Panther Den Wilderness Loop Hiking Trail

With Two Bobs Adventures

(Photo by Shawn Gossman, Hiking with Shawn)
Panther Den Wilderness Loop Hiking Trail is a trail that all locals and visitors alike should check out at least once during their visits to the Shawnee National Forest. Panther Den Wilderness Loop Hiking Trail is located in the heart of Panther Den Wilderness which is the smallest wilderness area within the Shawnee National Forest and is maintained from the Mississippi Bluffs Ranger District located in Jonesboro, Illinois.
The Panther Den Wilderness Loop Hiking Trail is at close proximity with Crab Orchard state-managed wilderness area, Giant City State Park and the SIU-C Touch of Nature program. The Panther Den Wilderness Loop Trail offers various activities including day hiking, overnight backpacking, travel on the River to River trail, horseback riding, dispersed camping, geocaching and scenic nature viewing. The Panther Den Wilderness Loop Trail gets its name from the very unique eroded bluffs located within the loop that appear to be like animal dens of sorts. The trail is widely used, well-marked and there is a lot to see. The Panther Den Wilderness Loop Trail consists of about 3-5 miles and is rugged with rolling hills, some muddy spots and bluff elements.

Panther Den Wilderness Loop Hiking Trail

Safety Information

  • Venomous snakes are present on the Panther Den Wilderness Loop Trail which includes cottonmouth, copperhead and timber rattlesnakes. Please keep an eye out for snakes. If you see one, remain at least 6 feet away and move away from the animal.
  • Poison ivy and poison oak is present in this area.
  • Mosquitoes and ticks are present in this area.
  • There are limited water sources in this area. Make sure you bring plenty of water and snacks with you upon your visit to the Panther Den Wilderness Loop trail.
  • If you build a fire, please remain with the fire at all times to keep it managed. Before you leave, make sure the fire is all the way out. Only you can prevent forest fires!
  • There are no trash pickup services at Panther Den Wilderness Loop trail, please pack out what you pack in and help keep our forest clean!

Panther Den Wilderness Loop Hiking Trail

Directions to the Trailhead

From St. Louis, MO – click here.

From Chicago, IL – click here.

From Nashville, TN – click here.

From Marion, IL – click here.

NOTE: Panther Den Lane is narrow and usually only one vehicle can travel down it at any given time. Please drive slowly and carefully. The trailhead is at the end of the road, to your right.
There is private property to the left of the road. Please avoid that area and do not trespass. The trailhead provides a sign with maps, information and parking for several vehicles. Getting a horse trailer to the trailhead would likely be a challenge.

Hiking the Panther Den Wilderness Loop Trail

With Two Bobs’ Adventures

(Photo by Shawn Gossman, Hiking with Shawn)
We decided to start our Panther Den Wilderness loop hiking trail early on Saturday by being on the trail at about 9:00 AM. Two Bobs’ Adventures have been in this area a few times before during their section hike as well as their thru-hike of the River to River Trail. If you’d like to see their video of their River to River Trail thru-hike, click here.
The Bobs’ had only used the River to River Trail and wanted to see the loop trail as well so of course we had to make a collaboration video. I’ve always enjoyed hiking with the Bobs’ and look forward to more of the future hiking trips with them. Now we did this hike in early August so bugs were out, especially spiders. I’m 6’5” tall so I take out spiders for virtually everyone who decides to use the trail, LOL. But I’d recommend bringing a hiking stick or a trekking pole with you to swat down the spider webs.
At one point, we discovered that a geocache was nearby thanks to Big Bob and his offline maps. Upon searching for it, it was little Bob who discovered the geocache. Good job little bob – hey that rhymed!!! That geocache could use a good replacing in my opinion. The Bobs’ signed the log, I left a Hiking with Shawn sticker and then we bushwhacked back on to the trail to head for the Panther Den Wilderness loop hiking trail.
(Photo by Shawn Gossman, Hiking with Shawn)
Oh yeah – I do believe it was the bushwhacking to find the geocache that was responsible for me getting poison ivy all over my feet. Yay for me!
(Photo by Shawn Gossman, Hiking with Shawn)
Once we reached the loop trail, the spider webs got even thicker and so did the trees. It was like walking through a jungle. I felt like I need a machete in order to get through the trail. For a large portion of the trail, I constantly had to move vegetation out of my path plus deal with the spiders.
The spiders in the forest are pretty much harmless – they hardly ever bite and you can usually get them off you before they are even a slight threat to you but when the webs cover your face, it gets rather annoying at times which was what I was going through at the time – but I still don’t regret the trip! I will recommend that you visit in late fall, winter to early spring for the best results and for a less buggy experience. Do note that hunters may be present during shotgun season.
Once we arrived to the Rock Formations, the hike got a whole lot better. The bluffage really makes the trip and it is that one of a kind bluffage that is worth checking out at least once, twice or twenty times! The bluffs provide a maze of all sorts of exploration and there is a lot to see.
(Photo by Shawn Gossman, Hiking with Shawn)
It is really a photographer’s dream when it comes to checking out all the formations, tunnels, shelters and dens that are present in the area. During a wet season, there are also quite a few nice large waterfalls to see and during the winter, the frozen waterfalls are even better to see. But it is a wilderness area and even though it is the smallest of the Shawnee National Forest wilderness areas, the area is still quite large and it is important to always put safety first when entering the wilderness areas of the forest.

Panther Den Wilderness Loop Hiking Trail

The Videos

Be sure to check out our videos shown below to see the beauty and natural wonders of our trip on the Panther Den Wilderness Loop Hiking Trail. I also recommend you check out my Panther Den Wilderness playlist here to see more of the area during different times of the year. The videos are defiantly worth watching!

Hiking with Shawn Video

Two Bobs’ Adventures Video

Thanks for taking the time to read my article about the Panther Den Wilderness Loop Hiking Trail. I do hope that you have enjoyed it and that is encourages you to visit the area in case you have never been but are able to visit the trail at some point. If you have been to this wilderness area and would like to recommend other areas to check out within it, please comment down below. If you have any questions or additional information about this trail, please comment down below. Please share this article with others especially on Facebook as it helps support my efforts for writing it. I’m trying to reach 1,000 subscribers on my YouTube Channel, if you’re not a subscriber yet, please consider subscribing today; it is completely free and helps me out. Be sure to check out Two Bobs’ Adventures channel as well and subscribe as they have tons of awesome Shawnee National Forest and other outdoor adventure videos to watch!
Shawn J. Gossman

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.
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