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Shawnee National Forest

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General Information

Shawnee National Forest
Copyright: - US Forest Service
Shawnee National Forest
Description - On the Shawnee National Forest, in southern Illinois, you can enjoy the varied natural resources of the largest, most diversified treasure in the state. Major highways lead to this Forest. Find some of the most beautiful scenery in the Midwest. The Shawnee lies between two mighty rivers, the Ohio and the Mississippi, which have influenced the history and culture of southern Illinois

The Shawnee has some unique features. Garden of the Gods offers some unique rock formations, including Camel Rock and Devil's Smokestack. Spectacular bluffs highlight the LaRue Hills area. The River to River Trail stretches from the Ohio River to the Mississippi River. The Trail of Tears National Historic Trail passes through the Forest and commemorates the tragic march of the Cherokee Nation. The American Discovery Trail, Rim Rock National Recreation Trail, and Inspiration Point National Recreation Trail also lead through the Shawnee National Forest.

For scenic drives, travel the Shawnee Hills on the Ohio National Scenic Byway. This byway travels 70 miles through some of the most scenic areas of the east side of the Forest. Also, the Pine Hills Scenic Drive offers spectacular views of the Mississippi River bottom lands as it winds atop the bluffs of the Pine Hills.

The Shawnee National Forest encompasses seven designated Wilderness Areas: Bald Knob, Bay Creek, Burden Falls, Clear Springs, Garden of the Gods, Lusk Creek and Panther Den Wildernesses. These wildernesses range in size from 940 acres to 5,900 acres.

Recreation - The Shawnee attracts visitors for its hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, hunting, nature study, camping, picnicking, backpacking, birdwatching, scenic driving, berry picking, and mushroom gathering. Numerous lakes, ponds, streams and rivers offer fishing, boating and canoeing. The Forest has three swimming beaches.

Climate - Winters in this area are cool and sometimes cold with occasional snow. Spring and autumn are transitional periods, with normally mild temperatures but occasional seasonal fluctuations. Summers bring warm to hot and often humid days.

Location - The Hoosier National Forest is located in southern Illinois. This Forest is within a day's drive of the metropolitan centers of Cincinnati, Louisville, Chicago, Evansville, and Indianapolis. The Forest headquarters is located in Harrisburg, Illinois, with Forest offices also in Elizabethtown, Jonesboro, Murphysboro and Vienna, Illinois.

Current Conditions & Trip Reports

Trip Reports:
Add your own trip Report! Newly re-released feature. One of the most popular features on Wildernet, trip reports allow you to share your experiences with others. This is an invaluable resource for determining what to expect on your outdoor adventure, so please participate! To prevent spamming, you must be a registered user of Wildernet in order to submit a trip report

Filed By: Deanna kafka (Woodstock, IL)
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: I love shawnee so much that we are returning April 09 for 5 days of exploring by horseback. Our horses might not be as happy as we are but they still enjoy the views.

Filed By: Shanaynay
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Well, i love shownee nat. Forest.. we have some ground down there, and w ego horse back riding when we can. I love to go to bell smith Springs.. and when you hike back there, you can swim, and you can jump off of rocks.. ther are 10 foot cliffs, 15, 20, and a 50 foot cliff! its so fun!! well.. if you want to go somewhere, i advise to go here... -Shanaynay

Filed By: Rob O. (Wheaton, IL)
Number of People Encountered: 11-25 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Hello again everybody...Just got back from Bell Smith Spring last Sunday and we had a blast! The Scenery was beatiful, the campsites were aplenty, and the weather was great; except for a little rain on Saturday night, but that makes it all the more interesting. My camping friends and I took quite a long backpacking trek along the Bell Smith Springs Trails. We started along the Blue trail which is very well marked and somewhat rugged and challenging. That trail starts along the top of the Springs and kind of winds it's way down to the water. The colors were absolutely amazing during this third week of October. After we treked the Blue we made our way to the gold/yellow trail and had some great views of the sandstone/limestone formations. After awhile we made it to the White trail and had some spectacular views and good trails to tackle. Only problem with the white trail is that it eventually ends and without much warning. We lost the white trail after we traversed this very rickety, but not-so-perilous bridge. We called it the bridge of doom, because we couldn't find the trail after that point. Nevertheless, we had a great time just exploring the area and walking around looking for where the white trail picked up again. The highlight of our hike was bringing along some brats and cooking them up in some beer on top of a scenic rock. We rested, ate lunch, and took in the breathtaking surroundings. Don't worry, we didn't litter and disposed of all of our garbage at the campsite. Anyway, our hike lasted a good 5-6 hours and it went quite quickly because of the beautiful views and interesting trails. Another highlight was the people in our campsite. We got there during the night and didn't have a great view of the campsites; there was this group of people there that pointed us away from a not-so-good site and pointed us towards a great site with lots of room and plenty of wood to burn! We are from Chicago and are not used to meeting up with friendly strangers. It never fails that we meet up with a good group of people when we go down to Shawnee. I probably won't go back to Bell S.S. for a while since I have explored as much as I can explore; but will look forward to seeing it again someday. My next backpacking trip will probably take me into the Northwoods in wisconsin or Michigan. Shawnee is an awesome place and will always think fondly of it! ONe more thing, if there is anyone out there reading this...what is the number of the radio station down in so. Illinois that plays these random spooky/ghost stories every so often during the month of October. I was always in love with those stories, but couldn't find the station on the dial this time. Anyone have any clue? See ya!

Filed By: Rob O. (Wheaton, IL)
Number of People Encountered: 25-50 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Bell Smith Spring is a yearly visit for me and my friends. It is in the middle of nowhere, but it is great. There's a natural bridge/archway and plenty of great hiking trails with good elevation and scenery. Usually you can find a lot of decent locations to set up camp; it is not overcrowded like garden of the gods.

Filed By: Lindy Reynolds (Olive Branch, MS)
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: I read an article about Snake Road in your park. Do you have any additional info. about it that I can share with my class? Thank You!

Filed By: Mark (Breese, IL)
Number of People Encountered: 11-25 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Camped at Dixon Springs and had a blast. Everyone should see this National Treasure. Looking forward to returning soon!!

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More Information

Contact Information:
Shawnee National Forest, 901 South Commercial Street , Harrisburg, IL, 62946, Phone: 618-253-7114

Shawnee National Forest - Official agency website.


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