 111 foot monstrosity was completed in 1963 and supposedly can be seen over 7,500 square miles. The arms are 63 feet and it totals 200 tons. The brochure says that 700-foot tall Bald Knob is the most prominent elevation in southern IL. A non-profit group manages this hill and does not charge a fee (call 618-893-2344). There are several annual events on the knob including, obviously, Easter Sunrise Service. Also of note is the "blessing of the bikes" which attracted 1,000 hawgs in 2000.

Celebrate your ascent with a cold one in Alto Pass at the Northwest Passage & Rootbeer Saloon on the main street. The store is loaded with ambience and offers good root beer suds. A winery offers vino north of town along IL127. A few miles north of Alto Pass, follow signs to Pomona and on to "Pomona Natural Bridge," a natural arch which is accessed by a short trail which actually goes across the arch! I did not investigate nearby "Little Grand Canyon," Cedar Lake, or famous Giant City State Park.