Pere Marquette State Park
Pere Marquette State Park in western Illinois near St. Louis is known for its spectacular fall colors. This is the place to go if you want to go rock climbing along the river bluffs. There is 20 miles of paved bike trail to cycle through and lots of opportunities for bird watching with over 230 species identified in the park.
You can also go tent or RV camping here. The campgrounds have electricity and shower houses.
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The Best Hikes In Shawnee National Forest
No matter what type of hiker you are, Shawnee has so many different hikes to fit your taste. Places like Giant City State Park and Panthers Den Wilderness offer some amazing hikes in under 4 miles. This region of Southern Illinois has amazing rock formations that come out of nowhere in the woods. Other great hiking areas include Simpson and Herod Illinois which includes beautiful overlooks and waterfalls.
Giant City State Park Hiking in Southern Illinois
Giant City State Park is located only 20 minutes from Carbondale and 15 minutes from Little Grassy Lake Campground which is where we stayed. Little Grassy Lake is a beautiful campground that has its own marina where you can rent kayaks or pontoon boats. Maddie and I ended up renting a tandem kayak one day and a pontoon boat another. The Lake is amazing and if you plan on camping in the area Little Grassy Lake is the way to go.
Giant City State Park is home to some of the best family friendly trails in the Shawnee area. The most popular of all of these is Giant City Nature trail which is only 1.2 miles long. The small, and fairly easy hike takes weaves through huge rock formations and caves. The hike is truly remarkable as the amazing formations are hidden in the woods and seem to appear from nowhere. If you want to enjoy a nice hike, with wide open trails and not sweat your butt off, Giant City Nature Trail is the way to go.
Kayak And Canoe Camping
Castle Rock State Park is unique because there are primitive campsites located here that can only be accessed via kayak, canoe or boat. The campsites are first come, first serve, and the permit costs $6 per night.
This might be the only park within two hours of Chicago where you can go camping and have the area almost to yourself.
Paddling to the campsite is about 2 miles and could take a few hours coming back depending on the water flow. There is a dock at the campground as well as grills, picnic tables and a porta potty. Be sure to pack some water in your canoe because there is no water on site.
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Looking For The Best Places To Camp In Illinois
Youre in the right place! In this guide, we will be covering the following:
- The lowdown on the 15 best campgrounds in Illinois
- The insider scoop on the best tent sites, state parks, and RV parks something for every style of camper!
- From boating to hiking, activities and adventures available onsite or nearby
- Looking for free, dispersed camping in Illinois? Well tell you where to find it!
It is true that the Prairie State is, indeed, prairie for the most part. However, one of the best-kept secrets about Illinois is its rich natural beauty paired with plentiful outdoor recreation.
If Illinois only calls to mind Lake Michigan, cornfields, Abraham Lincoln, and deep-dish pizza, let us expand your horizons.
From dense forests for hiking to pristine wetlands for birding and kayaking, were here to school you on the must-see state parks, campsites, and unexpected landscapes that Illinois has to offer.
Ready to discover the best camping in Illinois? Read on!
What Is The Best Way To Go To The Shawnee National Forest
Shawnee National Forest is located in southern Illinois and is within driving distance of a number of major towns in the area, including Nashville, St. Louis, and Chicago. With a number of significant highways running across the region, the forest is pretty straightforward to explore. However, you will need to travel down tiny dirt or gravel roads in a few isolated areas of the forest.
If youre travelling from Chicago, follow I-57 south out of town for around five hours to get to the forest. Take IL-3 from St. Louis and youll be there in about an hour and 45 minutes. Take I-24 out of town from Nashville and youll be in the forest in about two and a half hours.
The major RV site is near to Lake Glendale, which is just a few minutes away from Interstate 145. The campsite is simple to find, with few hard twists or small roads. Large RVs should have little trouble navigating the region.
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Northern Illinois Rv Camping
If you own an RV or plan to rent one for your family, Northern Illinois has lots of places to stay. There are private RV parks surrounding the Chicago area and many of the Illinois State Parks have campgrounds with full amenities.
Illinois Beach State Park is located the closest to the Lake. You can go camping, fishing, hiking and boating as well as get great views of Lake Michigan.
Book Your Illinois Cabin Rental: Shawnee National Forest Rentals For A Weekend Spent Glamping In Illinois Book Shawnee State Forest Cabins
Shawnee National Forest is the perfect place to go glamping in Illinois this year, especially in these Shawnee Forest cabins! Shawnee National Forest cabins are close to plenty of hiking trails, you can challenge yourself with tougher routes, or take an easier one to sight see before returning to your cozy Shawnee State Forest cabin rentals. You can even opt to go fishing, horseback riding, or boating there truly is something for everyone looking to stay in these cabins for rent in Shawnee National Forest. Cabin rentals like these, are the perfect lodge to go back after a long day of adventures. Sit back and put your feet up in one of these awesome camping cabins near Shawnee National Forest, Illinois. Cabins Shawnee National Forest offers, have all you need to relax and de-stress, whilst still being in touch with nature. Check out this collection of Shawnee State Forest cabins and book your cabin rental, Shawnee National Forest camping cabins like these book up quickly! No need to keep searching for Shawnee cabins, weve got you covered with the best places to stay in IL.
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The Best Hikes In Southern Illinois Camping In Shawnee National Forest
Southern Illinois is a great getaway for anyone who loves hiking, lakes, waterfalls and caves. There are so many state parks with amazing rock formations and waterfalls to check out. We decided to stop in Southern Illinois on our way out west during our road trip.
On our way out west from Pennsylvania, we decided that we didnt want to skip past every single state. We wanted to stop in two or three states to explore and check out parts of the country we would otherwise never visit. Southern Illinois and the Shawnee National Forest area specifically peaked our interest. The amount of hiking trails, lakes, wilderness and lack of information on the area is what made us come to Shawnee.
If you decide to camp inside of Shawnee National Forest consider camping eco friendly to reduce your footprint!
Shawnee National Forest is located only two hours from St. Louis and three hours Nashville Tennessee.
Garden Of The Gods Hikes In Shawnee National Forest
Arguably the most beautiful and popular hike in Shawnee national forest area is Garden of the Gods. Garden of the Gods lies in the heart of the Shawnee National Forest and is nestled in over 3,300 acres. There are a ton of hikes in the area, but the most popular trail is the Garden of the Gods observation trail. The trail is a 0.5-mile loop and leads right to the main overlook, which showcases the entire valley below and some incredible rock formations.
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Lake Pavilion And Swimming Beach
The CCC erected a big stone pavilion with stunning views of the lake and beach area, as well as numerous large picnic tables ideal for a large gathering or a simple family picnic meal. Shawnee Forest guests have access to a number of lakeside picnic sites. Cool off at the beach in the permitted swimming area! From sunrise to sunset, relax on the sand as the kids splash about on the beach, or jump in with them! To ensure a safe swimming experience, stay inside the buoys.
Grab A Selfie With Sasquatch
Sasquatch is a female, and she has a name: Sassy.
Unlike the real-life counterparts that some people believe exist in these very woods, she will stick around for a photo.
In these parts, getting your picture made with Sassy the Sasquatch is like a rite of passage.
Youll find her standing patiently by the road that leads to and from another of the forests main attractions.
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Hike At Rim Rock National Recreation Area
Just east of Garden of the Gods on Karbers Ridge Rd is another one of the best spots in Shawnee National Forest, Rim Rock National Recreation Area. There is an upper as well as a lower hiking trail. The upper trail will take you around the rim of a large rocky bluff .
Youll pass some ruins from an ancient stone wall that was built by Native Americans as well as some of the most beautiful overlooks around! The Upper Rim Rock Trail is also one of only a few National Recreation Trails in Illinois.
AllTrails: Rim Rock Trail
The lower trail will take you around the base of the outcropping and bring you right past Ox-lot cave. Ox-lot cave is a historical site where pioneers in the area would keep their animals so they were sheltered from the weather.
Both are great hikes and Rim Rock is often far less crowded than Garden of the Gods. Its a great option if youre visiting on a popular weekend and looking to get away from some of the crowds.
Google Maps: Rim Rock National Recreation Area
Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden Hawaii
Theres no shortage of gorgeous scenery to see on the islands of Hawaii, but Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden on Oahu offers visitors the unique opportunity to see plant life from all over the world. The city-run campsite is a quiet option and camping is available for free Mondays through Fridays, but you will need to make a reservation.
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Pay A Visit To The American Fluorite Museum In New York City
Do you have any idea what fluorite is? Its the state mineral of Illinois, as well as a naturally occuring crystal used in steelmaking, ceramics, and fluoride manufacturing.
The American Fluorite Museum can teach you a lot more about it.
This was formerly the countrys biggest fluorspar mining facility, and it was situated on Main Street in Rosiclare.
This is a one-of-a-kind attraction that you wont find anyplace else.
Learn about turtle exploration at Sundial Bridge
Starved Rock State Park
Starved Rock State Park might be the most popular state park in Northern Illinois. It has 18 vertical wall canyons and stunning waterfalls cutting through 13 miles of trails. Camping, fishing, kayaking and hiking are the activities this park is known for.
Starved Rock has started to get more crowdedespecially during the peak summer season. So if you plan on camping, its important to make a reservation ahead of time. The campground has full amenities for RVs and tent camping.
The park itself has a nature center, restaurant and aquarium display. You can book a trolly or boat tour to take you near the canyon which goes to show just how popular this place has become. If youre looking for something a little quieter, Matthiessen State Park is only 2.5 miles down the road and has its own gorgeous waterfalls with significantly less foot traffic.
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Shawnee National Forest To Open Majority Of Campgrounds
SOUTHERN ILLINOIS A majority of the campgrounds and restrooms at the Shawnee National Forest will reopen on Thursday, June 12.
While the forest service is looking forward to giving visitors more ways to get out and enjoy nature, the move comes with a warning.
We are excited to get visitors back onto the forest recreating however, we would remind visitors to continue to follow CDC health and safety guidelines and practice good social distancing while recreating on your Shawnee National Forest, said new Acting Forest Supervisor Robert West.
Visitors are asked to stay as local as possible when choosing a site to visit and to pack out everything they bring, especially trash. Visitors are also urged to take the precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with local health and safety guidance.
Open campgrounds include:
- Johnson Creek Campground, Jackson County
- Pine Hills Campground, Union County
- Camp Cadiz Campground, Hardin County
- Pharaoh Campground at Garden of the Gods, Saline County
- Tower Rock Campground, Hardin County
Recreation sites with open restrooms are located at:
- Little Grand Canyon
Shawnee National Forest Campgrounds For Primitive
The Shawnee National Forest has many campgrounds for primitive camping. This means there are no electric sites, and many of them may not have water. All of these sites are first-come, first-serve.
Redbud is one of the best Shawnee National Forest campgrounds available as it is close to many major popular trails. There are several sites available for tent and small camper use. There are restrooms and water, but no electric hookups. Sites are $10 a night. Enjoy the hiking trail at Bell Smith Springs. There are also great places to take a dip along some of those trails. Head to Shotgun Eddys for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in nearby Eddyville.
Pharaoh is another good campground that is open all year round. There are no electrical sites here. There are restrooms and water sources available. Enjoy 12 sites with a lot of shade at each site. The cost is $10 a night. This campground is next to the Garden of the Gods Observation Trail and the Wilderness Area, where you can enjoy many different hiking trails. Head over to Equality and dine at the Famous Red Onion for some of the best steaks in the area.
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Please Support Hiking With Shawn
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Thanks again for checking out another one of my articles and until next time, Ill see you on the trail!
Founder, Hiking with Shawn
Howdy folks! My name is Shawn Gossman and I founded Hiking with Shawn. Im an avid hiker, cyclist and outdoorsman here in the Shawnee National Forest. I was born and raised in Southern Illinois and never want to leave. I hope you enjoy my website and I encourage you to interact with me!
About The Shawnee National Forest
The Shawnee National Forest, which covers 280,000 acres in southern Illinois and stretches from the Mississippi River to the Ohio River, is located in the Shawnee Hills. Hills and valleys, timber-producing terrain, attractive views, and animals such as deer, foxes, ducks, turkeys, and quails distinguish this area from central Illinois plain croplands. The forest is crisscrossed with a network of public roads and trails that provide access to campers, animal habitats, and interesting rock formations.
The Rim Rock National Recreation Trail is a.7-mile circuit that travels around some of the states most spectacular geological features the.25-mile Garden of the Gods Trail examines 200 million-year-old rock formations and the Bell Smith Springs Trail has caverns and a natural bridge. The Illinois Iron Furnace, a 52-foot-tall facility erected in 1837, utilized during the Civil War, and renovated in 1967, is located in the forest interpretive panels explain the sites history.
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Hiking In Shawnee National Forest
There are miles upon miles of diverse hiking and backpacking trails in the Shawnee National Forest. One of these even includes the 160-mile River to River Trail.
This section covers some of the best Shawnee National Forest hiking trails. If youre thinking of backpacking Shawnee National Forest over an extended time, make sure you have packed enough water, food, and adequate equipment.