Hike more, worry less!   Get the family back outside and take time to reconnect with nature and one another. The fresh air is good for your mind, body and soul.  There’s no better place to do that than with an adventure to the Shawnee National Forest in Southernmost Illinois.

Scenic view in the Garden of the Gods area of the Shawnee National Forest

Shawnee Forest Country

Garden of the Gods and Rim Rock/Pounds Hollow Recreational area are two must see locations on the eastern side of the Shawnee National Forest. Both are located just off Karbers Ridge blacktop 30 minutes from Harrisburg.  Garden of the Gods consists of spectacular overlooks and views of unusual rock formations. One formation, known as Camel Rock, is featured in the America the Beautiful Quarter Program representing Illinois and came out in 2016.  Garden of the Gods has been listed in “USA Today” as one of “Ten Great Places to Get Nature on Film”.    There are two main trail systems.  The “Observation Trail” is a .25 mile stone path featuring some of the most well known formations.  The view of the 3300 acres of beautiful old growth forest from this trail is breathtaking.  Sunsets are especially beautiful.  The Wilderness area is over 320 million years old.  The sediment rock in this area is over 4 miles deep and the fractured bedrock has created some interesting rock formations that represent various objects.

There are other trails which interconnect for plenty of hiking. For those people who want even more extensive hiking River to River Trail enters the east end of the area from High Knob and proceeds south below the rock formations before bearing west again.  River to River Trail is a trail system which stretches across Illinois from the Ohio River to the Mississippi.

Rim Rock/Pounds Hollow Recreational area consists of a wonderful scenic trail of exceptional beauty and historic values.   The trail leads past remnants of a stone wall built by prehistoric Native Americans, an observation platform and steps descending through huge rock formations, narrow rock passageways via  stone steps to the floor below.  Ox Lot Cave, at the bottom, is a massive rock overhang where 19th century loggers kept their oxen and horses.  Continue hiking to the beautiful 28 acre forest lake known as Pounds Hollow Lake, or through massive sandstone canyons back to the top of the escarpment.  The upper trail is paved and less strenuous for hikers.  The lower trail has a dirt surface and leads along the base of the bluffs before looping back to the parking lot. 

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”

 Southern Illinois is a destination for hikers of all experience levels!

Those looking for a longer hike can take on the 3-mile Little Grand Canyon Trail that winds through the base of the canyon along the towering, 300-foot bluffs.

Rim Rock, Millstone Bluff, Sand Cave, Burden Falls, and Jackson Falls are just a few of the other areas to hike and enjoy. Shawnee National Forest has a hike or natural wonder that any member of the family won’t soon forget.

Hiking with Shawn can be found on social media platforms and is a great resource for all things outdoors!

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