Things to Do | Shawnee National Forest Cabins
So much to do, So little time
The Shawnee Forest Geological History
The incredible beauty and unique geology of the Shawnee Forest is the result of the collision of five distinct physiographic areas; the Glacial Till Plain, Cumberland Plateau, Illinois Ozarks, Gulf Coastal Plain, and the Shawnee Hills.
The Illinoian Stage was between 352,000 to 132,000 years ago. The Laurentide ice sheet covered up to 85 percent of Illinois, scraping the region north of Illinois 13 to flatland. The southern margin of this ice sheet was located within what is now the area of the Shawnee National Forest. As the ice sheet receded, it left intact the incredible canyons, bluffs, and distinct ecosystems we can still explore today. Now aren't you glad you were curious? Fascinating!
From Giant City State Park to the Garden of The Gods
The Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois has so many things to do, it can sometimes be overwhelming to decide where to start. With the many lakes, soaring cliffs, forested valleys, miles of winding roads, and breathtaking natural beauty the possibilities are endless.
We are located in Makanda, which is on the western region of Southern Illinois, deep in wine country and 15 minutes from Giant City State Park. Many guests pack a lunch and head over to Garden of The Gods one day, a beautiful 80 minute drive, Giant City State Park the next, and then everything in between. If you wish, bring your kayaks, bikes, or good walking shoes.
Devils Kitchen Lake and Little Grassy Lake are both protected pristine bodies of water surrounded by forests and cliffs. The maximum motor is 10 or under, perfect for kayaks, john boats, paddle boards, or a pontoon. If you don't have your own Little Grassy rents out all of these recreational toys.
We offer deeply discounted rates for stays for five and seven days. This gives guests an affordable opportunity to slow down the pace and have enough time to enjoy not only the luxurious homey comfort of our cabins, peaceful soul soothing surroundings and the plethora of recreational opportunities just waiting to explore.
Wilderness and Natural Areas
When the Laurentide ice sheet receded it left intact the spendor that is our beautiful Shawnee Hills. Evidence of the original protectors of the land, the Shawnee and Illinois Indian Nations, still can be found along trails, bluffs, caves, and in so many other locations. The Shawnee is protected and its preservation is dear to our hearts.
There is never enough time to see everything, but we hope you keep coming back and continue to explore the wonders of the Shawnee Hills.
In our collection of links, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources website covers all of these areas, but one website, The Shawnee National Forest.com in particular, has clear, succinct references to places we've highlighted. Also check out Shawnee Forest.com for even more information.Several sections will overlap in categories such as parks, trails, fishing, rock climbing...
Explore these links, then come explore the real thing.
Look at some beautiful imagery at Shawnee National Forest Facebook page.
Designated Wilderness AreasCrab Orchard Wilderness Area
The Crab Orchard Wilderness Area is 4,050 forested acres encompassing the southern ends of Devil's Kitchen Lake and Little Grassy Lake. Panther's Den Wilderness anchors the east and Giant City State Park anchors the west. It is one of southern Illinois' best kept secrets.Bay Creek
Bay Creek Wilderness is between Burden Falls and Bell Smith Springs. If you are seeking solitude this is the place.Burden Falls
The beautiful waterfall that this Wilderness is named for is right on the road, but don't let that stop you from exploring the rest of this spectacular area.Garden of the Gods
Some of the most spectacular rock formations you will find anywhere are at the edge of this Wilderness. A few hundred yards down the trail will leave most of the tourists behind.Lusk Creek
From the main trailhead you will hike through what seems like any woodland trail in the Shawnee Hills, and then there you are, Indian Kitchen. Is this really Illinois?Panthers Den
Remember, Rocky Comfort Cabins is on Panther's Den Road. Put on your hiking shoes, step out the front door and head east or just get in the car and drive so you can park and take a shorter trail.Hutchins Creek Wilderness Complex
Clear Spring and Bald Knob Wilderness, Camp Hutchins Wilderness, La Rue Pine Hills National Natural Landmark and Trail of Tears State Forest make up 21,000 acres of incredible beauty and priceless habitat in the Illinois Ozarks. The terrain is totally different than the central and eastern Shawnee Forest.
National Natural Landmarks and Natural AreasHeron Pond
Feel like you've stepped into another world at Heron Pond. A fairly short walk there and a winding boardwalk through the cypress swamp makes it accessible to almost everyone.LaRue Pine Hills
It's been said that La RuePine Hills is more biologically diverse than the Smoky Mountains.Horseshoe Lake Nature Preserve
Another birder's paradise, this ecosystem normally found in swampland much farther south, supports a variety of thriving wildlife. During fall and winter, visitors see large populations of waterfowl and bald eagles.Bell Smith Springs
One of the most beautiful and most accessible places on the Shawnee Forest, a portion of Bell Smith Springs was developed as a recreation area by the CCC in the 1930's.Lusk Creek Canyon
Located in the heart of the Lusk Creek Wilderness, this natural area is just plain awesome in any season of the year.Cache River State Natural Area
Deep within the bottomland cypress and tupelo forest is Heron Pond, a shallow wetland with a winding boardwalk, making it accessible for almost everyone. It is a favorite spot for bird watchers wanting to catch a glimpse of hidden wildlife.Lower Cache River
Some of the oldest living trees east of the Mississippi are found in the Cache River Watershed.Little Grand Canyon
As its name implies, clear creeks and lush flora in the canyon bottom is built up layer upon layer of bluffs and upper drylands, leading to beautiful views of the Mississippi River and rolling hills.
Parks and RecreationFerne Clyffe State Park
Garden of the God's is a spectacular place worth the drive. Pack a lunch and take your camera.Giant City State Park
Breathtaking natural beauty with new discoveries at every turn. Something for everyone.Garden of the Gods
Gorgeous, breathtaking views. Yet another one of the gifts the Shawnee Hills geological history has given us.Cave in Rock State Park
The cave has a colorful history of explorers, pirates, and outlaws. Now, one of the most visited attractions in the area.Boo Rochman Memorial Park (Castle Park)
Dungeons and Dragon's fan or not, Castle Park is a very cool, fenced in park where you can let your imagination run free. Children, of course, love it but teenagers and adults will want to come back again and again. Check out the link to read a blog written on it for more details.
TrailsAlmost every area we have highlighted here has walking and hiking trails. Some short and easy, some difficult and some in between. The most famous trail that keeps bringing people back is the River to River Trail. From the USDA Forest Service Website
"The River to River Trail spans 160 miles from Battery Rock on the Ohio River to Devil's Backbone Park in Grand Tower on the Mississippi River. The trail is part of the American Discovery Trail that extends coast to coast from Point Reyes National Seashore in California to Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware and spans more than 5,000 miles. Whether you're experiencing southern Illinois for the first time or have loved this area for years, there are many surprises along the trail. If you want to truly experience the Shawnee National Forest and southern Illinois then the River to River Trail is for you."
BikingTunnel Hill State Trail
The Gem in Little Egypt
Horse Back RidingGiant City Stables Honey Bee Stables
We keep talking about the beautiful waterfalls in southern Illinois. Here is a link to an article, written by one of our previous guests Les Winkeler for the southern Illinoisan. Check it out and feel free to share!Southern Illinois Waterfalls
Lakes and Water ActivitesSouthern Illinois is home to several lakes for fishing, boating, flat-water kayaking, and even SCUBA diving. Rent a pontoon at Little Grassy for the day. Walk the trail around Devil's Kitchen Lake and enjoy the bluffs anytime of the year.
We highly recommend checking out White Crane Canoe Rentals and Guide Service. Schedule a tour and see some of the most beautiful places and wildlife on the Cache River you can only see on the water.
Illinois' first entirely tree-based, eco-friendly zip line canopy tour.
Rock ClimbingThis is just a small sample of the rock climbing possibilities. A quick web search will get you deeper into all the possibilities.
Rock Climber's paradise. Call Eric Ulner at Vertical Heartland for expert advice.Jackson Falls
Climbing is permitted and beautiful. Sandstone bluffs and free standing boulders.Cedar Bluff
What to do first? Relax.