Special Places

Collection of items in the passport program.

Visit the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail

Looking for ways to explore history with kids this summer? Consider visiting the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail, just south of Jonesboro.

Paved road through the fall colored trees

Scenic Drives

In a state known for rich farmland and big cities, the outstanding scenery of southern Illinois is a refreshing surprise. Forested Shawnee hills and rocky bluffs give way to gently rolling farmland, charming small towns, unique state parks and local antique and winery venues. Experience this diverse landscape and its people on the Ohio River National Scenic Byway and Great River Road.

Aerial view of river with rock cliffs and shrubs surrounding it

Wilderness Areas 

Looking for solitude? Check out our seven wilderness areas, which were designated through the Illinois Wilderness Act of 1990. Wilderness areas are some of the largest contiguous forested lands within the Shawnee, and together they make up about 10 percent of the national forest. Visit our wilderness page for detailed information on special restrictions.

Interpretive signs on stone pillars identifying monument in background

Historic Sites

Delve into history! Travel along the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail, or discover forest sites used in the Underground Railroad. Some Shawnee National Forest sites are interpreted through signage, such as Illinois Iron Furnace (left) and Millstone Bluff Archeological Site.

Help protect these archeological sites during your visit.

The 2016 Shawnee National Forest US Quarter

Camel Rock – Garden of the Gods

Camel Rock, located in the Garden of the Gods Recreation Area, is one of Illinois’ most photographed places. Because it represents the region’s outstanding beauty, this iconic rock formation is featured in the U.S. Mint America the Beautiful Quarters Program.

Here, you can picnic, camp, hike and explore nature. Camel Rock is located along the Observation Trail, a quarter-mile stone trail.

Water pool with rock cliffs and heavily forested area surrounding it

Bell Smith Springs  

Clear, rocky streams and scenic canyons bordered by high sandstone cliffs and plants unique to Illinois. The trail consists of seven miles of interconnected trails, featuring strange and wonderful rock formations, such as Devil’s Backbone, Boulder Falls and a natural rock bridge.

Rocky waterfall

Little Grand Canyon Trail 

This place has it all – majestic bluffs, a lush bottomland habitat, colorful cliffs and expansive views of the Big Muddy and Mississippi rivers. If you like to watch birds, this spot is haven for neotropical migratory songbirds during the spring and fall.
Scenic view from trail looking out at meadow and trees from a rock pinnacle

Inspiration Point Trail at LaRue Pine Hills 

Majestic views await you at Inspiration Point, a National Recreation Trail, located at LaRue Pine Hills. With more than 170 bird species, it is a birders’ paradise. In the spring, the trail is bordered with wildflowers — blazing star, bellwort, bluets and spiderwort.

Natural bridge

Pomona Natural Bridge 

Check out this rocky bridge, which spans 90 feet, while you’re visiting the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail. Located just minutes off Highway 127, it takes less than an hour to hike.





Highlighted Areas

River to River Trail


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. The trail leads through some of the most remote areas of the Shawnee as it passes through five of the seven nationally designated wilderness’, designated natural areas and several state parks. Abundant with wildlife you may see bald eagle, red-tailed hawk, bobcat, armadillo, red fox and is home to some 250 bird species.  

Most of the trail is on public lands (national forest or state parks), however some segments are along roads and across private land (where allowed). Enjoy tranquil locations such as bluffs overlooking Cedar Lake, painted sunset sky at Garden of the Gods, or migrating waterfowl resting in the floodplains of the Mississippi River.

Download Geo-referenced River to River Maps to use them on your tablet or smartphone for GPS navigation along the trail.

Lusk Creek Canoe/Kayak Access

Float one of the most scenic creeks in southern Illinois. Lusk Creek Canoe/Kayak access is located just minutes from Eddyville, IL and offers easy access for recreating on beautiful Lusk Creek. The site features a walk-down launch path, spaceous parking lot and information board with detailed map.

Due to its ecological significance the Shawnee National Forest designated Lusk Creek a Zoological Area within the boundaries of Lusk Creek Wilderness. Lusk Creek Wilderness lies about 4 miles north of this Lusk Creek access point. Special restrictions apply within the Wilderness and Zoological Area, see the restrictions section below.