Outdoor Adventures in Southern Illinois for Every Season
Are you looking for outdoor adventures in Southern Illinois?
Maybe you’re more of a spring adventurer. Or maybe you like going outdoors in the fall the most. You could be a winter-only outdoor adventurer. And maybe you’re like me and love getting outside in the summer.
Whatever season you like the best, this article is meant for you.
I will show you the best outdoor adventures in Southern Illinois for hiking, biking, and kayaking.
Outdoor Adventures in Southern Illinois during the Spring
Outdoor adventures in Southern Illinois during the springtime are always amazing. It’s the time when wildflowers start to bloom, and daffodils show themselves around the former settlements that make up the forest. Interesting wildlife is coming out of hibernation, and things are turning green. The bugs aren’t too bad and are not too hot yet.
Spring Hiking Adventure
One of my favorite springtime outdoor adventures in Southern Illinois is hiking the River to River Trail section, starting at Rocky Comfort Road Trailhead and going to Panther Den Wilderness.
I like it mostly because there are a lot of old homesites and things left behind from Southern Illinois University from way back in the day.
The daffodils bloom, and you can easily find all these cool spots.
Spring Biking Adventure
I think biking, the most popular part of Tunnel Hill, is best during the spring.
This starts at Vienna City Park and goes to the Village of Tunnel Hill right past the tunnel. You’ll see daffodils and wildflowers blooming, and everything looks pretty.
And during this time of the year, the trail doesn’t seem that busy.
Spring Kayaking Adventure
Lower Cache Swamp Trail is probably one of the best trails to kayak during the early spring.
The snakes and critters are just waking up and are not as thick as they are during the summer and early fall. It’s also not as cold typically and getting a little warmer and sunnier.
Enjoy the swamp starting to bloom in the spring and see rare wildflowers and flora that you won’t see anywhere else.
Outdoor Adventures in Southern Illinois during the Summer
The summer in Southern Illinois can be hot and humid. While some people avoid the outdoors, many of us enjoy shorts and T-shirts. We also love going to trails with cool breezes and swimming holes to take a dip in. Summer hiking in Southern Illinois is always a blast.
Summer Hiking Adventure
During the summer, my favorite place to go is Trail 049. I make it a 10-mile loop and get to see some of the best the Shawnee National Forest offers.
I’ll start at East Trigg Trailhead and do the Cove Hollow Loop. Then I’ll make my way to Millstone Lake. After that, it’s Jackson Falls. And there are plenty of places to take a dip in between.
This trail isn’t as busy as Bell Smith or Garden of the Gods, but it’s busy enough that other hikers, climbers, and horseback riders get all the spider webs off the trail for your enjoyment.
Summer Biking Adventure
Rend Lake Bike Trail is an excellent place to enjoy outdoor adventures in Southern Illinois for some summer biking.
I say this because you can take the option of biking to the beach, where you can dip in the water to cool yourself down.
It’s a great trail that usually stays a little cooler because you get the breeze from the wind across the lake.
Summer Kayaking Adventure
I recommend my favorite kayak place for summer kayaking: Lake Glendale in the Shawnee National Forest.
You can do everything at Lake Glendale. You can camp. You can go to the beach. You can hike. You can bike. And you can especially go kayaking.
There are enough trees around the lake to help cool you down with shady spots along the shore, and there is also a beach you can visit if you want to get wet.
Outdoor Adventures in Southern Illinois during the Fall
The fall season is often the best season for outdoor adventures in Southern Illinois because of the color-changing and cooler weather towards the end of the season. Southern Illinois has different spots to enjoy the fall foliage and colors. This is also one of the best times to see wildlife getting ready for hibernation.
Fall Hiking Adventure
Christmas Star Overlook, located in the Garden of the Gods Wilderness area, is the perfect spot for hiking to view fall colors.
You’ll get a Garden of the Gods-like experience without all the crazy crowds that Camel Rock gets.
It’s also a decent hike with some elevation, making it a great fall exercise trek through the wilderness.
Fall Biking Adventure
Vienna to Wetland Center is the best section of the Tunnel Hill State Trail if you want to see snakes and wildlife on your bike ride.
The snakes and other swamp critters are on the move getting ready to go into hibernation. If this type of wildlife is your thing, you’ll surely see them along the trail during the fall.
Just be sure to yield for wildlife and give them plenty of room to be wild without you interfering with them being wild.
Fall Kayaking Adventure
Glen O Jones Lake is perfect for fall kayaking and everything else in between.
Aside from kayaking a beautiful lake with fall color viewing, you can camp there, too. You can go hiking. You can bike. You can enjoy everything the area has to offer.
We love getting a campsite right next to the water so that we can kayak right from where we camp.
Outdoor Adventures in Southern Illinois during the Winter
Many outdoor enthusiasts favor winter in Southern Illinois for many reasons. Mosquitoes and ticks are gone. Snakes are hibernating. The spider webs aren’t draped across the trails. All the leaves are off the trees, and you can see everything. And it isn’t hot out.
Winter Hiking Adventure
When snow is on the ground or all the waterfalls are frozen, Jackson Hole Ecological Area is one of the best places to go hiking.
This is my all-time favorite place to visit frozen waterfalls. The area has several frozen waterfalls, and Hayes Canyon is beside it. The road to this area is smoother during snowfall, but you’ll need a 4×4 to get through it.
Just practice safe hiking when visiting this area in the winter. You could fall in many places; no cell phone signal is typically available.
Winter Biking Adventure
When we’re having a dryer winter with no snow or ice, the Tunnel Hill to Stonefort section of the Tunnel Hill State Trail is a great riding experience.
You can see all the bluffs and scenic creeks along the trail. You can also see remnants of ghost towns. It’s a great section of the trail to enjoy during the winter with some challenging but still low-grade elevation gain.
Best of all, this section will be the least-ridden portion, usually giving you a bike ride all to yourself for the most part.
Winter Kayaking Adventure
Dutchman Lake is a great lake to kayak when the water isn’t frozen.
It is scenic and rarely used by most kayakers and boaters. It’s remote and usually a great spot to see bald eagles, egrets, and herons.
The lake is big enough to enjoy a whole day of kayaking if you’re looking for it. Just practice safe paddling to avoid any hazards that accompany winter kayaking.
I hope you enjoyed checking out these outdoor adventures in Southern Illinois. I love going to every one of these places all year long. Go check out some of the spots above and come back and comment on this article, telling me what you think of them. This article is provided for free, but if you want to support me with a one-time donation, please feel free to do so. Your support helps me pay for server costs to keep this blog available for free. For even more outdoor tips around Southern Illinois, be sure to subscribe to my free monthly newsletter today.
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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