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Shawnee National Forest Free Camping

Shawnee National Forest To Open Majority Of Campgrounds

Camping Shawnee National Forest

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

Check Out The Garden Of The Gods

These unique sandstone formations are probably the forests most popular feature, and for a good reason. The Garden of the Gods is the scenic centerpiece of this busy hiking and camping area. You can hike 5.5 miles of trails surrounding the Garden of the Gods or the quarter-mile observation trail.

Our favorite description of these unusual outcroppings comes from a Nashville writer who visited recently. It looks like a giant-sized toddler was playing with boulders and left them stacked and strewn all around the wilderness, said Steven Hale from the Nashville Scene.

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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Camping In Southern Illinois State Parks

The best camping in the state can be found in Southern Illinois. This is the place to go if you love outdoor adventure. Activities like camping, hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, fishing, climbing and hunting are popular in the area. There are a variety of state parks with campgrounds ranging from basic tent sites to full-featured RV campgrounds.

Southern IL Campgrounds
Wayne Fitzgerrell

Upper Teton View Wyoming

Teal Pond

There are almost 200 sites that offer free camping across Wyoming. Upper Teton View – Toppings Lake Dispersed Campsites are popular due to their proximity to the Teton Range. Its advised to try to get to the area in Bridger-Teton National Forest , located in Moose, early due to the sites popularity.

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Why Go Wild Camping

While boondocking isnt for everyone, its an experience just about everybody can get something out of. At the very least its an outing folk should scratch off their list of Been there, done that. Even a bad experience can make a great story.

For the campers and hikers who are more inclined to jump into the roughing-it nature of primitive camping, its an experience that many find addicting and compelling. Venturing into the outdoors and making camp far from established campgrounds is a relieving experience that satisfies our inner nomad.

Free Camping In National Forests Of Illinois

The Shawnee National Forest has a lot of rustic tent camping and even vehicle camping alternatives, but there arent many free RV parks. Turkey Bayou offers free camping in the campground and possibly dispersed camping in nearby forest roads along the Big Muddy River. When it comes to free Illinois RV parking and camping locations, they are your best hope for finding any form of seclusion. However, as the name of the neighboring river suggests, this is a seasonal activity, and becoming stuck in the mud is a serious threat.

Before driving down dirt roads, always scout ahead and plan ahead in general. If this is your first time boondocking, you should familiarize yourself with the etiquette and best practices.

Recommended Reading: Where Is Spread Creek Dispersed Camping

Goodenough Creek Campground Idaho

Even though the name literally says good enough, visitors of Goodenough Creek Campground whove reviewed this place tout it as much more than that. The grounds in McCammon offer gorgeous views as well as toilets, picnic tables, and fire rings. There are 10 designated camping spots five for tents and five for RVs and trailers.

Rv Boondocking In Illinois

Truck Camping: 4 Days of Exploration in the Shawnee National Forest

Illinois has a diverse environment that stretches from Lake Michigan in the north to the Shawnee Hills in the south, with prairies and cornfields in between. You can get away from the daily grind and spend time in quiet seclusion, taking in Illinois natural beauty. In the Prairie State, you can go rock climbing in Jackson Falls, visit a canyon, catch a cascade, spend the day hiking, or explore the grasslands. Boondockers will find lots of dispersed and rustic camping sites in and near state parks and forest regions in Illinois.

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Shawnee National Forest Camping: West Side

Campgrounds ran by the US Forest Service located on the West Side also called Mississippi Bluffs Ranger District:

Johnson Creek Campground

Johnson Creek Campground is located within the Kinkaid Lake area of the Shawnee National Forest. There are 20 non-electric sites. A single site is $10/night, double site is $12/night, and a triple site is $15/night. Up to 8 people and 2 vehicle max per site. This is an equestrian approved campground with areas for stock animals, highlines and hitching posts available. Payments are made through a pay tube. There are no campground personnel or a host on-site at any time. Trash, water spigot and vault toilets are available within this campground. Please pack out what you pack in when on the trails. There is lake access with a boat ramp as well. No boat rentals are available at this site.

You can find directions to this site on . The GPS Coordinates for this campground are at: 37°5000.8N 89°3108.0W. The campground is open from March 15 to December 15. The boat launch and picnic area are open all year round. Campground is first come, first serve. The nearest town to this campground is Murphysboro. Hiking is available at Kinkaid Lake and Little Grand Canyon nearby. We recommend eating at Bunmakers in Murphysboro for great breakfast.

Turkey Bayou Campground

Pine Hills Campground

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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Hotels Near Shawnee National Forest

Prefer a standard hotel over lodges and cabins? There are a few towns nearby with lodging options. Click the links below to browse hotels near the Shawnee National Forest.

  • Browse Carbondale, IL hotels Carbondale is home of Southern Illinois University, so beware of special event weekends, such as graduation, parents weekend, etc. This is the town closest to Giant City State Park.
  • Browse this is a good central location if you plan to explore both sides of the national forest, and is a halfway point between Garden of the Gods and Giant City.
  • Browse Mount Vernon hotels for an option on the east side of Southern Illinois, this is a historic town with cute shops and cafes if you prefer a less outdoorsy visit to the area.

I would highly recommend Southern Illinois for a long weekend of exploring. Garden of the Gods and Giant City State Parks seem to be really convenient, central locations to all the attractions, as well as offering different types of lodging like lodges, cabins, and camping.

Shawnee National Forest Camping: Other Federal Camping

National Forest Camping Near Me

Other campgrounds within federal public land management agencies.

Crab Orchard Campground

Crab Orchard Campground is managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. You can find more information about camping there at this link. The campground is open April 1 to October 30. Each site limits up to 2 vehicles and up to 8 people. There is a beach open Memorial Day Weekend to Labor Day Weekend from 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM. You can only swim at the beach and nowhere else on the lake. There is no reservation system first come, first serve. Full hookup is $25/day . Electric/Water is $20/day . Electric is $15/day . Non-electric is $10/day .

Devils Kitchen Campground

This campground has 8 primitive sites with a shower house available. Find it at 1625 Tacoma Lake Road Marion, IL 62959 / 997-3345. $10/day and $40/group.

Little Grassy Lake Campground

Full electric and water hookup camping is available. Check out this linkfor more information. Online reservation is possible you must reserve two nights minimum. Campground is open from March to November. Full hookup is $30/night to $35/night. Other sites are $25/night. Call 618-457-6655 for more information.

Rend Lake Campground

Nearly 800 primitive and full hookup campsites in 5 public campgrounds are available at this campground.

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Tramp Through Rim Rock

The Rim Rock Recreational Trail in Shawnee National Forest takes you over and through incredible rock formations similar to the slot canyons you find in Utah. This southern Illinois version has stunning sandstone structures surrounded by dense foliage and wildflowers. Of the two trails here, the lower one has steeper inclines.

Fire Safety And Flat Footing

Set your fire away from nearby combustibles and ensure you have adequate overhead clearance. Firewood should always be sourced locally if you need to collect wood from the local area, always choose wood that is already on the ground.

Never break branches from standing trees, live or dead. Always ensure your fire is dead out and cold to the touch before you disperse the ashes around the campsite.

Alternatively, bring a camp stove.

Find a flat, level area to set up your site. Never alter the area by digging drainage ditches this is why its so important to find an established and trusted campsite to minimize your impact on the ecosystem.

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Shawnee National Forest Hiking

Southern Illinois is a hikers paradise. Deciding where to hike within the 280,000 acres of Shawnee National Forest can be overwhelming. Fortunately, the forest is divided up into many wilderness areas and state parks. Backpackers will be pleased to learn that there is even a long-distance trail in the region. The River to River trail spans 160 miles from the Ohio River in the East to the Mississippi River in the West. Photographers will also love hiking in Shawnee National Forest, thanks to unique landscapes and dozens of waterfalls to capture.

Read: What to Bring Hiking for a list of hiking essentials.

Other options for hiking in Shawnee National Forest include:

Exploring Hills And Hollers In The Land Of Lincoln

Boondocking Shawnee National Forest | LaRue Pine Hills | Gravel Biking | Camp Cooking | Charmed Life

Get access to everything we publish when you .

Shawnee National Forest defies stereotypes of the Midwest. Tucked away at the foot of Illinois, its a land of wooded hollows, rolling hills, rock escarpments and plentiful wildlife.

It was an April morning when we arrived at the visitor center, and most of the Midwest was still cold and dreary. Not Shawnee. Trees and wildflowers were already bursting with color. Birds seemed to be flitting everywhere. Since it was Thursday, we would be avoiding the weekend visitors, and as we looked around at the empty parking lot, it was clear we would have the trails to ourselves.

I was with Tim McEnery, a longtime holler rat whos been clambering about in the Shawnee for years. Tims familiar with two of the forests greatest spots: the Garden of the Gods, an area of hidden canyons and unusual, animal-like boulders and Jackson Hollow, with cliffs, forests and waterfalls that are just as dramatic but more secluded.

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Shawnee National Forest Camping: East Side

Campgrounds ran by the US Forest Service located on the East Side also called Hidden Springs Ranger District:

Redbud Campground

Redbud Campground is located within Bell Smith Springs Recreation Area. It is a first come, first serve 21 site non-electric campground with pine trees and space in between each site. There is a water spigot and single-person vault toilets on site. Dumpsters are also on site. The campground is $10/night and allowed up to 8 people and 2 vehicles per site. Payment is accepted through a pay tube. No host or worker is available on site, but Forest Service does occasionally drive through the campground.

You can find directions to the site on . The GPS Coordinates to this campground is: 37°3118.0N 88°3923.7W. Redbud Campground is open from March 15 to December 15. During the shotgun hunting season , hunters usually occupy all the sites. During the closure period, a gate at the campground is closed and locked. There are numerous areas to hike around this area including Bell Smith Springs, Burden Falls and Jackson Falls. The nearest town is Eddyville. For dining, I recommend Shotgun Eddys and Murphys Pit BBQ.

Camp Cadiz Campground

Pharaoh Campground

Oak Point Campground

You can find directions to the site on . The GPS Coordinates to this campground is: 37°2455.1N 88°4000.5W. The campground is open all year round. Showers available in the campground.

Pine Ridge Campground

Tower Rock Campground

Free Parking Lot Camping In Illinois

In addition to casinos, theres another option for free camping in Illinois: private businesses! There are lots of private and corporately owned businesses that allow free overnight camping. Wal-Mart, Cracker Barrels, Cabellas, Bass Pro Shops, Camping World, Pilot, Flying J Truck Stops, and even a few privately owned businesses allow free overnight camping. For a complete list, check out this website. From city parks to parking lots, you should be able to find all manner of free camping for a night or two.

Also Check: Mn State Park Camping Reservations

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.

Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden Hawaii

Buck Ridge Campground

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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Hog Rock Ranch & Campground

Enjoy 3/4 mile of Ohio River frontage in the Shawnee National Forest. We have 115 RV sites with 30amp/120V electric and water. We have boat ramp access to the river and two dump stations. Open May 1st through November 15th and are just up the river from Cave-In-Rock. Come for a weekend, stay for a week, or even longer.

  • 289-4724

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New York National Forests

New Yorks lone national forest, Finger Lakes National Forest, is home to absolutely no free camping. However, Ithaca is a fun town to meander, and the Adirondacks are worth any fees you may end up paying to find a place to camp for the night. Otherwise, most camping in the Finger Lakes National Forest runs between $5 to $15 per night.

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Hunt Fish Hike And Camp In Our Alluring Natural Surroundings

The Shawnee National Forest provides the perfect backdrop for all of your camping needs. Take a day to visit the tallest falls in Illinois at Burden Falls. Hike through the scenic canyons of Bell Smith Springs and then dive into the primitive swimming holes. We have some of the best fishing in the area located right on our campground. Enjoy a day of hunting in the area, and then come back to relax in your private room at night. The stunning natural surroundings offer numerous valleys, hills, and wood lots for your adventuresome spirit.

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Where Is Shawnee National Forest

Hammock Camping in Shawnee National Forest: Lusk Creek Wilderness

This incredible national forest spans the southernmost part of Illinois. Missouri lies to the west, just across the Mississippi River, with Kentucky to the east, on the other side of the Ohio River. The cities of Carbondale and Harrisburg are each less than 30 miles from Shawnee National Forest. Cape Girardeau, Missouri, is just 12 miles away, and Paducah, Kentucky, is 18 miles down the road.

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