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Shawnee National Forest ‘No Fuss’ Travel Guide

Shawnee National Forest ‘No Fuss’ Travel Guide

Researching a visit to the Shawnee National Forest could seem a bit overwhelming at first. The world covers your complete southern tip of Illinois which is about 450 sq. miles. It’s made up of an enormous chunk of  land between the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, often known as “Little Egypt.”  Touring the world, you’ll discover cities, roads, and subdivisions named after these in Egypt, akin to Cairo and Thebes. The rationale for the nickname has turn out to be a bit cloudy through the years, however many historians declare that it stems from the truth that the land was just like that of Egypt’s Nile delta. 

Shawnee National Forest ‘No Fuss’ Travel Guide

The Shawnee National Forest is made up of seven Wilderness Areas. Photograph courtesy of

We spent 5 nights touring the world through the late fall. The climate was a bit chilly. The leaves on the timber had fallen and there wasn’t a mosquito in sight. Most individuals will spend between two to 5 nights within the area. Because of the vastness of the forest, we extremely advocate that guests divide up the world into two areas: east and west. Start researching the world  and also you’ll shortly uncover a whole lot of issues to do and see across the forest. This may increasingly make planning your go to considerably complicated as a result of you might not know the place to start out.

Climbing the paths in Bell Smith Springs Wilderness will take you deep right into a canyon the place you possibly can stroll alongside clear blue streams and excessive sandstone cliffs.

The Shawnee National Forest consists of seven wilderness areas and 5 recreation areas. The wilderness areas are thought-about extra distant and secluded. That is primarily on account of the truth that motorized automobiles are usually not allowed on this a part of the forest. These elements are undoubtedly for the extra hardcore outdoorsman/hiker. Alternatively, the recreation areas are extra customer pleasant and are simply accessible for climbing, tenting, picnicking, and exploring nature.

Recreation Areas and different highlights. Photograph courtesy of

As good as it might sound, most individuals don’t have the posh of getting misplaced for weeks within the huge wilderness.  With that in thoughts, this information will present a basic understanding of the world so you possibly can focus your efforts within the right course. We’ve gone forward and have proactively cut up the areas up (i.e., east and west) and have listed the should see points of interest so as of their significance and ease of entry.

This will likely sound straightforward sufficient, however think about that the world gives many choices: two National Scenic Byways, rock-climbing, fowl watching, horseback driving, miles of brief and long-distance climbing, and big-game searching. Keep in mind, it was established as a nationwide website in 1939, so there’s a ton of historical past right here too. Whenever you take a look at Shawnee National Forest as an entire, it could actually get overwhelming.

Greatest Locations in Shawnee National Forest by Exercise

Greatest Mountaineering in Shawnee National Forest: Bell Smith Springs Recreation Space
Greatest Fishing in Shawnee National Forest: Bay Creek Lake #5
Greatest Biking in Shawnee National Forest: Lake Glendale Recreation Space or Tunnel Hill State Path
Greatest Guided Horseback Driving in Shawnee National Forest: Big Metropolis Stables
Greatest Fowl Watching in Shawnee National Forest: Panther Den Wilderness
Greatest Picnicking in Shawnee National Forest: Goose Bay at Lake Glendale
Greatest Climbing in Shawnee National Forest: Jackson Falls

Greatest East Aspect Points of interest

Camel Rock | Backyard of the Gods Recreation Space

Camel Rock | Backyard of the Gods Recreation Space

Camel Rock is situated inside the Backyard of the Gods Recreation Space. This rock formation is so beautiful that it was featured within the U.S. Mint America the Lovely quarters program. The brief 1/Four mile hike is straightforward and amazingly picturesque.

Cave-In-Rock | Cave-In-Rock State Park

Alongside the Ohio River Scenic Byway sits the Cave-In-Rock. Technically talking, the cave just isn’t situated inside the Shawnee National Forest (it’s surrounded by it). A brief stroll from the parking zone results in an awe-inspiring and fascinating 55-foot broad cave. The cave sits atop a excessive bluff which offers astonishing views of the Ohio river. 

Rim Rock National Recreation Path | Kilos Hole Wilderness Space

Rim Rock National Recreation Path

The zero.eight mile round path leads across the rim of the rock escarpment. Nevertheless, the sheer great thing about Rim Rock is appreciated from floor degree. As an alternative of continuous again instantly from the scenic viewpoint, take the steps down and across the Ox-lot Cave. This small cave was a pure landmark alongside the Underground Railroad. There are informative indicators on-site which clarify extra. After exploring, return again up by means of the decrease path. Alongside the best way,  make sure that to take footage close to the gorgeous teal-colored streams.

Bell Smith Springs Recreation Space

Bell Smith Springs Recreation Space provides a number of the prettiest, most dramatic elements of the state of Illinois.

Bell Smith Springs Recreation Space simply is perhaps the most effective place for a day hike in Illinois. The 7-miles of interconnected trails sit inside a lush canyon that uncovers crystal clear, rocky turquoise streams. The highlights embrace Satan’s Spine, pure rock bridge, and Boulder Falls. You’ll be crossing many ankle excessive streams so don’t overlook to convey waterproof boots.

Insider Travel Tip: Don’t let water cease you in your tracks. Bell Smith Springs provides the chance for some nice day hikes within the Shawnee National Forest. Nevertheless, trails will cross over streams and shallow ponds in each the summer time and winter season. Waterproof footwear is a should if you wish to discover the pure landmarks and enterprise by means of the woods. 

Burden Falls | Burden Falls Wilderness Space

Burden Falls supplies guests with a brief one-mile loop path that contains a small, however spectacular waterfall.

Millstone Bluff Archaeological Space

The Millstone Bluff Archaeological Space path is lined with interpretive indicators.

A brief three/Four-mile path ends 320 ft above the valley under. Alongside the best way, take pleasure in interpretive indicators acknowledging the traditional Native American village website that when sat on the prime of the bluff. From 600-900 AD, the Late Woodland individuals constructed stone forts on the location. From 1350-1550 AD, the Mississippian individuals constructed houses, practiced their faith, and buried their lifeless in stone field graves.

Indian Kitchen | Lusk Creek Wilderness Space

Lusk Creek is the most important of the wilderness areas. It accommodates a few of the most dramatic cliffs and astonishing river views inside the whole Shawnee National Forest. Some have even in contrast it to Colorado. The out & again hike is about three.5 miles every method.

Bay Creek Wild and Scenic River Research Hall | Bay Creek Wilderness Space

Bay Creek is the smallest of the wilderness areas and is hottest for tenting and horseback driving.

Lake Glendale Recreation Space

Lake Glendale Recreation Space is widespread for having the most important sand seashore. The world additionally supplies good alternatives for tenting, fishing, boating, and biking.

Greatest West Aspect Points of interest

Pomona Pure Bridge

Pomona Pure Bridge

A brief five-minute loop path results in a 90 foot lengthy pure bridge manufactured from sandstone. The bridge is perched about 12 ft above the tree coated ravine.

Little Grand Canyon Path

This three-mile loop hike descends right into a canyon surrounded by magnificent bluffs. The higher segments present fantastic views of the Mississippi and Huge Muddy rivers. The seasonal waterfalls alongside the best way are an additional bonus.

Inspiration Level Path at LaRue Pine Hills

The huge bluffs prolong about 5 miles close to State Route three. Photograph courtesy of  Patty Y 1000 Flickr.

A brief however steep three/Four of a mile hike takes you to Inspiration Level. At this website you possibly can take pleasure in views of the panoramic views of the Massive Muddy bottomlands and the Mississippi River valley.

Heron Pond | Little Black Slough

A brief boardwalk will information you out into the swamp the place you possibly can take pleasure in most of the stereotypical bald cypress timber. Photograph courtesy of Wikimedia.

Though technically not a part of Shawnee National Forest, Little Black Slough is the most important state-owned pure space. The 1,861 acres are damaged up into Goose Pond, Heron Pond-Wildcat Bluff, and Boss Island-Boulder Slope Woods. The spotlight right here is the Heron pond. A brief boardwalk takes guests out over the swamp, offering an amazing alternative to rise up shut and private with native crops and wildlife.

Johnson Creek Recreation Space

Situated on the massive Kinkaid Lake, Johnson Creek Recreation Space is a superb spot for fishing, tenting, kayaking, mountaineering, biking, and horseback driving.

Panther Den Wilderness Space

The comparatively small Panther Den Wilderness Space has a three.1 mile loop path. It’s fairly widespread to identify deer, beaver, and muskrats within the space. That is additionally top-of-the-line locations in Illinois to identify a bobcat. The path doesn’t appear to be very well-marked and could seem complicated for hikers in search of a well-marked path.

Bald Knob Wilderness Space

Bald Knob takes its identify from a hill on the east aspect that has a big, daring white cross erected on prime of it. The Bald Knob Cross of Peace is could also be visited throughout opening hours and is seen from many factors inside the space.

Some of the common wilderness areas, Bald Knob is rugged and options two outstanding trails:

  • Bald Knob Path Loop: This three-mile hike is especially used for birding and mountaineering.
  • Godwin Path: This six-mile (a method) path crosses each the Clear Springs and Bald Knob Wildernesses. It additionally makes up a piece of the River to River path.
Clear Springs Wilderness

Recognized for its giant inhabitants of snakes and rugged terrain, the Clear Springs Wilderness attracts hikers, campers, horseback riders, and backpackers. Climbing the Godwin Path and having fun with views of the Mississippi river are the 2 hottest actions.

Different Factors of Curiosity

Nice photograph alternative with Huge Foot!

  • Golconda Memorial Bridge: A terrific place to view the Ohio river and picture Lewis and Clark touring down it.
  • Shawnee Forest Bigfoot: Situated on the intersection of Backyard of the Gods & Karbers Ridge Rd., this 7-foot tall Bigfoot is a superb place to seize a snapshot on the best way to Camel Rock.
  • River to River Path: This 160-mile path spans from the Mississippi to Ohio rivers.

Historic Websites
  • Path of Tears National Historic Path
  • Underground Railroad
  • Illinois Iron Furnace

Scenic Drives
  • Ohio River National Scenic Byway
  • Nice River Street

Greatest Lodging Choices in Shawnee National Forest

Shawnee Forest Cabins supplies friends with personal snug cabins.

Because of the vastness of Shawnee National Forest it’s extremely advisable that guests divide their selection of lodging up based mostly on the part of the forest that they’re visiting. For instance, whereas touring the east part of Shawnee National Forest we stayed on the Shawnee Forest Cabins. Whereas exploring the west area of Shawnee National Forest, we stayed at Blue Sky Vineyards.

Shawnee Forest Cabins | East Aspect

The recent tubs at Shawnee Forest Cabins make for an distinctive expertise!

Situated throughout from Camel Rock, the Shawnee Forest Cabins supply the right location as a base to discover. Avid hikers will love the truth that they will stroll to the Backyard of the Gods Recreation Space, within the coronary heart of the Shawnee National Forest. The cabins function personal scorching tubs, quick Wi-Fi, fireplaces, satellite tv for pc TV, outside hearth pits, and full kitchens.

Blue Sky Vineyards | West Aspect

The balcony of the Tuscany Romance Suite supplies views of the vineyards, a big pond, and the Shawnee Hills.

Throughout our go to to the west part of the Shawnee National Forest we targeted primarily on the Shawnee Wine Path.  Nevertheless, we did be sure that to go to the Pomona Pure Bridge which is situated on this aspect of the forest.

Blue Sky Vineyards supplies in a single day friends with a very hidden gem. Two spacious suites are situated simply above the vineyard tasting room. Our suite, the Tuscany Romance Suite, included a balcony that ignored the wine bar and a further balcony overlooking the vineyards and Shawnee Hills.

The Tuscany Romance Suite additionally gives a small kitchenette with espresso pot, sink, microwave, and fridge. A European-style breakfast comes with every keep. Nevertheless, friends might determine to decide on a bottle of their signature wines instead of breakfast.

Greatest Eating places in Shawnee National Forest

One cause we actually loved staying on the Shawnee Forest Cabins was that we had entry to a full kitchen. As soon as out in the midst of the forest, it may be fairly inconvenient to journey to a restaurant for meals. For instance, it’s not unusual for the closest restaurant to be 30+ minutes away. With that in thoughts, the locals that we spoke with advisable the next eating places:

East Aspect | Eating places
  • Diver Down
  • E-town River Restaurant
  • The Purple Onion
  • Vienna Diner

Pinch Penny Pub is certainly one of SIU’s hottest and fairly priced sports activities bars.

West Aspect | Eating places

The west aspect of Shawnee National Forest is far nearer to Carbondale, the place there are numerous choices for meals.

  • Pinch Penny Pub
  • Big Metropolis State Park Lodge & Restaurant
  • Blue Boar Restaurant
  • 17th Road BBQ

Common Ideas

  • Use warning when visiting the world.
    • Cell telephones/GPS don’t work in lots of areas of the forest.
    • Carry additional water, meals, first-aid package, and so on.
    • Poison ivy & venomous snakes are current.
    • Anticipate longer response occasions by emergency personnel.
  • An excellent sources for detailed info on the world is the USA Division of Agriculture | Forest Service

Have you ever been to the Shawnee National Forest? Ensure that so as to add your personal private hidden gems within the feedback under.