Best Shawnee Forest Biking Locations
Are you searching for the best Shawnee Forest biking locations?
Look no further.
The Shawnee National Forest is a great cycling destination for all sorts of biker riders.
Whether you’re into shredding down mountain bike trails, pleasant, easy-going bike paths, or hillier road biking adventures – we got something for every cyclist. And don’t forget gravel biking, too.
I’m an avid cyclist. Biking is what got me into hiking, to begin with. I love riding my bikes and encouraging others to go cycling, too.
So let me have the honor of telling you some of the best Shawnee Forest cycling and biking locations in the Southern Illinois region.
Best Shawnee Forest Biking Locations for Mountain Biking
The Shawnee National Forest and Southern Illinois area have fantastic mountain biking trails for everyone to enjoy.
Lake Glendale Mountain Bike Trails
Lake Glendale is the first area designated for mountain bike use in the Shawnee National Forest.
There are over 15 miles of trail, including a trail around the lake.
Trails range from easy to technical in some spots. Less aggressive riders may have to dismount and walk their bikes across creeks and up hills.
Enjoy the legacy Shawnee Challenge for a 10+ mile out-and-back ride.
The lake also has a campground (tent and electric), kayaking, a beach, and hiking opportunities.
Dixon Springs State Park Mountain Bike Trails
Dixon Springs State Park has designated mountain bike trails that connect with Lake Glendale’s tail system.
There is a total of under 20 miles for Lake Glendale and Dixon Springs.
The trails on the state park side are very well kept, and there are some great areas of bluffs, creeks, and even waterfalls for visitors to see.
You can also start a Dixon Springs for the legacy Shawnee Challenge if you want to.
Dixon Springs also has camping, a public swimming pool, waterfalls, hiking trails, and more. Also, check out the Chocolate Factory across the street from the park for great treats and ice cream.
Touch of Nature Mountain Bike Trails
Touch of Nature is the ultimate experience for local area mountain biking.
Southern Illinois University manages the Touch of Nature Mountain Bike Trails. This trail system is right near Giant City State Park.
There are over 10 miles of well-maintained mountain bike trails for all ages and difficulty levels. These are mountain bike trails built by mountain bike riders. It’s like going to a professional bike park.
You can also hike the trails if you prefer.
Giant City and Makanda are nearby if you want more outdoor activities and tourism. Be sure to stop by the Giant City Lodge for great dining options.
Rend Lake Mountain Bike Trails
Rend Lake isn’t exactly in the Shawnee National Forest, but it is still worth mentioning.
There are about 5 or 6 miles of the 12 miles planned for Rend Lake mountain bike trails. These are easy-going single-track trails with minimal elevation gain. They’re perfect for beginners or folks who don’t want it to be too strenuous.
These trails need love as they’re not as maintained as they once were. Locals in the area are trying to revitalize them, but they can use your help.
Enjoy camping, boating, swimming, and more at Rend Lake.
Best Shawnee Forest Biking Locations for Easy Path Biking
Some of the best Shawnee Forest biking locations are bike paths and easygoing trails, which are spread across the region.
Glen O Jones Lake Bike Path
The Glen O Jones Lake bike bath is a 5-mile path from the lake to almost Equality.
This path is wide, closed to motor vehicles, and mostly paved. Some gravel spots are on the trail, and you must share a backroad in one section.
These trails are great for easygoing biking. They’re not that hilly, either.
Glen O Jones Lake has camping, small boat and kayaking opportunities, hiking trails, and more.
Tunnel Hill State Trail
Tunnel Hill State Trail has to be one of my favorite places to bike.
It is a 55+ mile rail trail that features ghost towns, a tunnel you ride through, several trestles, and scenic forests. The trail is closed to motor vehicles. However, it’s popular among cyclists and runners.
This is an excellent trail for everyone, including families with young children. The elevation is mild, too.
The most popular segment is Vienna to Tunnel Hill. Most of the trail is crushed limestone, with some concrete sections around Harrisburg.
George Rogers Clark Bike Trail
The George Rogers Clark American Discovery Trail is a 7-mile rail-trail located at Fort Massac State Park in Metropolis, Illinois.
The entire trail is paved and can be used by almost all types of bicycles, including eBikes.
Enjoy scenic views of the Ohio River and the forested portions of the state park.
Fort Massac State Park offers camping, nature viewing, hiking, a replica fort, and picnicking.
Red Lake Bike Path
Rend Lake Bike Trail is a 20-mile, mainly paved dedicated bike and foot trail located at Rend Lake.
This is an excellent trail for all types of cyclists.
Riders can enjoy access to the lake, beach, and campgrounds and view various natural settings around the recreational area.
Rend Lake offers camping, boating, picnicking, and more.
Best Shawnee Forest Biking Locations for Road Biking
There are plenty of great spots for road biking in the Shawnee National Forest and southern Illinois. These are just a few of my favorites.
Gian City State Park
Giant City State Park is one of my favorite places to enjoy a road bike ride.
There are miles of paved roads within the park and around Makanda to enjoy. I’ve never seen any issues with bad drivers, either. Everyone typically drives slowly on the lookout for park users and hikers.
The area is hilly, and there are some hills that you might have to get off a push the bike up, such as the challenging “wall” in Makanda.
Enjoy the state park for lodging, dining, and hiking opportunities.
Shawnee Hills Wine Trail
Shawnee Hills Wine Trail is an excellent route for road biking.
About 40 miles of road are well-marked for visiting the wineries and vineyards.
You’ll enjoy this route if you want to bike and stop by the wineries. In addition, many road cyclists enjoy stopping at wine locations for drinks, food, and entertainment.
There are numerous little towns along the way worth stopping in to see what they offer and the landmarks to check out.
Route 76 Bike Trail
Part of the Route 76 Bike Trail goes through southern Illinois and the Shawnee National Forest.
Over 130 miles of paved back roads and highways starting at Cave-in-Rock and went to the Chester bridge into Missouri. This will be a good route if you’re looking for a long bike ride with some challenging hills.
Usually, on an annual basis, a Ride Illinois-sponsored bike ride occurs along this route. There is typically sag support, too.
There is a lot to see along this route, too.
Kawana’s Superman Route
Each year in Metropolis, the Kawana’s put on a 15, 30, and 60-mile road bike ride.
It’s one of the best-organized charity rides in the region. The longer rides have a few challenging hills. However, there is a lot to see throughout the Massac County countryside.
The Superman Celebration festival is usually going on during the bike ride. You can enjoy all sorts of stuff during the festival.
Enjoy dining, shopping, and more in Metropolis, the Home of Superman.
Best Shawnee Forest Biking Locations for Gravel Biking
Gravel biking is a relatively new type of adventure cycling. But southern Illinois recognized the art of gravel long before it became as popular as it is today. There are a lot of great gravel routes to enjoy in southern Illinois.
Dirty South Route
An annual gravel bike race in the Shawnee National Forest called the Dirty South Roubaix features a very challenging and hilly route for gravel cyclists.
This 100K (60ish miles) route would make for a great challenging gravel ride.
It passes through many of the Mississippi Bluffs Ranger District of the western side of the Shawnee National Forest. The race fills up every year, but you should try to go if you can make it.
There is much to see along this route if you decide to bike it on your own outside the race times.
Mixed SOIL Routes
A group of Missourian and Illinoisan gravel cyclists formed a couple of gravel bikepacking routes called Mixed SOIL.
These routes start at the Cape Girardeau, Missouri courthouse and quickly get into southern Illinois for most of the route.
This will be an excellent choice if you’re looking for an adventurous bikepacking tour along gravel roads.
There are three routes. Each route is hilly and challenging. One route is over 400 miles long. The other two are 240 and 180-mile routes.
Ozark Gravel Route
Ozark, Illinois, has many gravel roads to enjoy on a bike.
You could start at Millstone Lake and ride to Jackson Falls if you wanted to. But the trail would be more challenging in some sections. So instead, you could park at East Trigg, ride to Jackson Falls, and then back out towards Burden Falls.
There are many gravel road options available in the Ozark area. Camp Ondessonk even has a gravel race during the Fat Tire Festival.
If you go at the right time, you might even see some lovely waterfalls along the way.
Kaskaskia Experimental Forest Route
There is an area of gravel forest service roads around Iron Furnace. It’s all around the Kaskaskia Experimental Forest area.
I will warn you: The Rainbow Gathering group tends to gather here for the annual “festival,” and you might avoid the area during that time. In addition, the group tends to use heavy drugs and alcohol more than anything else these days.
But when they’re not around – all the gravel roads and open Forest Service roads make for some excellent gravel biking.
And there are a lot of cool places to stop at along the way, too.
These are some of the best Shawnee Forest biking locations in southern Illinois, with a few outsides of the main Shawnee area worth mentioning. But these are not every cycling location we have. There are many other areas that you should check out. You’re encouraged to explore! If you enjoyed this article, please share it and subscribe to my newsletter for more tips.
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Founder, Hiking with Shawn
Howdy folks! My name is Shawn Gossman and I founded Hiking with Shawn. I’m an avid hiker, cyclist and outdoorsman here in the Shawnee National Forest. I was born and raised in Southern Illinois and never want to leave. Click here to learn more about Shawn Gossman