Twice a year, every year, Snake Road, in the Shawnee National Forest, is closed to all vehicles for the migration of thousands of snakes and other reptiles as they move to and from their summer and winter habitats.
According to National Geographic, “Snake Road is the only road in the world closed every year for its biannual migration of snakes and other reptiles.”
Snake Road is closed March 15 to May 15 for the spring migration, and September 1 to October 31 for the fall migration.
In the fall, the snakes are moving from their summer feeding grounds in the swamp into their winter hibernation areas in the bluffs.
The road remains open for foot traffic. Are you wondering why anyone would want to walk down this road??
It’s actually a really safe place to view snakes, and to teach kids about migration and hibernation, as well as different types of snakes.
The fact that this is a gravel road makes it feel safer than trekking down a narrow dirt path through the woods. If the thought of snakes creeps you out, you can easily stay toward the middle of the road and visibility is high!
If you do encounter a snake, move slowly away from it and let it pass. Do not attempt to poke, move, or pick up any snakes! It is prohibited!
The walk is around 2.5 miles one way, although you can turn around at any point. It can take anywhere from 1-2 hours to walk one way, depending on how often you stop to observe.
The difficulty of the hike is easy, and it is stroller accessible.
Where is Snake Road?
Snake Road is in the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois. It’s located in the LaRue-Pine Hills Natural Area. Snake Road is actually LaRue Road, or Forest Road #345, which runs between tall limestone bluffs and the LaRue swamp.
To get to Snake Road from Anna IL, take Hwy 146 west 8 miles to Hwy 3. Then head north 8 miles to Muddy Levee Rd. Go east 3 miles to LaRue Rd and turn right at the ‘T’.
From Murphysboro, IL, take Hwy 149 west 7 miles to Hwy 3. Go south 14 miles to
Muddy Levee Rd. Go east 3 miles to LaRue Rd and turn right at the ‘T’.
The closest town is Wolf Lake, IL.
There will be a parking area at the pond before you get to the gate closing the road.
What kinds of snakes are on Snake Road?
Approximately 35 species of snakes are found in this area. There are venomous snakes here. The most common venomous snake we saw on this road is the cottonmouth. There are also copperheads here.
Other snakes we saw were water snakes and garter snakes.
Milk snakes, rat snakes, king snakes and several others are found here as well.
Other than snakes, there are several species of turtles, frogs, salamanders and skinks.
Some other interesting animals that call this area home are bobcats, bald eagles, and cave fish.
Our Walk Down Snake Road
We came to Snake Road during a camping trip at Grand Tower, IL. My dad, sister, and her kids joined us as well.
It was early fall when we walked down this road. The last time we came was later in the fall, and we saw a lot more snakes on that trip.
However, we did see a few on this trip as well! Before I ever came to Snake Road, I pictured snakes just covering the road at every step! It wasn’t like that at all!
Most of the time, you really have to do some looking. Looking at the base of trees, especially the trees in the water are a good place to spot snakes!
Occasionally, you will spot a snake actually crossing the road right in front of you. Both times we went, we saw a cottonmouth crossing in the middle of the road.
The boys were great spotters on our first trip. They could pick them out along the edges of the road where I would never have even noticed them. I had a hard time seeing them even when the boys pointed them out! Some of them are pretty well camouflaged!
I tried to keep Ella, our youngest, herded into the middle of the road for the entire walk, since she wouldn’t be paying as close attention to where she’s stepping.
I did wish we had brought a stroller for her, not only for safety, but because she wanted to be carried quite a bit.
We didn’t walk the entire length of the road, but we spent a good amount of time here since we stopped to observe several times!
The kids would get a little bit bored walking when there wasn’t a snake to be seen, but luckily, we saw one often enough to keep them mostly entertained. (If your kids aren’t big hikers, check out our Tips to Make Hiking Fun for Kids.)
If you’re thinking of taking your kids on a walk down Snake Road in the Shawnee National Forest, I say go for it!
There won’t be rocks to climb or waterfalls to see. No creeks to splash in, but most kids will love searching out and seeing so many snakes in the wild on just one easy walk!
Information to Note
- There are no restrooms available in this area.
- Dogs are allowed, on a leash.
- No motorized vehicle of any kind during closure periods.
- Collecting or harming any reptile or amphibian is prohibited.
- Snake tongs or hooks, snake bags, or any type of cage or container are prohibited.
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