Garden Of The Gods Trail System
The Garden of the Gods is the most popular site in the Shawnee National Forest explore it on the wilderness trails that wind through the massive rock towers. For a quick stroll, take the 0.25-mile Observation Trail. For a more exciting hike, create your own route with the unnamed wilderness routes that take you around the pinnacles, through the forest, and to the edge of high, rocky cliffs.
Length: 16.9 miles
Intensity: Easy to Difficult
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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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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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
Where Can I Camp In Eddyville
Bay Creek Ranch
The Bay Creek Ranch is a great place to set up camp if you want to explore the Shawnee National Forest. Its open year-round, so you have full access to the park whenever you like.
If you have a horse, youll be able to bring them to the ranch and explore the park via horseback. The trails are renovated and go through the stunning scenery of rock bluffs, caves, creeks and thick wood. In addition, the trails range from tranquil pine forests to more challenging terrain such as rock bluffs.
If youre interested in hiking, rock climbing, hunting or biking the surrounding area, the Bay Creek Ranch welcomes you. In addition to the park, Bay Creek Ranch is closely situated to Creek Buffalo Rock, River to River trail, Jackson Falls and many more natural attractions.
The campground offers visitors campsites or cabins, depending on what theyd like. Campsites come with water, electric and permanent high lines.
If you have a horse they have covered stalls, turnouts and pens, plus, overnight stabling if needed. Its also equipped with amenities such as a shower house, laundry facilities and a dump station. So, everything you need is right here at camp.
The Bear Branch Horse Camp is centrally located in the Shawnee National Forest nestled just above the Lusk Creek Canyon. Bear Branch is named after the creek that runs through it and offers camping facilities for those with or without horses.
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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.
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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Where Can I Camp In Rend Lake
Old Bates Campground
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The Old Bates Campground sits on 20 acres of wooded wilderness and is located 4 miles from Rend Lake. In addition, its also nearby Black Berry Nature trail, Sesser, and South Sandusky beach. Its slightly north of the Shawnee National Forest, however, is ideal if youre interested in exploring various wilderness areas and not just the Shawnee National Forest.
The campground offers visitors the ability to stay in either an RV or tent. The RV sites come fully equipped with hookups and trash services as well. The campsites for tents are primitive and offer picnic tables and fire rings, however, all users have access to the shower house and restrooms.
Whats great about this campsite is that they do have a swimming pool, so you dont need to leave the campsite if you want to cool off. In addition, they also have a restaurant thats located in front of the campground called Stringers and Moore.
So, if youre tired of cooking and want a break, youll able to eat in or order out. Rend Lake has great swimming and fishing spots, so you can spend your days at the lake, or wandering around the surrounding nature such as Pyramid State Recreation Area, Trail of Tears State Forest, Crab Orchard Lake or Shawnee National Forest.
|Tents & RVs|
The campsites have either water and electric or offer no hookups, depending on what you need. The sites are shady areas with a picnic table and grill for each site.
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.
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What Is There To Do In Eddyville
A part of Pope County, Eddyville is a small town situated near the Shawnee National Forest. Originated in 1866, it was named after Edward Fulghum who owned the land in which the village was built on.The entire village has a total of 156 people inhabiting it with a postal office in operation since 1869.
Though it lacks activities, its a great location to set up a base if youre interested in exploring the surrounding area either on foot or horseback.
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.
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Shawnee National Forest Camping: Undeveloped Areas
Other areas around the Shawnee National Forest that could be utilized for camping.
Jackson Falls Camping
Jackson Falls in the Shawnee National Forest is a popular gem among many different user groups. There are numerous hiking and equestrian trails within and around Jackson Falls, it is a climbing and bouldering paradise, this is often a most preferred spot for chasing waterfalls, camping is allowed here and the nice gravel road to the site is perfect for gravel cyclists and jeepers to enjoy. Jackson Falls is truly a special spot in the Shawnee National Forest.
While on Ozark Road, look for Glen St Falls Road. There should be signs on each side of the road with directional arrows listing Jackson Falls. The road is a narrow gravel road that looks like someones driveway, but it is a road that everyone can use. The road does dead end on private property past Jackson Falls for your information.
Honey Hole Area Camping
Honey Hole in the Shawnee National Forest is a trailhead made popular by hunters and equestrians. It is an option for overnight parking so that you could backpack and camp in the National Forest around you. There are numerous trails in the area including the River-to-River Trail. This area is also historically the site of Miller Grove, a free black community where former slaves could live without fear of being enslaved again. There are numerous Underground Railroad sites in the area as well.
East Trigg Camping
Golden Circle Camping
One Horse Gap Camping
Hotels Near Shawnee National Forest
Prefer a standard hotel over lodges and cabins? There are a few towns nearby with lodging options. Click the Booking.com 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.
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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.
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!
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Pomona Natural Bridge Trail
Check out a 90-foot rock bridge on the Pomona Natural Bridge Trail. This kid-friendly hike takes you past rock walls, down to a creek, and past a beautiful overlook point that shows off the natural bridge in all its glory. You can even hike right over the top of the bridge, which is tucked in the forest and covered in moss. Wear sturdy shoes as the rocks can be slippery when it’s raining.
Length: .3 miles
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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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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Rent Our Event Barn For Rustic Entertainment
Our Event Barn provides the perfect place for all of your special events. The spacious barn can be rented for your rehearsal dinners, weddings, corporate events, family reunions, or parties. Feel free to turn the adorable, old-fashioned barn into your rustic dream-come-true venue with your decorations of choice. We provide seating, tables, and a refrigerator for your convenience. The barn also features outdoor lighting and a large wooden patio area for additional space. Step outside the comfort of the spacious indoor area to take in the breathtaking view of the Shawnee National Forest. Contact us today to discuss details!
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