Bay Creek Wilderness trails are not as aggressively maintained or marked as other portions of the Shawnee National Forest. Riding Bay Creek Wilderness requires advanced wilderness navigation skills and tools such as topographic maps or GPS. Access is indirect and horse and rider should be prepared for at least a 10 to 12 mile ride with several miles of traffic road riding to reach Bay Creek Wilderness equestrian trails. This trail is not recommended for first time Shawnee visitors. It is recommended that you contact the local National Forest Service office, consult with the proprietors of Hayes Canyon Campground, or hire a local equestrian guide before embarking on the Bay Creek Wilderness trails.
Bay Creek Wilderness is a heavily wooded stretch of rolling hills that surrounds Bay Creek, its tributaries, and the Scenic River Study Corridor. Bay Creek Wilderness is a central hardwood ecosystem including oak, cedar, ash, dogwood, redbud, wild cherry, and plum. The area was once homesteaded and remnants of old farms, fruit trees, cemeteries, and abandoned roads can still be seen from the horse trails. The area was adopted into the National Forest System in the 1930s and was reforested. Tucked into the hills of Bay Creek Wilderness are bluffs, sandstone formations, and shelter caves. Without easy access and slightly removed from the more heavily visited portions of the Shawnee, riding Bay Creek can feel like having your own little Southern Illinois secret.