Shawnee National Forest
for All Types of
Shawnee National Forest camping areas aren’t hard to find. Getting them, all listed in one place on the other hand isn’t always that easy. So, I decided to create a new article listing all the Shawnee National Forest camping areas in and around the forest. So enough of the mumbo-jumbo and let’s get to the 53 Shawnee National Forest camping areas in and around the forest.
JUMP TO: Shawnee National Forest East Side Campgrounds | Shawnee National Forest West Side Campgrounds | Illinois State Park Campgrounds | Wilderness Area Camping | Underdeveloped Camping | Other Federal Camping | Private Campgrounds | Equestrian Campgrounds
Shawnee National Forest Camping: East Side
Campgrounds ran by the US Forest Service located on the East Side also called Hidden Springs Ranger District:
Redbud Campground is located within Bell Smith Springs Recreation Area. It is a first come, first serve 21 site non-electric campground with pine trees and space in between each site. There is a water spigot and single-person vault toilets on site. Dumpsters are also on site. The campground is $10/night and allowed up to 8 people and 2 vehicles per site. Payment is accepted through a pay tube. No host or worker is available on site, but Forest Service does occasionally drive through the campground.
You can find directions to the site on this Google Map. The GPS Coordinates to this campground is: 37°31’18.0″N 88°39’23.7″W. Redbud Campground is open from March 15 to December 15. During the shotgun hunting season (November and December), hunters usually occupy all the sites. During the closure period, a gate at the campground is closed and locked. There are numerous areas to hike around this area including Bell Smith Springs, Burden Falls and Jackson Falls. The nearest town is Eddyville. For dining, I recommend Shotgun Eddy’s and Murphy’s Pit BBQ.
Camp Cadiz Campground
Camp Cadiz is a campground that was a former Civilian Conservation Corp camp. It is in Hardin County. It is a first come, first service campground with 8-sites non-electric sites. Sites are close to one and another with no trees or anything creating natural privacy. Tent camping is allowed, and this is an equestrian designated campground as well. A water spigot and single-user vault toilet is available at this campground. Camping is $10/night paid using a pay tube (no one site personnel or host available). Two vehicles and up to eight people only at each site. No trash services – pack it in, pack it out.
You can find directions to the site on this Google Map. The GPS Coordinates to this campground is: 37°34’39.3″N 88°14’42.4″W. This campground is open all year round and will likely be full during the shotgun hunting season (November and December). There are numerous areas to hike and horseback ride in the area including Rim Rock, Garden of the Gods Observation Trail, Garden of the Gods Wilderness Area, and a seasonal beach at Pounds Hollow. The nearest town to this campground is Karbers Ridge. For dining, I suggest The Red Onion in Equality and for great ice cream, camping items and more – The Outpost near Garden of the Gods.
Pharaoh Campground is located within the Garden of the Gods Recreation Area. It is a first come, first serve 12-site non-electric campground. There are some trees in between each site giving a little bit of privacy but not on all sites. Tent camping is recommended or use of a small trailer. A maximum of 8 people and 2 vehicles are allowed at each site. Camping is $10/night paid using a pay tube (no one site personnel or host available). A water spigot, vault toilets, fire rings and picnic tables are on site. There is also a day-use only picnic area (no camping) nearby as well. Trash services are available but please pack out your trash when on the trails.
You can find directions to the site on this Google Map. The GPS Coordinates to this campground is: 37°36’10.8″N 88°22’50.6″W. The campground is open all year round but is usually full during warmer months as it is a high trafficked area for tourists. The campground will likely also be full during shotgun hunting season (November and December) as well. There are numerous areas to hike at including Garden of the Gods Recreation Area, Garden of the Gods Wilderness Area, and Indian Point. This campground is in the Village of Herod. For dining, I recommend Mackie’s Pizza in Harrisburg. For ice cream, Shawnee souvenirs and outdoor supplies – check out The Outpost.
Oak Point Campground
Oak Point is located within the Lake Glendale Recreation Area. This campground has a contractual manager, and a host is on site during operations. There are 34-sites with electricity and water available at each of them. There are an additional 25-primitive sites available as well. Single electric sites are $22/night and double electric sites are $44/night. Single non-electric sites are $12/night and double non-electric sites are $24/night. Checkout time is 2:00 PM. Extra fees are included for extra units put on sites. Group camping (tent only, no electrical hookup) is available at this campground. Firewood and ice available for purchase at camp host site. First come, first serve – no reservations can be made apart from shelters (Call: 618-638-3246 for more information).
You can find directions to the site on this Google Map. The GPS Coordinates to this campground is: 37°24’55.1″N 88°40’00.5″W. The campground is open all year round. Showers available in the campground.
The beach is open 7-days a week from Memorial Day weekend to July 31. In August it is only open on the weekends. Labor Day weekend open Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. 6 years old and up is $5. 1 to 5 years old is $3. Under 1 years old is free. Showers and concessions available at the beach. No pets or coolers allowed on the beach. No lifeguard services are available. Boat, Canoe and Kayak rentals available at the beach ($3 to $5). Parking available at the beach.
Lake Glendale has many opportunities to recreate including Hiking and Mountain Biking, Swimming Beach and Dixon Springs State Park is also nearby. The closest city to Lake Glendale is Vienna. For dining, I suggest Vienna Family Diner, Ned’s Shed and Wildfires. Check out The Chocolate Factory across from Dixon Springs State Park for good chocolate and ice cream.
Pine Ridge Campground
Pine Ridge Campground is located within Pounds Hollow Recreation Area. This campground has 13 electric sites and 42 non-electric sites. Electric and non-electric sites are both $10/night and paid via-pay tube, first come-first serve. There is no campground host or on-site personnel present. 8 people are allowed to camp at each site with up to 2 cars. There are water spigots and vault toilets in the campground. Fire rings and picnic tables are present at campsites. Please use trash receptacles and pack out what you pack in when on trails around the campground.
You can find directions to the site on this Google Map. The GPS Coordinates of this campground is at: 37°36’46.1″N 88°16’01.9″W. The campground is open from March 15 to December 15. During the hunting seasons of November and December, you can expect a lot of campers. Summer also sees a lot of tourists in this area and camp spots are taken up quickly. When the campground is closed, gates are closed and locked. There is a beach at this recreation area and its access road is open March 1 to November 1 (open daily 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM). No concessions, showers or lifeguards are on duty at any time. You can hike from the beach area to Rim Rock. Other areas of hiking and recreation nearby include High Knob and Garden of the Gods Recreation Area. The closest town to this campground is Karbers Ridge. For ice cream and more, check out The Outpost. Visit Equality’s famous Red Onion for good food.
Tower Rock Campground
Tower Rock Campground is a FREE campground managed by the Shawnee National Forest. There are 4 sites with fire rings, but more space appears to be present. There is no water or electricity at this campground. A vault toilet is present. There are no campground personnel or a host present. The campground is prone to flooding during heavy rain and river flooding. If flooded, a gate will likely be closed and locked. The campground is right by the Ohio River. Please pack out what you pack in and help keep the Shawnee National Forest clean for everyone to enjoy.
You can find directions to this site on this Google Map. The GPS Coordinates for this campground is located at: 37°27’29.8″N 88°14’00.1″W. The campground appears to be opened all year round unless flooding is occurring. The nearest city to this campground is Elizabethtown. The E-Town River Restaurant is famous for its seafood and defiantly worth checking out. There is a hiking trail located at the campground with views of the river. You can also check out the nearby Cave-In-Rock State Park.
Shawnee National Forest Camping: West Side
Campgrounds ran by the US Forest Service located on the West Side also called Mississippi Bluffs Ranger District:
Johnson Creek Campground
Johnson Creek Campground is located within the Kinkaid Lake area of the Shawnee National Forest. There are 20 non-electric sites. A single site is $10/night, double site is $12/night, and a triple site is $15/night. Up to 8 people and 2 vehicle max per site. This is an equestrian approved campground with areas for stock animals, highlines and hitching posts available. Payments are made through a pay tube. There are no campground personnel or a host on-site at any time. Trash, water spigot and vault toilets are available within this campground. Please pack out what you pack in when on the trails. There is lake access with a boat ramp as well. No boat rentals are available at this site.
You can find directions to this site on this Google Map. The GPS Coordinates for this campground are at: 37°50’00.8″N 89°31’08.0″W. The campground is open from March 15 to December 15. The boat launch and picnic area are open all year round. Campground is first come, first serve. The nearest town to this campground is Murphysboro. Hiking is available at Kinkaid Lake and Little Grand Canyon nearby. We recommend eating at Bunmakers in Murphysboro for great breakfast.
Turkey Bayou Campground
Turkey Bayou Campground is a FREE campground located in the Oakwood Bottoms area of the Shawnee National Forest. The campground is maintained by volunteers of the Friends of the Bayou. There are 16 sites at this campground with no water, electricity, or vault toilet present. This area frequently floods during heavy rain or river flooding as it sits right next to the Big Muddy River. Sometimes a porta-potty is present at the campground. There is a 14-day max stay limit attached to this campground issues by the US Forest Service. This is no campground host or on-site personnel present. Visitors can fish off the banks of this campground. Illinois fishing license is required. During hunting season – expect this campground to be full. First come, first serve.
You can find directions to this site on this Google Map. The GPS Coordinates for this campground is located at: 37°41’05.2″N 89°24’39.4″W. The campground is open all year round but may be closed during flood conditions. The nearest community is Grand Tower, and it is recommended that you dine at Bottoms Up in Jacob. You can hike trails located within the Oakwood Bottoms area as well as Inspiration Point, Snake Road and Trail of Tears State Forest.
Pine Hills Campground
Pine Hills Campground is a 13-site non-electric campground located near the LaRue Pine Hills Natural Area. The campground costs $10/night with up to 8 people and 2 vehicles per site. Each site has a fire ring and a picnic table. There are some trees separating each site from one and another. Trash cans are available at the campground (pack in pack out on trails) and there are vault toilets present as well. There are no water spigots or electricity. Payment is done by pay tube as no host or personnel is on site. The campground is first come, first serve and will likely be full during hunting season (November and December) and during annual migrations of Snake Road.
You can find directions to this site on this Google Map. GPS Coordinates for this campground is located at: 37°30’52.4″N 89°25’23.4″W. The campground is open all year round. The nearest community is Wolf Lake. For dining, we recommend Whiffle Boys Pizza in Anna. There is a hiking trail in the campground called White Pine Trail. You should also check out Snake Road if you camp there during the migration and you like snakes.
Shawnee National Forest Camping: State Park Camping
Campgrounds ran by the State of Illinois and mainly within State Parks:
Cave-In-Rock Campground is located within Cave-In-Rock State Park. There are 34 Class A sites that rent for $20 a night, and $30 a night on holiday weekends/weekdays (Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day). Each is equipped with electricity and can accommodate units up to 60-feet long. Twenty-five Class B/S tent sites also are available for $10 a night, and showers, restrooms and dumping stations are present in both camping areas. Each site has a grill. There are vault toilets in the campground. Camp site fees and permits can be paid at the camp host site or to the park superintendent. Accessible sites are also available.
You can find directions to this site on this Google Map. GPS Coordinates to this site are located at: 37°28’16.4″N 88°09’27.3″W. There are hiking trails located within the State Park. The park had a lodge that is recommended for dining. The main feature of the area is the Cave which is a large deep natural cave-shelter that site right next to the Ohio River (on the coastal line). During river flooding, the cave will be inaccessible. The cave was used by River Pirates and outlaws and one time, and it and the surrounding area has a unique but grim history.
Rauchfuss Hill Campground
Rauchfuss Hill Campground is located near the Golconda Marina. There are 15 modern sites and 15 tent sites available. This campground has recently been reopened but there is little information available about it at this time. Fees and dates of use are currently unknown. There are picnic tables, grills, and water spigots on site. There are also vault toilets and trash receptacles. Please pack out what you pack in when on the trails.
You can find directions to this site on this Google Map. GPS Coordinates to this site is located at: 37°22’33.9″N 88°29’12.6″W. There are short hiking trails located in the recreational area with excellent views of the Ohio River. The nearest community is Golconda. I recommend eating at Diver Down in Golconda for some very good food. The Golconda Riverfront is also a nice walk with plenty of views as well.
Dixon Springs Campground
Dixon Springs Campground is located within Dixon Springs State Park. There are 23 sites including a Class B Trailer area with sanitary dumping stations and electricity. A tent camping area is provided for primitive camping without water and electricity. There are vault toilets, trash cans and grills at the campground. Reservations can be made online at this link or you can pay the fee to the camp personnel. Cabins and group camping is also available at the park.
You can find directions to this site on this Google Map. The GPS Coordinates to this site are located at: 37°22’59.3″N 88°40’04.2″W. There are numerous things to do at the park including a public swimming pool which opens during the warmer months. There are numerous hiking trails at Dixon Springs State Park as well and there are even designated mountain bike trails. Across the park is The Chocolate Factory which has amazing chocolate treats and ice cream. Golconda Dairy Bar is a good place to eat nearby to the park.
Fort Massac Campground
Fort Massac Campground is located within Fort Massac State Park. This 50 Class A site campground includes electricity at all sites, a dumping station, and a shower house. Camping reservations can be made online at this link or through park personnel within the State Park.
You can find directions to this site on this Google Map. The GPS Coordinates to this site are located at: 37°08’48.1″N 88°42’39.4″W. There are many different things to do in the park including a 10-mile rail trail for biking and foot travel, a replica fort and walking paths. Visit the City of Metropolis for more to do including visiting the Superman Statue and Superman Museum. Eat at Fat Ed’s for good food and get some great breakfast at Frosted by Mollie’s.
Ferne Clyffe Campground
Ferne Clyffe Campground is in Ferne Clyffe State Park. There are 36 sites including electric and non-electric, backpacking, and equestrian and group camping as well. Drinking water, flush toilets, water spigots, sanitary dumping stations and a shower house are also available. Sites are very separated by trees especially in the backpacking and tent camping areas. Sites include grills and picnic tables. You can pay at the campground or reserve some sites online at this link.
You can find directions to this site on this Google Map. The GPS Coordinates to this site are located at: 37°32’09.9″N 88°58’33.1″W. There is a lot to do in the park including a pond for fishing (no boat or swimming), miles and miles of hiking trails, horseback riding trails, a nature preserve, scenic overlooks and a lot of waterfalls. The River-to-River Trail also runs through this park. The nearest community is Goreville. Check out Whiffle Boy’s Pizza in Goreville for some great food.
Horseshoe Lake Campground
Horseshoe Lake Campground is located at Horseshoe Lake Conservation Area. There are 38 Class A camping sites with electricity and showers, 40 Class B/E camping sites with electricity only, and 10 Class C sites available for overnight guests. There are grills, picnic tables and vault toilets available at the camp sites.
You can find directions to this site on this Google Map. The GPS Coordinates to this site are located at: 37°08’13.7″N 89°20’46.4″W. There is plenty to do at the park including hiking and bike trails, fishing, kayaking/canoeing, and a lot of good, paved road for road biking opportunities. I highly recommend eating at Horseshoe Bar & Grill for awesome tasting food.
Giant City Campground
Giant City is a popular weekend retreat because of its varied and well-kept campground facilities. There are 85 campsites in the Class A Campground which provides water, electricity, showers and sanitary facilities for tent and trailer camping. The shower building in the Class A site closes the day after the first shotgun deer season (weather depending) and re-opens April 1st. A separate Class A equestrian campground is located off the horse trail in the southwest corner of the park. Camping reservations may be made for Class A sites, visit the ExploreMoreIL web site for reservations. Campers without a reservation may register upon arrival with the “silent host” self-registration system. A Class C camping area is located at the south end of the campground and offers 14 walking sites, for those who prefer a more primitive setting. Outdoor privies, fire rings and access to showers are provided. The trailhead to the Red Cedar trail is located nearby for those who wish to hike 6 miles to the primitive “Red Cedar Campsite”. Pre-registration is required at the Visitor Center or with the camp host. For those campers who arrive without a reservation, we ask that you choose an unoccupied site that does not have a reservation permit on the campsite post. Once a site has been selected, you may see the Camp Host, if on duty, for a site permit. If the Host is not available, please complete the Self Registration permit, located at the front of the campground and deposit payment if the drop box.
You can find directions to this site on this Google Map. The GPS Coordinates to this site are located at: 37°36’24.7″N 89°10’03.4″W. There is a lot to do in the state park including many hiking trails, lots of roads for road biking and all sorts of scenic lookout areas. The Village of Makanda is nearby with awesome and unique stores. There are tons of diverse and unique dining options in the nearby City of Carbondale.
Trail of Tears Campground
Trail of Tears Campground is in the Trail of Tears State Forest. Both Class C (tent camping with vehicle access) and Class D (backpack) camping sites are available at Trail of Tears State Forest. Some locations have log shelters with adjacent privies. Group camping is available at a few sites. The forest’s gravel roads are closed to vehicles from December 24 through the end of the spring wild turkey hunting season (generally the second week in May). All camping access is by foot only during that period (Class D). For information on group camping or special access concerns (during the winter-spring months) contact the site superintendent headquarters at (618-833-4910). Reservations can be made online as well.
You can find directions to this site on this Google Map. The GPS Coordinates to this site are located at: 37°29’06.2″N 89°21’32.0″W. The park offers many different hiking trails and even an old fire tower (you can’t go up it, sadly). There are plenty of dining options available in the nearby City of Anna.
Devil’s Backbone Campground
Devil’s Backbone Campground is in Devil’s Backbone State Park. There are various RV and tent sites available. According to this site, RV sites are $45/night and tent sites are $30/night. Grills, picnic tables, water spigots, rest rooms and playgrounds are available within the state park. The park is right beside the Mississippi River and is one of the ends (or beginning) portions of the River-to-River Trail.
You can find directions to this site on this Google Map. The GPS Coordinates to this site are located at: 37°38’18.9″N 89°30’42.8″W. There are some walking paths available at the park. The closest community to this park is Grand Tower. Bottoms Up is a great place nearby for dining.
Lake Murphysboro Campground
Lake Murphysboro Campground is located within Lake Murphysboro State Park. Well-equipped campsites located in scenic areas of the park provide the perfect opportunity to extend your stay at Lake Murphysboro. Campers who want to truly experience nature will appreciate the 20 tent sites. Those who love nature, but like the comfort of home, will prefer the 54 trailer sites that are equipped with electricity. Three Class A handicapped sites and one Class B/S handicapped site are available. A sanitary disposal station is located near the trailer area. All campers must obtain a permit from the site office. Reservations can be made at ExploreMoreIL.
You can find directions to this site on this Google Map. The GPS Coordinates to this site are located at: 37°46’40.6″N 89°23’05.0″W. The park has much to do including hiking trails, paved road for road biking and fishing/boating opportunities. The closest city is Murphysboro and there are plenty of dining options available there.
Pyramid State Park Campground
Pyramid State Park Campground is located within Pyramid State Park. Tent and trailer camping are permitted at designated camping areas only at Pyramid SRA. There are three Class C camping areas, Class D hike-in campsites, a small equestrian camp and a youth group camping area. Water and a trailer dump station are available near the site office. There are no electrical hookups in the camping areas.
You can find directions to this site on this Google Map. The GPS Coordinates to this site are located at: 38°02’23.8″N 89°24’14.7″W. There are over 16-miles of hiking, mountain biking and equestrian trails. There is plenty of fishing and hunting opportunities as well. The closest town to this campground is Pinckneyville. There are quite a few places for dining there as well as in the nearby Du Quoin. I recommend St. Nicks Brewing Company for great food and drinks. Please drink responsibly!
Wayne Fitzgerrell Campground
Wayne Fitzgerrell Campground is in the Rend Lake area. Wayne Fitzgerrell SRA has 17 tent sites to accommodate primitive campers who relish a rustic outdoor experience. Those who want a few more amenities will want to take advantage of the 243 modern campsites, which offer electrical hookups and sanitary facilities. Three shower buildings are available for campers. Campers should register with the Campground Host upon arrival. The fee for camping is $20 per night for sites with electricity, or $6 per night for a primitive site. There is an additional $10 fee added to the camping fee during the Memorial Day, July 4th (if the holiday falls on a Fri, Sat, Sun, or Monday), and Labor Day holidays. The campground remains available on a first-come, first-served basis which gives everyone equal opportunity for campsites. Campsite map and reservations for Wayne Fitzgerrell SRA can be made online at ExploreMoreIL.
You can find directions to this site on this Google Map. The GPS Coordinates to this site are located at: 38°05’25.6″N 88°56’51.8″W. There are loads to do at Rend Lake including fishing, archery, game harvesting, bicycling and mountain biking, hiking, boating/kayak/canoeing, picnicking and more. The closest town is Benton where there is a lot of different dining options available. Be sure to drive up to Sesser and get the famous Custard Stand frozen custard treat.
Randolph County Campground
Randolph County Campground is located at the Randolph County State Recreation Area. Fifty-one Class BE campsites, 95 Class C campsites, an equestrian site with eight stalls for horses, and four Class D (primitive) campsites are available throughout the area. A group camp area has its own shelter, stone fireplace, electricity, and tables. Some campsites at Randolph County SRA can be reserved online through the ExploreMoreIL website.
You can find directions to this site on this Google Map. The GPS Coordinates to this site are located at: 37°58’20.4″N 89°48’15.4″W. Aside from camping, there are many of features in this area including hiking, fishing, metal detecting and more. The closest town is Chester and there are plenty of places for dining there.
Shawnee National Forest Camping: Wilderness
Wilderness areas in the Shawnee National Forest allow dispersed camping. Please make sure you follow the Wilderness Regulations.
Bay Creek Wilderness
Bay Creek Wilderness is a Designated Wilderness Area within the Shawnee National Forest. Consisting of 2,866-acres, Bay Creek Wilderness is in rural Pope County, Illinois. Bay Creek Wilderness also borders the Burden Falls Wilderness Area. Bay Creek Wilderness is managed by the US Forest Service for the Shawnee National Forest. Bay Creek Wilderness is a part of the Hidden Springs Ranger District.
There is no real access to this Wilderness aside from a few points. You can access trails into Bay Creek Wilderness by parking on the side of the road about an eighth of a mile southwest on Ozark Road past Mc Cornick/Burden Falls Road. You should see the ‘Bay Creek Wilderness’ sign at the start of the trail. One could also access the wilderness area by parking at the Burden Falls Trailhead on Mc Cormick/Burden Falls Road and crossing the road to get into the wilderness area.
Burden Falls Wilderness
Burden Falls Wilderness is a Designated Wilderness Area within the Shawnee National Forest. This wilderness area consists of 3,775-acres and is in northwestern Pope County and southwestern Saline County, Illinois. Burden Falls Wilderness is managed by the US Forest Service for the Shawnee National Forest. This wilderness area is a part of the Hidden Springs Ranger District.
There are multiple trailheads for Burden Falls Wilderness including: Waterfall Trailhead: Located about an eighth of a mile on Mc Cormick/Burden Falls Road from Ozark Road is the parking lot for the waterfall area of the wilderness. The gravel parking lot can fit about 8-10 vehicles. Mc Cormick Trail: Located on Ozark Road about an eighth of a mile west before Mc Cormick/Burden Falls Road. Parking is on the side of the road. There is a ‘Burden Falls Wilderness’ sign on the start of the trail next to a pond with another gated trail across the road from it. Burden Falls Wilderness Trailhead: Located about a mile east from the waterfall trailhead is another trailhead with limited parking capabilities. You will see a wilderness sign at the parking area. Caney Branch Trailhead: Located about a mile east of the Burden Falls Trailhead listed above is the Caney Branch Trailhead with limited parking capabilities. Signs for Burden Falls Wilderness and Caney Branch Barrens are present on this trailhead. Murray Bluff Trailhead: Burden Falls Wilderness could be accessed from the Murray Bluff Trailhead. Users would go up the trail and through Buzzards Roost Hollow and south of that to get into the Caney Branch area of Burden Falls Wilderness. Parking is limited to the side of the road here. Other access points to Burden Falls Wilderness can be found on the nearby Apple Road a few miles from the Ozark Road turnoff although these sections are rarely used and will likely be heavily grown up during the warmer months. Parking in those areas will be on side of the road.
Clear Springs Wilderness
Clear Springs Wilderness is a 4,730-acre designated wilderness area within the Shawnee National Forest located in rural southwestern Jackson and northwestern Union counties in Illinois. Clear Springs Wilderness is the most wester wilderness area in the Shawnee National Forest. The closest communities to Clear Springs Wilderness are Wolf Lake to the south and Grand Tower to the north. Clear Springs Wilderness is close to the Big Muddy River as well as the Mississippi River.
To reach Clears Springs Wilderness, from Route 3 around Murphysboro-drive south until you cross the Big Muddy River south of Grand Tower. Take your immediate left after crossing the Big Muddy River onto Muddy Levee Road which levees Big Muddy from agriculture on the other side. Drive to the T and turn left and then take your next right onto Pine Hills Road. Drive up the road until you get to the first trailhead on your left which is Godwin-West and the start of Clear Spring Wilderness Area.
Bald Knob Wilderness
Bald Knob Wilderness is a 5,973-acre designated wilderness area within the Shawnee National Forest. This wilderness area is in the Mississippi Bluffs Ranger District in rural northwestern Union County, Illinois. Most of the land acquired within the Shawnee Purchase Units took place in the 1930s when the National Forest was being established. Bald Knob Wilderness is managed by the US Forest Service for the Shawnee National Forest.
There are two Trailheads for this area which are Godwin-East and Bald Knob Trail: Godwin East Trailhead: Take Rt. 127 to Alto Pass, follow signs to Bald Knob Cross. It is 6 miles from Rt. 127. Trailhead is approx. 100 yards off the road at the edge of the tree line. This is the best way to access the wilderness area. There is enough room to park a few vehicles. Horse trailer parking will be very challenging at this location. Bald Knob Trailhead: Take Rt. 127 to Alto Pass to Brown Section Road. Go 1.6 miles to Rhine Road. There is a sign and pull-off for parking. In the summer months, the trail is usually very grown up in this section. Most of the trail up to the cross is uphill and steep in some places. This area would likely be the best area to access from a horse trailer.
Panther Den Wilderness
Panther Den Wilderness is a 1,195-acre designated wilderness area within the Shawnee National Forest. Panther Den Wilderness is the smallest wilderness area within the Shawnee National Forest. Panther Den Wilderness is in rural Union County. The nearest community from Panther Den Wilderness is Carbondale. Panther Den Wilderness is well known for its hiking and equestrian use activities.
There is one trailhead for Panther Den Wilderness, and it is located at the end of a very narrow gravel Panther Den Lane off the Panther Den Road (note: two different roads that share a common name). While on the lane, note the gated private property to your left as you approach the parking lot. Please respect private property. Do not park on the lane itself and do not leave your trash in this area. There are no trash services – pack it in, pack it out. No restrooms are at the trailhead.
Garden of the Gods Wilderness
Garden of the Gods Wilderness is a 3,318-acre designated wilderness area within the Shawnee National Forest. Garden of the Gods Wilderness is in Hardin, Pope, Saline and Gallatin counties in Illinois. The nearest communities close to Garden of the Gods Wilderness is Equality and Harrisburg, both having points of interests on their own. Garden of the Gods Wilderness is very well known to both hiker and equestrian users alike.
Observation Trail – The marked location on the map is where the Observation Trail is which is also called Camel Point on the Google map. Anvil Rock Trailhead – You park in the same parking lot for Camel Point but go in to where the horse high line is (rocks blocking vehicle access) and go right. You will see the sign. *Note: The parking lot for the two trail areas above is for day-use only. Overnight parking is not allowed there. Area is patrolled by county sheriff’s department as well as US Forest Service law enforcement. Vehicles parked overnight will be towed at the owners’ expense. Equestrians can ride from the wilderness into the recreation area to the horse high line only. Horse trailers are not allowed to park at the parking lot as it is a recreational area. Garden of the Gods Backpackers Parking Lot – On the map, this area is before the Observation Trail. You can park overnight for free (no permit needed at this time) in the backpackers parking lot. The trail at this parking lot is called Indian Point. Golden Circle Trailhead – This is on the map and offers car and horse trailer parking. There is significant room for horse trailers. Cars must be parked by the sign. Overnight parking is allowed here. See the sign for area trails. Eagle Creek / Hitching Post Trailhead – This trailhead is also on the Google Map but located west of the main area in the small town of Herod. Cars and horse trailers may park here and use the parking lot for overnight parking. See the sign for a map of the area trails.
Lusk Creek Wilderness
Lusk Creek Wilderness is a 6,293-acre designated wilderness area within the Shawnee National Forest. Lusk Creek Wilderness is the largest wilderness area for the National Forest. Lusk Creek Wilderness is in rural Pope County, Illinois. The nearest community to Lusk Creek Wilderness is Eddyville. Lusk Creek Wilderness is best known for its hiking and equestrian trails.
The main trailheads for Lusk Creek Wilderness: Lusk Creek Trailhead– This trailhead is located across from Circle B Horse campground on Straight Street near Eddyville. There are no trash services at this trailhead. There is a vault-toilet styled restroom and both car and horse trailer parking availability. Indian Kitchen Trailhead– This trailhead is located across from the Lusk Creek Wilderness on Indian Kitchen Road near Eddyville. There are no trash services at this trailhead. There is a vault-toilet styled restroom and car parking. Franks Tract– This trailhead is in a remote portion of the Lusk Creek Wilderness area on Stone Bottoms Road from Straight Street near Eddyville. Please use caution on this gravel road as there are people who live on it. There are no trash services, no restrooms and limited parking. Horse trailers often use this area for parking, but cars are welcome to. Lusk Creek Access– This trailhead is located on Eddyville Blacktop near Eddyville. The parking lot is by the steel bridge. This is where you can launch a kayak or canoe into Lusk Creek. There is adequate parking but no trash services or restrooms. This area is for day-use only. The old launch and equestrian trails on Ragan Road are not recommended. The road itself is very rough. The trails to Rock House go through private property. The landowner, SIU-C, has not officially gave permission to access the land. Using it is technically trespass and you are encouraged not to use it.
Shawnee National Forest Camping: Undeveloped Areas
Other areas around the Shawnee National Forest that could be utilized for camping.
Jackson Falls Camping
Jackson Falls in the Shawnee National Forest is a popular gem among many different user groups. There are numerous hiking and equestrian trails within and around Jackson Falls, it is a climbing and bouldering paradise, this is often a most preferred spot for chasing waterfalls, camping is allowed here and the nice gravel road to the site is perfect for gravel cyclists and jeepers to enjoy. Jackson Falls is truly a special spot in the Shawnee National Forest.
While on Ozark Road, look for Glen St Falls Road. There should be signs on each side of the road with directional arrows listing Jackson Falls. The road is a narrow gravel road that looks like someone’s driveway, but it is a road that everyone can use. The road does dead end on private property past Jackson Falls for your information.
Honey Hole Area Camping
Honey Hole in the Shawnee National Forest is a trailhead made popular by hunters and equestrians. It is an option for overnight parking so that you could backpack and camp in the National Forest around you. There are numerous trails in the area including the River-to-River Trail. This area is also historically the site of Miller Grove, a free black community where former slaves could live without fear of being enslaved again. There are numerous Underground Railroad sites in the area as well.
To access Honey Hole, go to this GPS Coordinates 37°29’24.5″N 88°38’27.2″W or this Google Map for directions. Take the short gravel road to the trailhead. It is advised to have a map or app to access the hiker/horse trails in this area.
East Trigg Camping
Traveling east from the Post Office in Ozark, Illinois – continue for about 4 miles until you get to the T. Turn right onto Trigg Tower Road and continue for about 2.5 miles until you reach East Trigg Trailhead on your right past the Jack Davis horse camp area. The trailhead is a big gravel parking lot where the River-to-River trail crosses it. You’ll see the trailhead sign in the parking lot close to the trail. After you park, cross the road and continue down the River-to-River Trail until you reach a trail fork with 001T on your left. You will want to take 001T and stay on the trails that edge the bluffage. This is called Cove Hollow, not to be confused with Cove Hollow at Cedar Lake on the West Side of the Shawnee National Forest. You can backcountry camp in many of these areas.
Golden Circle Camping
Golden Circle Trailhead is near Garden of the Gods in the Shawnee National Forest. There are numerous hiking and horseback riding trails in this area. There are many places to camp in the area as well. I highly recommend using the Multi-Day Hiking Bundle for the Avenza app to help plan your overnight stay in the backcountry after parking in this area.
Directions can be found on this map and GPS Coordinates are at: 37°36’14.8″N 88°21’51.4″W.
One Horse Gap Camping
Camping along Benham Hill Road at One Horse Gap is a favored area among hunters is practically anyone can utilize these sites for camping as well. You could also park at the trailhead and hike along the River-to-River trail and camp within the backcountry, too!
Shawnee National Forest Camping: Other Federal Camping
Other campgrounds within federal public land management agencies.
Crab Orchard Campground
Crab Orchard Campground is managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. You can find more information about camping there at this link. The campground is open April 1 to October 30. Each site limits up to 2 vehicles and up to 8 people. There is a beach open Memorial Day Weekend to Labor Day Weekend from 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM. You can only swim at the beach and nowhere else on the lake. There is no reservation system – first come, first serve. Full hookup is $25/day ($145/week). Electric/Water is $20/day ($120/week). Electric is $15/day ($90/week). Non-electric is $10/day ($60/week).
Devil’s Kitchen Campground
This campground has 8 primitive sites with a shower house available. Find it at 1625 Tacoma Lake Road Marion, IL 62959 / (618) 997-3345. $10/day and $40/group.
Little Grassy Lake Campground
Full electric and water hookup camping is available. Check out this link for more information. Online reservation is possible – you must reserve two nights minimum. Campground is open from March to November. Full hookup is $30/night to $35/night. Other sites are $25/night. Call 618-457-6655 for more information.
Rend Lake Campground
Nearly 800 primitive and full hookup campsites in 5 public campgrounds are available at this campground.
Shawnee National Forest Camping: Privately Owned Campgrounds
Privately owned campgrounds near the Shawnee National Forest and around southern Illinois.
Benton KOA Journey
Benton, Illinois – website. This campground is open all year round. Reservation available online and by phone at 800-562-8619. There are over 50 sites available including full hook-up and even primitive tent camping sites. This is close to Rend Lake Recreational Area.
Goreville, Illinois – (618) 995-9130. Nightly rate is $30.00. Power and sewer available. Clean restrooms. Nearby recreation includes Ferne Clyffe State Park and Tunnel Hill State Trail. Goreville is the closest community and features restaurants, ATM, grocery, and fuel stations.
Four Seasons Campground
Herrin, Illinois – website. 31 full hook-up sites. 14 pull-through sites. Storm shelter on site! Shower house, laundry services, fast Wi-Fi, and handicap accessible. Dump stations. Also 4 cabins for rent on site as well. For questions or reservations please call 618 942-2069 or e-mail at [email protected]. Herrin City Park is nearby which includes many features including a public swimming pool, various sport ball courts and a walking/running path. Nearby City of Herrin offers many dining and shopping opportunities.
Shawnee Forest Campground
Vienna, Illinois – website (Close to Tunnel Hill State Trail). All 60 sites are full hook-up with electricity, water, and sewer. $40.00 per night. New bath houses. Fire rings and picnic tables. Laundry facilities. Two miles of walking path and close to 45-mile Tunnel Hill State Trail for cycling, running, and hiking. Close to Vienna with plenty of dining options. Check out Wildfire, Family Diner, Ned’s Shed or Family Pizza to get a local dining experience.
Eddyville, Illinois – Facebook (Close the River-to-River Trail). $15/night $75/week. Electric, sewer, water, and garbage on site. Firewood available on site. Catering to RVs, tent campers, hunters, motorcycles, bicycling, and equestrian users. Check out Shotgun Eddy’s right by this campground for awesome food, beverage, and events.
Main Brothers Campground
Karnak, Illinois – website (Right on the Tunnel Hill State Trail-Southernmost Portion). Campground is right next to Karnak-Trailhead for Tunnel Hill State Trail providing cyclists with an easy camping option. Single tent $10/night or double $15/night for primitive camping. $21/night for single tent and $26/night for double tent on electric sites. RV with electric is $21/night – with sewer and electric is $24/night. For Reservations, please email/call the office of the Village of Karnak at [email protected] or 618-634-9311. If no one is available please leave your name, number, the time you would wish to stay with us and if you are looking for RV or tent camping. Someone will call you on the next business day! A dollar store is nearby, and the Tunnel Hill State Trail is next to the campground for biking, running and hiking recreational activities.
Shawnee National Forest Camping: Privately Owned Equestrian Campgrounds
Privately owned equestrian (horse and mule) campgrounds around the Shawnee National Forest and southern Illinois.
Bay Creek Ranch
Simpson & Eddyville areas – website. Please call 618-695-2670 to make a reservation. Open all year long.
Eddyville area – website. Bear Branch is now Wi-Fi equipped; 80 campsites with water and electricity; a heated and air-conditioned shower house and laundry; and cabins and lodging are with private baths, except the Rawhide Cabin. Campers must provide their own linen for the beds. Please ask the bed size of the cabin you are renting to be sure of the correct sheet size. Information on Reservations. Also offers guided horse-riding experiences using their own horses. This is one the friendliest horse camps I have personally encountered.
Eddyville area – website. Hayes Canyon Campground has 34 RV campsites available for rent for a day, weekend, week, or longer! Reservations are recommended, especially during peak seasons and holiday weekends, when we often are fully booked months in advance.
Circle B Ranch
Eddyville area – Maps. Not much information can be found online. (618) 672-4748.
High Knob Campground
High Knob Campground is nestled inside the beautiful Shawnee National Forest, spread over 50 acres. Our 165 campsites consist of both permanent campsites and tourist campsites, which all include water and electricity. Open year round. Recreation nearby includes horse trails and hiking at High Knob, Thacker Hollow and Garden of the Gods Wilderness Area. The campground owner is someone you just want to meet at least once! Potential opportunity for R2R thru-hikers to camp on site. Be sure to stop by the camp store and shop local.
Double M Campground
Some of the nicest folks you’ll ever meet. This awesome equine campground welcomes everyone whether you ride a horse or not. They have an awesome restaurant within the campground. Over 200 campsites and cabins available. Near Pounds Hollow/Rim Rock, Cadiz, and Thacker Hollow area. See their website for more information.
Cedar Lake Campground
Family-friendly 128-acre facility with a 25-acre lake and 200+ campsites. Bordered on two sides by the Shawnee National Forest. Check out their Facebook page for more information.
618-922-3925. Little information provided on their website.
Little Lusk Campground
Campground includes six lodge rooms, 50 campsites, and numerous campsite amenities. Our spacious campground has a beautiful Event Barn for special gatherings, free highlines behind campsites to accommodate your horses, nearby lakes for fishing, miles of hiking trails, amazing horse-riding adventures, and much more. We offer laundry facilities for $5 and a bathhouse on-site. We also offer firewood, hay, shavings, and ice for all your camping needs. We welcome both your horses and your other pets. See more on their website.
Thanks for checking out my extensive article on the 53 camping areas in and around the Shawnee National Forest and southern Illinois. If you see a campground that is missing, contact me and I’ll get it added. Let’s grow this article even bigger!
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Shawn J. Gossman
Shawn is the founder and host of the YouTube Channel, Hiking with Shawn as well as Hiking with Shawn LLC. Shawn hikes, backpacks and visits various forested areas in the Shawnee National Forest, local state parks and other areas promoting outdoor recreational activities to obtain video to show to locals and non-locals alike. Please support Shawn’s efforts by sharing this post and leaving a comment below.