Hiking with Shawn’s
Guide to the Wilderness Areas
Shawnee National Forest:
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 located 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.
Panther Den Wilderness is made up of second-growth forest. The area, once a farming area, was acquired in the 1930s to be made into National Forest land. Eventually the area became a wilderness area. There is private property around Panther Den Wilderness are all visitors are expected to respect the property rights of landowners.
HOW TO GET TO THIS WILDERNESS AREA
Check out this map to see the area of Panther Den Wilderness.
There is one trailhead for Panther Den Wilderness, and it is located at the end of a very narrow gravel Panther Den Lane off of 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.
TRAILS WITHIN THIS WILDERNESS AREA
There are a few different trails within this area. The River to River Trail runs through Panther Den Wilderness. There is also the wilderness trail that will take you to the rock formations. The wilderness trail is a loop (4 to 6-miles) and is rugged, hilly and can be difficult during some seasons. The loop will connect you with the R2R Trail at one point but also take you off of it.
It is highly recommended that you use maps (available at Friends of the Shawnee National Forest) or a smart phone application such as Avenza using the R2R Trail Bundle and the Multi-Day Hiking Bundle. People constantly reporting getting lost in Panther Den Wilderness. Use a map or app to keep yourself on the trails and not lost.
WHAT THIS WILDERNESS HAS TO OFFER
Panther Den Wilderness is best known for its rock formations that give it the name Panther Den. The den-like hollowed out rock shelter cave looks like something panthers would live in. Don’t worry – there are no panthers in the Shawnee National Forest, though some will argue that. Panther Den also gets into the southern shore of Devils Kitchen Lake and Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge can also be accessed from this area via the River to River Trail. This wilderness is also a common choice of equestrian riders so please share the trail, yield and calmly talk to the riders when you see them.
SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR THIS WILDERNESS AREA
Panther Den Wilderness follows the same guides listed on our Main Wilderness Guide article
There may not be restrooms or trash services at all trailheads for this wilderness. Please practice Leave No Trace ethics and pack out what you pack in.
Venomous snakes occur within this and nearby areas including the copperhead. Avoid a negative experience with a venomous snake by watching where you step, staying on the trail, giving snakes plenty of room and never attempting to handle or harm a snake.
This area consists of rugged and steep terrain, rolling hills and sometimes very muddy conditions. Accessing this area can be a challenge and is often considered a difficult level of recreation. Please plan accordingly before venturing into this area.
Cell phone signal may not be available in many areas of Panther Den Wilderness.
EMERGENCY INFORMATION FOR THIS WILDERNESS AREA
The nearest hospital from Panther Den Wilderness is located in the City of Carbondale, Memorial Hospital of Carbondale which is about 18-miles from the Panther Den Trailhead.
For emergencies – dial 911 and follow the instructions of the 911 operator.
WHAT’S CLOSE TO THIS WILDERNESS AREA?
Carbondale is the closest city to Panther Den Wilderness. Carbondale is a fairly large city with many stores, places to eat and other businesses. It is also home of Southern Illinois University. There is plenty of lodging, hotels and camping availability in and around Carbondale.
Close to Panther Den Wilderness is the state parks Giant City State Park and Ferne Clyffe State Park. Both of these state parks offer various hiking and equestrian trails. These parks also have campgrounds including backpacking, equestrian and electric and tent sites.
SIU’s Touch of Nature is also close and has recently opened its designated mountain biking trails. Other recreation is offered including hiking, equestrian, kayak/canoe and more.
VIDEOS OF THIS WILDERNESS AREA
Check out the following video footage of this particular wilderness area.
Thank you for taking the time to read this Wilderness Area Guide. This and the other 6 guides took a while to create and are offered for free of charge. Please consider supporting my efforts of making these guides by sharing them with others, especially on social media. You can also support my efforts by following me on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the Official Website for Hiking with Shawn. Consider becoming a Patreon Member or purchasing some official merch from the Hiking with Shawn Online Shop. Thanks again for checking out this guide and until next time, I’ll see you on the trail!
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.