Kentucky’s neighbor to the west is quickly becoming one of our family’s favorite places to retreat for a weekend. Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois is a perfect escape from the electronics, housework, and jobs. We have only been there twice, both in the springtime, but we cannot wait to check it out for the fall.
The trip is about 3.5 hours which is a nice distance for a weekend getaway. We have just explored 3 areas (Burden Falls, Rim Rock and Garden of the Gods) of the 280,000 acres of the forest so far.
The Garden of the Gods is full of rock formations, cliffs and trails. The views were spectacular. My 2 sons (3 and 5) loved climbing the rocks with us. It would be a great place in the fall. There’s a 1/4 mile observation trail in the area along with less traveled trails that has more rocks that were great for climbing for the boys.
Rim Rock Forest Trail was right across from where we stayed and lead to Pounds Hollow Lake. The lake area has camping, swimming, fishing, and picnicking. The Rim Rock trail has features with names such as Fat Man’s Squeeze and history with Ox-Lot Cave. Again this has some great views along the hike.
We also took a drive to visit Burden Falls which is one of Illinois' highest waterfalls. This was a more challenging hike as it was not clearly marked. Also the trail was pretty rugged as in teamwork was needed to get down to the bottom of the falls and back up. The drive to the Burden Falls was on gravel for a ways too, but that just added to the adventure.
We stayed at Rim Rock’s Dogwood Cabins which had everything we needed. The owners, Dixie and Bob, were very hospitable and provided lots of info on things in the area in our cabin. There’s a fire ring with wood provided (which we ended up cooking our hobo dinners and banana boats over), outdoors games such as croquet and cornhole, TV, dvd player, and even microwave popcorn. They have lots of animals that the kids enjoyed seeing while we were there such as goats, horses, and peacocks. There are a couple of campsites nearby as well. The part of the forest we stayed near was about a 30 minute drive to anything so we packed all our food for the trip. Be sure to pack bug spray too!
Although we just hiked, there are many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors year-round with fishing, boating, swimming, and horseback riding.
If you are looking for a weekend to check out of everyday chaos of life and to check in with family be sure to check out Shawnee National Forest!
By guest contributor: Jeanette