The town of Cypress, Illinois, is home to an unusual rock formation known as Round Bluff or Glass Hill. As the names suggest, it is a circular hill completely surrounded by tall sandstone bluffs.
Covering several acres, the hill's summit is mostly flat and densely forested. Walking around the top, it's possible to see for long distances in almost every direction. Cypress is located to the northeast.
At the south end, the bluffs have eroded to create large pinnacles.
In places, the bluff face is gouged with large cracks, looking vaguely like sheets of broken glass. Perhaps that is the origin of the Glass Hill name. (It's more likely that the name comes from a landowner, but that explanation isn't nearly as much fun.)
Glass Hill sits on an isolated parcel of land owned by the State of Illinois as part of Cache River State Natural Area. It remains undeveloped, with the exception of a small parking lot. Despite the lack of a marked trail, it's fairly easy to reach the hill and then hike around it.
From the parking lot, a faint trail leads into the woods and across a couple of small ravines. Then the trail fades away. After some false starts, I found that the best bet is to veer to the right to reach the side of a picturesque creek.
Following the creek a short distance, I tip-toed across the water and came to a large field of scattered boulders on the other side.
The boulders lead uphill to the bluff.
From here, I turned left, followed the base of the bluff, and came to a partial break in the rocks where I could climb on top.
After going back down, I was able to keep following the bluffs all of the way around. The north face features the tallest rocks, plus some interesting textures. Instead of looking like cracked glass, the rocks on this side look pitted and dented.
The east side is choked with downed trees and thorn bushes, making it more difficult to follow the bluff. Nevertheless, it's still fun to go around in a big circle.
Easiest route: From Cape Girardeau, cross the Emerson Bridge and follow Highway 146 through McClure, Ware, Jonesboro and Anna. Continue to the junction with Highway 37 at West Vienna. Turn right and take Highway 37 south through Cypress to the intersection with Dongola Road. Turn right, drive one-half mile, and turn right on Pendleton Lane. Follow this gravel lane a short distance to the parking area, located just past where the road makes a sharp turn to the right. [Google map]
Alternate route (shorter but more difficult): From Cape Girardeau, cross the Emerson Bridge and turn left on Route 3. At Reynoldsville, turn right on Old Cape Road and drive 9 miles to reach Highway 127. Turn right, go 2 miles, and turn left on St. Johns Road. Follow this blacktop road to Dongola. After crossing the railroad tracks in Dongola, turn left on Old U.S. 51, then veer right on Cypress Road at the "To I-57" sign. Drive under the I-57 overpass and continue straight for 7 miles until you reach Pendleton Lane on the left. (If you reach Highway 37, you've gone too far.) [Google map]
In the map below, I've taken an excerpt from the Cypress topographic quadrangle and annotated in purple the best way to reach the bluff. Starting at the parking lot (A), go north into the woods and cross a couple of ravines (B), then turn right, cross the creek, and go uphill along the boulder field until you reach the west side of the bluff where you can climb to the top (C).