A man sits on a log near a campfire as he watches the sun set.

Discover an Area by Activity

Select an activity to find an area to visit.

In the southern tip of Illinois lies the rolling Shawnee Hills where 289,000 acres await you to relax, unwind and explore the Shawnee National Forest. Here you will find vast forests, wetlands and rugged bluffs home to a variety of plants and animals. The natural beauty of the area is ideal for all types of outdoor recreation.


Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information

Current Recreation Conditions

Area Name Status Area Conditions
Bald Knob Wilderness Open Open
Bay Creek Lake Open Open
Bay Creek Wilderness Open Open
Bell Smith Springs Recreation Area Open Open Water is currently unavailable at Redbud Campground.
Burden Fall Wilderness Open Open
Camp Cadiz Campground Open Open
Cedar Lake Open Open
Clear Springs Wilderness Open Open
Dutchman Lake Open Open
Garden of the Gods Recreation Area Open Open Water is now available at Pharoh Campground.
Garden of the Gods Wilderness Open Open
High Knob Lookout Open Open
Illinois Iron Furnace Historic Site Open Open
Jackson Falls Open Open
Johnson Creek Recreation Area Open Open June 29, 2023, Water for the Entire Johnson Creek Recreation Area is temporarily unavailable. It is recommended that you bring your own water for drinking, cooking and cleaning.
Kinkaid Lake & Trail System Open Open
Lake Glendale Recreation Area Open Open
Lake Tecumseh Open Open
Lake of Egypt Open Open
Lincoln Memorial Open Open
Little Grand Canyon Trail Open Open
Lusk Creek Canoe/Kayak Access Open Open
Lusk Creek Wilderness Open Open
Millstone Bluff Archaeological Area Open Open
Oakwood Bottoms Open Open
One Horse Gap Lake Open Open
Panther Den Wilderness Open Open
Pennant Bar Openlands Open Open
Pine Hills Campground Open Open
Pomona Natural Bridge Trail Open Open
Pounds Hollow Recreation Area Open Open The road leading to Pounds Hollow Beach and Picnic Area is closed for the winter season.  It will reopen in early March.
Rim Rock National Recreation Trail Open Open A portion of Rim Rock Trail is closed.  However Rim Rock Trail's upper trail loop is still open.  The closed portion of the trail is the descent from  the upper trail's observation deck to the lower trail.  The closed segment includes the wooden staircase and stone steps descent to Ox-lot Cave. However, Ox-lot Cave can be reached by-way of the lower trail segment that leaves the parking lot. Repairs are needed and visitors should heed all closure signs and closure barriers along the trail.  The trail closure will likely continue through the winter months, however this website will be updated when the repairs are complete.
River to River Trail Open Open
Simpson Barrens Natural Area Open Open
Tower Rock Campground Open Open
Trigg Observation Tower Open Open
Underground Railroad: Crow Knob Open Open
Whoopie Cat Lake Open Open


Garden of the Gods Recreation Area

Garden of the Gods Wilderness looking south

One of the most photographed locations in the state, Garden of the Gods' scenic beauty is extraordinary. In the recreation area you can hike, camp, nature watch or picnic.

The Observation Trail features unique sandstone rock formations and panoramic views of the surrounding Garden of the God Wilderness. Interpretive signs explain the geological history. 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.  

Trigg Observation Tower

A steel fire tower rises above the tree line.

Between 1930 and 1950 8,000 lookouts, of which 2000 remain, were constructed nation-wide. Of these, 600 are in active use for fire detection. Trigg Lookout Tower is the only remaining of the 16 fire lookouts constructed on the Shawnee National Forest. Originally built in 1934 as a 60 ft. wood structure, it was replaced in 1938-39 with a 100-foot-tall steel tower. In 1973, the upper 50 ft of the steel frame was removed, and an observation platform constructed offering vistas of the Shawnee Hills. 

Lusk Creek Canoe/Kayak Access

Entrance to the Lusk Creek Launch

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.