The Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois is one of our favorite areas to explore. You neglect anything you ever considered Illinois’s flat panorama when you view the rugged bluffs, trickling creeks, and dramatic overlooks that could be present in Shawnee.

Shawnee has an amazing quantity of scenic areas and parks to explore. There are trails obtainable for all ages and skills from 1 / 4 mile easy trek to a multi-day backpacking adventure. It’s exhausting to choose our favorite trails, but there are a few areas we return to time and again for their natural magnificence and household pleasant hikes.

Little Grand Canyon HikeEasy Hikes
Cave-in-Rock State Park
Cave-in-Rock has an extended and colorful history of harboring outlaws and river pirates beginning within the 1790s. Pictographs additionally as soon as graced the walls from even older civilizations in the space. Today the site is preserved as a part of an attractive state park.

Numerous hiking trails wind along the water and thru the woods. Take the steps all the way down to the water level and follow a brief path to the 55′ extensive cave’s opening. Another set of steps leads up on prime of the bluff for a panoramic view of the river.

Ferne Clyffe State Park
Ferne Clyffe is a true pure oasis. The park features rugged bluffs, lush vegetation, and rushing wet climate waterfalls. This spot was once declared “the most lovely place in all of Illinois.” A large community of trails are unfold over a number of areas of the park making this one of the best hikes in Shawnee National Forest.

The Big Rocky Hollow, Hawk’s Cave, and Rebman Trails are all simple trails that lead from the identical parking area. The waterfall at Big Rocky Hollow takes quite a bit of rain to circulate well. If you’ll be able to catch it after a good storm, it’s a 100′ tall sight to behold.

Garden of the Gods Recreation Area
Garden of the Gods is the most popular and most photographed recreation area in all of Shawnee Forest. The magnificent rock formations and panoramic views are not to be missed. An straightforward 0.25 mile Observation Trail offers visitors an up close view of the rugged rocks and results in dramatic overlooks. Other longer trails within the area give an escape from some of the crowds and extra wonderful views.

Use warning with children here although as there are no guardrails and many steep drop offs. Try to go to early or on a weekday as the car parking zone fills up early on weekends.

Giant City State Park
Giant City is certainly one of the best state parks in the state. The gorgeous rock formations, large variety of trails, and recreation opportunities make this an ideal spot to explore the outdoors. There are trails that vary from less than mile to a rugged 12 mile trek.

The majority of the paths are straightforward to reasonable. Especially well-liked is the Giant City Nature Trail, residence of the “Giant City Streets” – big bluffs of sandstone that tower over the trail. Other easy trails include the Post Oak Trail, Devil’s Stand Table, Indian Creek, and Stone Fort Trails. Recharge from your hike with some delicious fried chicken in the rustic lodge constructed within the 1930s.

Cache River Natural Area
You can feel like you could have headed to a southern bayou at Cache River Natural Area. This rare remaining instance of a cypress swamp is a superb and easy place to discover. You can discover several brief and straightforward trails behind the Cache Rivers Wetlands Visitor Center. The Heron Pond Trail is the most well-liked trail in the space. A 1.5 mile trail passes over a scenic floating boardwalk and leads to the state champion Cherrybark Oak Tree.

Millstone Bluff
Millstone Bluff is a unique historic site in Shawnee Forest. This archaeological web site preserves the stays of a prehistoric village. A mostly straightforward 0.9 mile trail makes a gradual uphill climb on a wide path to the highest of the bluff. On the top of the bluff, you can follow a wooden boardwalk to view ancient petroglyphs and comply with interpretive indicators previous the village ruins.

Illinois Iron Furnace
While not really a hike, one of the uncommon spots to be present in far south Illinois is the only remaining iron furnace structure within the state. Originally inbuilt 1837, the 32′ construction as built with limestone blocks and is now listed on the National Historic Register. A village and publish workplace have been once positioned right here.

The furnace was deserted in 1887 and reconstructed in 1967 by the US Forest Service. Today the positioning is preserved as a picnic space with a picnic shelter, restrooms, and a small trail behind the shelter.

Pomona Natural Bridge
One of the shortest trails to hike in Shawnee, the Pomona Bridge trail makes up in would possibly what it lacks in size. This is enjoyable trail for all ages. The path makes a light descent to a 90-foot lengthy natural bridge. You can walk both beneath and across the bridge to make a half of mile loop. Use warning with youngsters on the bridge, but it is wide enough to walk throughout safely.

Tunnel Hill State Trail
The Tunnel Hill State Trail is a forty five mile rails to trails path that cuts through parts of the Shawnee National Forest. This scenic trail passes ghost towns, quaint cities, and crosses dozens of bridges.

If you aren’t a bicyclist, multiple spots are available to park and stroll a portion of the trail. One of probably the most interesting segments is at the Tunnel Hill parking space. Here you can take a brief and flat stroll to an old railroad tunnel. Continue a couple more miles down the trail and you can cross a formidable bridge trestle.

Moderate Hikes
Bell Smith Springs Recreation Area
I first noticed an image of Bell Smith Springs tucked away in a problem of Midwest Living’s annual travel information. That picture showed a glistening emerald pool with jagged rocks reaching in path of the deep blue sky. When we first visited, I discovered this scenic jewel is even higher in individual.

A number of trails wander by way of this scenic space. You can view a scenic overlook earlier than stepping down a set of CCC period stone stairs and following the bluffs to the Devil’s Backbone rock formation. Other trails lead to a natural rock bridge or previous an old mill web site. The scenic springs and streams in the area add to the brilliant factor about this off-the-beaten path gem.

Jackson Falls
Jackson Falls is situated not removed from Bell Smith down extra gravel again roads. This is a trail well-liked with hiking, mountaineering, and rapelling. Like different waterfalls in southern Illinois, this one requires wet circumstances to be able to be operating. While the highest of the waterfall may be reached in about a zero.25 mile walk, it takes a bit more time and effort to reach the underside of the falls safely.

This is a moderate hike that borders on troublesome because of the scrambling required and poor markings alongside the trail. While doable with youngsters (ours did the hike at three & 5 years old), warning have to be used as a portion runs along the edge of a bluff and a few rock scrambling is required to unravel the canyon.

Burden Falls
Burden Falls is a should do cease when exploring Shawnee National Forest. This lovely place provides a quantity of waterfalls for viewing. While you’ll have the ability to see the higher falls simply from the parking area, the taller falls are best seen on a one mile every way out and again hike. Like other waterfalls within the space, Burden Falls only flows during wet climate instances of the yr.

Rim Rock National Recreation Trail
Rim Rock National Recreation Trail is a scenic trail that leads across the rim of a rock escarpment. There are two options from the parking lot, the higher trail and the lower trail.

The higher trail is paved and straightforward. The trail passes remnants of a prehistoric stone wall, a CCC plantation and an observation platform. You can then cross down a set of wooden stairs between towering rock slabs to the decrease, unpaved trail. This trail leads along the bluffs either again to the parking zone or has a spur trail that continues on to Pounds Hollow Lake.
*The stairs are presently closed in 2022 for repairs. The decrease trail can be taken from the parking lot by turning proper to entry the caves alongside the bottom of the trail.

Rocky Bluff Trail
This lovely and reasonable trail is technically just outside the Shawnee Forest boundary. It is part of the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge. The Rocky Bluff trail provides two totally different options, a 2.2 mile loop or a shortcut 0.5 mile loop possibility. Both travel previous wet-weather waterfalls, rocky bluffs, and beautiful seasonal wildflowers.

Panthers Den
Panthers Den is an incredible three mile loop hike that includes rugged and towering rock formations. Explore this maze of bluffs and boulders alongside a 3 mile hike that additionally features a creek. The trail is moderate and even borderline straightforward for a lot of the gap as it follows a large and well traveled path. It takes somewhat extra scrambling to discover all the rock passages, but the views are worth the journey.

Stoneface Trail
If you might be looking for a novel and lesser recognized rock formation, take a look at the Stoneface hike. Located off Stoneface Road in the northeastern portion of Shawnee Forest, the hike to the face is only 0.5 miles each means. The path can be rocky in areas and sometimes overgrown, however it also passes some interesting small caves and overlooks alongside the means in which.

Difficult Trails
Little Grand Canyon
While the Little Grand Canyon in Illinois can’t compare to the scale or depth of the Grand Canyon out west, this trail is still extraordinarily scenic. This 3.6 mile loop passes an amazing overlook of the Muddy River and Mississippi floodplain earlier than descending into a deep ravine.

The trail could be hiked both directions, however both route requires scrambling down slick and rugged rocks to achieve the bottom of the canyon. From the canyon ground, jagged bluffs tower over lush vegetation. Use warning here, however it is a hike well definitely value the effort.

Things to know:
-Always verify the website for the most replace info on trail situation and any closures.
-Bug spray is recommended on any of the trails.
-Some of the trails can be crowded on weekends, try to arrive early if you can or a weekday. If a parking lot is full, choose a special space to discover.
-Pack out what you herald and remember to leave no trace. Leave the pure beauty of the realm simply as you discovered it.

Maps can be found on the National Forest Service web site HERE.

Have you ever visited this enchanting space of Illinois? If so, what was your favorite spot?

Whether you are in search of an city adventure or an escape to nature, Illinois has so many nice travel locations to explore.

Best Hikes In Shawnee National Forest
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