Best Shawnee Forest Towns



Are you looking for the best Shawnee Forest towns to visit this year to add to your adventures?

Then you’ve clicked on the right article.

I live in Southern Illinois. I live minutes away from the Shawnee National Forest. I’m constantly traveling in and out of the great little towns that are a part of the Shawnee. I can tell you everything you need to know about visiting the best Shawnee Forest towns.

And that’s why I wrote this article, too. Because you have to add these towns to your to-do list when visiting the Shawnee, they’ll make the experience more unique and add to it. You’ll love the memories of seeing them.

Here are 10 of the best Shawnee Forest towns worth visiting during your adventure in Southern Illinois!

Best Shawnee Forest Town on the West Side

Let’s take a look at some of the best Shawnee Forest towns on the western side of Southern Illinois.


1 – Eat the Best BBQ in Murphysboro

Murphysboro is so many things!

It’s the BBQ Capital for the entire state of Illinois.

It’s home to the Big Muddy Monster Legend.

It’s where the famous annual Apple Festival happens.

And it’s right down the road from some excellent Shawnee National Forest and state trails, including Kinkaid Lake and Piney Creek Ravine.


2 – Hang Out with the Hippies in Makanda

Makanda is literally the hippiest spot in Southern Illinois.

And they like it! They like it so much that they painted their water tower yellow with a big smiley face.

They have a fantastic boardwalk with great stores. One sells a bunch of rocks!

Giant City State Park and Panther Den Wilderness are close by.

Be sure to eat that Famous Fried Chicken, too!


3 – A Little Town with Everything at Alto Pass

Alto Pass has everything a tourist and a local would need.

There are wineries and vineyards. And even a Bourbon Bar.

There are plenty of places to stay, too.

Visit nearby Cedar Lake, Pomona Natural Bridge, and the Quetil Trail.

And check out Rendleman Orchards when the Zinnias are in bloom!


4 – A Stop Along the Wine Trail at Cobden

Cobden is full of fun with a lot of stuff to do.

Check out the new Wine Mercantile!

Eat at the local favorites.

Check out the most prominent Cross in the Backcountry!

Visit Bald Knob Wilderness and Iron Mountain.


5 – Stop by the Shops in Anna-Jonesboro

Anna has it all for being a small Southern Illinois town.

There is plenty of places to eat at. And plenty of places to sleep at.

There is a downtown full of all sorts of different shops.

It’s close to LaRue Pine Hills and Trail of Tears State Forest.

The best campground in the area is also nearby!

Best Shawnee Forest Towns

Best Shawnee Forest Towns on the East Side

Let’s check out some of the best Shawnee Forest towns on the eastern side of Southern Illinois.


6 – See the Ranger Station in Vienna

Vienna is home to the Hidden Springs Ranger Station for the Shawnee.

It’s also home to the longest rail trail in Illinois.

There is plenty of dining and shopping.

It’s close to Dutchman Lake, Heron Pond, and Wildcat Bluff.

The Visitor Center is a must-see when you go!


7 – Fly with Superman at Metropolis

Metropolis is the Official Home of Superman.

They have a statue of him and even a Superman Museum.

There are a lot of shops, dining, and lodging options.

It’s home to the First State Park in Illinois.

Events to check out are the Superman Celebration and the Encampment!


8 – Visit Historical Downtown Golconda

Golconda is one of the oldest towns in Illinois.

The historic Golconda Riverfront is impressive to witness!

You can eat there. You can stay there.

Dixon Springs State Park and War Bluff are close by.

Try to make the Shrimp Fest and the Deer Fest!


9 – Eat the Best Steak Around in Equality

Equality is a tiny little town near the Shawnee National Forest.

But it’s known to have the best steak in Southernmost Illinois.

Camp, Hike, Fish, Bike, and Kayak at Glen O Jones Lake.

Go check out Garden of the Gods at least once!

And support the volunteer fire department that is always there for you!


10 – See the Shawnee Sasquatch in Harrisburg

Harrisburg is a place you got to visit.

Bike the Tunnel Hill Trail or check out an Early Pioneer Museum.

Eat, Shop, and Lodge right in town.

Visit Old Stoneface while you’re there.

And you should attend the Sasquatch Festival, too!


These aren’t the very best Shawnee Forest towns in Southern Illinois. But they are some of the best ones. There are even more great towns around the forest worth checking out. If you see a town along your route, drive around it, and you might find something unique to add to your list of adventures. And remember to support local businesses around these towns because they depend on you, whether you’re a tourist or a local. If you’ve enjoyed reading this article, subscribe to my monthly newsletter for even more articles like it that you’ll only see in your inbox!

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Thanks again for checking out another one of my articles and until next time, I’ll see you on the trail!

Shawn Gossman

Shawn Gossman

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

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