There are many more activities in southern Illinois to complete any road trip, and these ten activities in Shawnee National Forest concentrated on the park’s eastern side.
1. Hiking in the Garden of the Gods
The Shawnee National Forest’s most popular tourist destination is Garden of the Gods. Its breathtaking scenery, unusual geological formations, and trekking opportunities make it a must-do activity.
Garden of the Gods, one of Illinois’ most popular tourist destinations, offers locations to hike, camp, have a picnic, and take in the scenery. A quarter-mile long route called the Observation Trail features benches throughout, as well as small, sharp inclines and steps. The incredible payoff is the sheer cliffs and expansive vistas.
2. Take a selfie with the Shawnee National Forest Bigfoot
A local resident and business owner installed this fabled Bigfoot monument on a whim, and it has attracted lots of attention ever since! The Shawnee Forest Bigfoot, also known as Sassy the Sasquatch, is located on the southwest corner of Karbers Ridge Road and The Garden of the Gods Road.
Bigfoot is clearly visible on the side of the road next to the Shawnee Forest Cabins and opposite the Garden of the Gods Outpost. Take some silly videos and selfies by pulling into the small parking area. Don’t forget to tag @ShawneeForestBigfoot on Facebook!
3. Grab some ice cream at Garden of the Gods Outpost
Garden of the Gods Outpost is a great place to stop after visiting the Shawnee Forest Bigfoot as it’s located right across the street. Cold drinks, ice cream, Bigfoot memorabilia and other goods are available at the outpost. The staff is very helpful and can provide you with directions and any other information you need about the area.
4. Go on a picnic under the Golden Circle
Many tourists are unaware of the captivating location known as the Golden Circle. Adventurers will love exploring the stunning sandstone bluffs, caves, and arches.
Just down the road from the Outpost, in the Garden of the Gods region, is where the Golden Circle Path begins. There is a natural arch where you can have a picnic, but I should caution you that it is not at all marked. I urge you to get directions at the Outpost, and be ready for an adventure!
5. The Rim Rock Hike
Rim Rock’s highly unusual geological structures made it one of my favorite locations to visit in Shawnee National Park. I advise choosing the road that deviates the farthest to the left since it will take you directly to the rickety, steep stairs that descend into the slot canyons.
Moreover, there are some old stone walls that were constructed by the prehistoric Native Americans of the Woodland culture about 5000 years ago. Forts such to these were constructed in Big City, Illinois.
6. The Awe-Inspiring Ox-Lot Cave
At the end of the Rim Rock Trail is Ox-Lot Cave. It was previously utilized as a corral to store horses, mules, and oxen, hence the name. A little spring that served as an animal watering place is enclosed on the side of the cave.
7. Visit Pounds Hollow to go swimming, fishing, boating or camping
Pounds Hollow Recreation Area at the Shawnee National Forest is a stunning, serene area that can become very crowded during the summer. It is situated not far from Rim Rock.
The beautiful thing about Pounds Hollow is that anyone can go there and swim, fish, or boat for free as long as they have their own equipment. There are no costs at all, although a fishing license is required (like anywhere else in Illinois). Pounds Hollow also offers tent camping for roughly $10 per night.
8. Discover Cave in Rock
Throughout the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the limestone cave is said to have been the residence of numerous outlaws, pirates, and counterfeiters. Pirates are mentioned in legends that date back hundreds of years regarding Cave in Rock. The most ferocious legend is true, however many of the others are myths.
Captain Samuel Mason, a native of Pennsylvania and a lifelong criminal and pirate, would break into homes on Sundays while people were at church and would target vessels on the Ohio River. In 1797, Mason made Cave in Rock the center of his criminal enterprise.
There were two films made there that contributed to the stories surrounding this cave: How the West Was Won by MGM in the 1960s and Davy Crockett and the River Pirates by Disney in the 1950s.
9. Stay at the Shawnee National Forest Cabins
Wondering where to stay at the Shawnee National Forest? Shawnee Forest Cabins are quite comfortable and offer full kitchens, fireplaces, and private hot tubs! You are only 2 miles from Garden of the Gods and can stroll to Bigfoot and the Outpost from your cabin. If you are looking for an amazing cabin, try booking the Treehouse with a suspension bridge that takes you to your own private hot tub in the trees. Very cool!
10. Enjoy the Iron Furnace
From 1837 to the 1880s, this remarkable piece of history served as Illinois’ sole operational iron furnace. Nonetheless, it was reconstructed in 1967. Even today, it is a remarkable accomplishment that it generated 9 TONS of pig iron each day!