During the 1800s, the Shawnee National Forest was home to several stops on the Underground Railroad; enslaved people traveled between safe waypoints on the way to freedom in the North. Today, it's a protected area with historical markers that help you learn about the brave people who once journeyed through the tree-covered hills. As it was in the past, Shawnee is an area of remarkably diverse natural beauty and recreational opportunities—in one day, you can hike up otherworldly stone bluffs, fish in 11 different lakes, or get a thrill on a high-speed motorbike ride. Whether you're in the mood for adventure or relaxation, a slew of activities awaits visitors year-round.
Camping in Shawnee National Forest
An RV is an excellent way to explore the Shawnee National Forest. Whether you make a home base in one campground or drive to different spots, your RV is a home away from home no matter the season. Make the most of your vacation by renting an RV through RVshare from a local owner; pick the model that fits your group size to ensure that your crew sleeps comfortably and wakes up ready for adventure.
Oak Point Campground
If you're traveling in the summer months, book a site at the Oak Point Campground. It's located on the banks of a small lake in the Lake Glendale Recreation Area, so you can spend your time swimming, fishing, and boating. Arrive early to get one of the 34 sites with electric and water hookups; there are also 25 rustic sites available. Inside the campground, you'll find a dump station, bathrooms, a shower house, and playgrounds. Rates start at $22 per night for partial hookups and $12 a night for basic sites.
Stay close to the Garden of the Gods at the Pharaoh Campground. This area is open all year on a first-come, first-served basis. Sites are basic, and you'll find vault toilets and drinking water close by. Every campsite offers a table and a grill. Rates are just $10 per night, and each spot accommodates up to eight people.
Marion Campground & RV Park
You'll find full hookups and an array of amenities at the Marion Campground & RV Park. Every site offers a Wi-Fi connection and cable TV, and showers sit a short walk away. Choose from pull-through and back-in sites to accommodate your RV. If you're bringing kids or pets, check out the playground and walking area. Within the campground, you can use the laundromat and meet other campers in the lounge. Rates start at $39.95 per night.
Shawnee Forest Campground
Located a few minutes off I-24, the Shawnee Forest Campground makes it easy to get off the road and into camp quickly. Every site offers full hookups, and many spots are pull-through to accommodate your big rig. After you set up camp, head out to the catch-and-release fishing ponds or stroll the 2-mile trail network. The clean bathhouses offer hot showers, and you can take advantage of the laundry facilities during your stay. With its rolling landscape and wealth of trees, this campground makes a beautiful home base. Rates vary; call for details.
Activities in Shawnee National Forest
The Shawnee National Forest covers more than 265,000 acres; you can find a new activity for every hour of your visit. If you have time for just one thing, head straight to the Garden of the Gods Recreation Area. Here, massive sandstone pillars peek out of the forest, creating spectacular views and hiking opportunities including great stargazing at night. For a relaxing day, take a drive along LaRue Hills Road or the Ohio River National Scenic Byway.
With 11 lakes, 53 ponds, and a number of streams, the forest offers excellent fishing for the whole family. Alternatively, rent a canoe or a kayak and paddle Lusk Creek. This region is fascinating for ecology and bird-watching enthusiasts; you'll find varying plant and animal species in the bottomlands, hills, and plains. Other popular activities include horseback riding, OHV riding, geocaching, and picnicking.
If you're a history buff, don't miss the fascinating Underground Railroad sites in the forest. Hike to Sand Cave to see a hiding place along the escape route. At Miller Grove Cemetery, you can see what's left of a community of free African American people. In Golconda, see where escaped enslaved people were detained if they were caught.
How to get to Shawnee National Forest
Address: 50 Hwy 145 South, Harrisburg, IL 62946
Fee: Entry fee $0
Whether you're coming for the fascinating history or the beautiful scenery, the Shawnee National Forest has activities to keep you busy for days. Explore on foot, or enjoy scenic drives through the trees any time of year. An RV is a great way to see the forest; it acts as your mobile home base and enables you to camp comfortably no matter the weather.
Frequently Asked Questions About Shawnee National Forest
Is there a fee to get into Shawnee National Forest?
No, there is not a fee to get into Shawnee National Forest. However, there may be fees required to visit some of the forest's most popular day-use sites including Garden of the Gods. There may also be additional fees to camp in developed campgrounds.
Is there a limit to how long you can camp in Shawnee National Forest?
Yes, there is a limit to how long you can camp at Shawnee National Forest. Dispersed campers can stay a maximum of 14 days in one spot before they need to move on. Developed campgrounds usually have the same maximum stay requirement, but it's best to check with the campground to be sure.
Is Shawnee National Forest open all year round?
Yes, Shawnee National Forest is open year-round. Thanks to the pleasant climate, you can explore the forest all year long and will likely have great weather for doing so.
What type of wildlife lives in Shawnee National Forest?
Wildlife including bears, mountain lions, skunks, chipmunks, groundhogs, beavers, and armadillos all live in the Shawnee National Forest. You'll also find a variety of birds, reptiles, and fish in various forest environments.
What is the closest town to Shawnee National Forest?
Bloomfield is one of the closest towns to Shawnee National Forest. There are restaurants, lodgings, campgrounds, and shops where campers can restock or pick up a memento of their trip.