From the Ohio & Mississippi river to stone bridges to the flood plain, history seeps in the western region of Shawnee National forest just waiting to be discovered. 

FT. Defiance Camping & RV Park

Fort Defiance State Park’s 191 acres of rugged woodland provide a beautiful contrast to the gently rolling surrounding farmlands. The park’s trails, picnic areas and scenic overlooks provide a great place to relax.

The Confluence Of Ohio/Mississippi Rivers

Cairo became a prosperous port following the Civil War because of the increase in riverboat and railroad commerce. Here, you can see the Ohio river converge into the Mississippi River directly south of Cairo. 

Trail Of Tears State Forest

Trail of Tears, one of Illinois’ five state forests, is located 5 miles northwest of Jonesboro and 20 miles south of Murphysboro. It lies within the southern section of the Ozark Hills.

Union County State Fish And Wildlife Area

Union County State Fish & Wildlife Area is a haven for many diverse forms of wildlife. The most prominent throughout five months of the year are the phenomenal flocks of wintering Canada geese and other waterfowl. Interesting types of wildlife are commonly observed by visitors to the area. 

Giant City State Park

Nestled in the Shawnee National Forest, Giant City State Park was named for the unique impressions made by its massive sandstone structures and a landscape like none other, with lush garments of fern, moss, flowering mints, hundreds of species of wild flowers and more than 75 varieties of towering trees.

Horseshoe Lake Conservation Area

As you explore the Horseshoe Lake State Fish & Wildlife Area, you may be reminded of the Deep South. The charm of bald cypress, tupelo gum, swamp cottonwood trees and wild lotus makes the recreational activities at the site even more enjoyable.

Lake Murphysboro State Park

Beautiful rolling hills and woods surround star-shaped Lake Murphysboro and provide a wonderful backdrop for boating, fishing, picnicking, camping and hiking.

Pomona Natural Bridge

The Pomona Natural Bridge is a natural bridge approximately 30m long, 3m wide, and 3m thick. It is in the Shawnee National Forest. A small stream flows beneath the bridge.

LaRue-Pine Hills

LaRue-Pine Hills it took millions of years to form its bedrock before nature’s erosive forces took over and created the 150-foot limestone bluffs that now rise out of the Mississippi floodplain.


Spanning from the Ohio River to the Mississippi River, this 160-mile trail passes through some of the most scenic areas of southern Illinois, including upland forests, wetlands, grasslands and bluffs. 


Plunge yourself into total darkness cycling through the 543 foot long tunnel hill cyclist trail, or take a scenic and relaxing kayaking trip through the preserved wetlands. 

Cache River State Natural Area

Totaling 14,960 acres in Johnson, Massac and Pulaski counties, Cache River State Natural Area is composed of three distinct management units – Little Black Slough, Lower Cache River Swamps and Glass Hill.

Illinois Department Of Natural Resources

INDR operates the state parks and state recreation areas, enforces the fishing and game laws of Illinois, regulates Illinois coal mines, operates the Illinois State Museum system, and oversees scientific research into the soil, water, and mineral resources of the state.

Ferne Clyffe State Park

Trails wind through picturesque woods, allowing visitors to view fascinating rock formations and inspiring vistas. Ferne Clyffe also offers camping, picnicking, hiking, hunting and fishing. Visitors are warned to use extreme caution if they leave the safety of a designated trail.

Fort Massac State Park

Archeological and historical excavations were conducted on the site from 1939-42 and attempted again in 1966, 1970 and during 2002. In the early 1970’s a replica based on the 1794 American fort at Fort Massac was reconstructed off the original site of the forts.

George Rogers Clark Discovery Trail

The George Rogers Clark Discovery Trail has a name from the history books, and it runs entirely through Fort Massac State Park—Illinois’ first State Park, now over 100 years old—with its recreated fort first built in 1757.  There are picnic areas and plenty of open green spaces.

Bell Smith Springs

It contains a series of clear, rocky streams and scenic canyons bordered by high sandstone cliffs and an abundance of vegetation. The trail system consists of eight miles of interconnected trails featuring strange and wonderful rock formations.

Millstone Bluff

A woodchip 3/4-mile trail interprets the ancient Indian village site on the top of this bluff. A noticeable high point, Millstone Bluff was utilized by both the Woodland and Mississippian Indians. The preservation of natural heritage sites like this one will enable us to uncover more about these past cultures.

Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge

Cypress Creek is open to the public with the exception of the Frank Bellrose Waterfowl Reserve which covers 1000 acres within the Refuge. This area is managed for, and provides sanctuary to waterfowl, shorebirds and other migratory birds.

Tunnel Hill State Trail

Tunnel Hill State Trail stretches for 45 miles from Harrisburg to Karnak. The trail continues on a trails spur for 2.5 miles from Karnak to Cache River State Natural Area – Henry Barkhausen Wetlands Center on the old Chicago and Eastern Illinois railroad bed.


The eastern region of southernmost Illinois awaits your next adventure with caves, treehouses, and endless activities in the Shawnee National forest. Take a look!

Cave-In-Rock State Park Lodge & Cabins

Few natural formations are as awe-inspiring or intriguing as a cave. The heavily wooded park is named for the 55-foot-wide cave that was carved out of the limestone rock by water thousands of years ago.

Timber Ridge Outpost And Cabins

Nestled in the heart of the Shawnee National Forest, Timber Ridge Outpost & Cabins offers the kind of breathtaking treetop views and wooded serenity that can only be found in the Illinois Ozarks. 

Tower Rock Recreation Area

Located along the banks of the Ohio River, Tower Rock Campground offers beautiful scenery and close proximity to water activities like fishing and boating. The 1/4 mile trail can be accessed near the boat launch. 

Dixon Springs State Park

Dixon Springs State Park is an Illinois state park in Pope County, Illinois, United States, and is one of several state parks in the Illinois Shawnee Hills. The park is on a giant block of rock which was dropped 200 feet along a fault that extends northwesterly across Pope County.

Lake Glendale Recreation Area

Surrounded by tall pine trees and mixed hardwood forests, Lake Glendale Recreation Area offers a wide range of recreation opportunities including hiking, camping, swimming, boating, fishing and bicycling.

Garden Of The Gods Recreation Area

The 1/4-mile trail is made of natural sandstone and takes about an hour to walk. It contains short, steep grades and steps; benches are located along the trail and as a whole the trail is not tiring. Caution should be used due to the high cliffs in the area.  

War Bluff Valley Wildlife Sanctuary

War Bluff Valley Sanctuary, almost 500 acres in size, is located in Pope County, and nearly surrounded by the Shawnee National Forest.  Being the largest Audubon sanctuary, War Bluff is nestled in the uplands and supports mature oak-hickory woods

Rim Rock Pounds Hollow Recreation Area

A 7/8-mile trail leads the hiker around the top rim of the “Pounds,” which is a circular 40-acre tract of land isolated from the surrounding terrain by steep sandstone bluffs. Mid-way along the trail descend wooden stairs, and pass between rock slabs to reach the hollow below.

Sahara Woods State Fish & Wildlife Area

Sahara Lake is approximately 98 acres with a handicap accessible boat ramp, parking lot and restroom.  The site is made up of vacated strip mine land, and encompasses approximately 4000 acres. The lake has a 10 horsepower or less motor restriction.

Williams Hill Pass OHV Park & Campground

Williams Hill Pass OHV (Off Highway Vehicle) Park and Campground, a 250 acre Offroad Park that offers Premium Side-by-side Rentals/Polaris Rzrs,   7 Cabins, and 14 RV Hookups! You can either bring your own UTV/ATV/Dirtbike or Rent one of our UTV’s. Williams Hill Pass is the HIGHest point of elevation in Southern Illinois, 2nd HIGHest point in ALL of Illinois. The stars are so vivid at night.  Williams Hill Pass operates 27 miles of trails on 250 acres of field and forest. 

Shawnee National Forest

Shawnee National Forest lies between the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, in southern Illinois. Its terrain spans woodlands, hills and lakes. Wildlife includes bald eagles. The Garden of the Gods wilderness area features ancient sandstone cliffs and formations. Trails include the long River to River Trail and the Rim Rock National Recreation Trail, circling an escarpment.