How to



Shawnee Challenge!

Have you heard of the Shawnee Challenge?

If not, I created a website for it.

So, to sum it up, this is a 10.5-mile adventure challenge where you can hike, mountain bike, or do both activities to complete the challenge route and get a free reward for doing it.

The challenge is open to everyone of all ages and abilities to hike and mountain bike.

It’s free. There is no time limit. You can do a portion of it now and the rest later, and that’s fine, too!

You can use any bicycle you want to. Riders are encouraged to wear helmets.

That’s pretty much what the Shawnee Challenge is. Now I will show you how to do the challenge and what to expect.


When is the best time to do the Shawnee Challenge?

The best time is any time as long as the trail is dry.

Don’t bike on a wet trail, as it can damage the trail and ruin the experience for other users.

I like riding the challenge route in the early spring, summer, and early fall months when the temperature is warm enough for shorts.

However, the summer brings spiders, ticks, and mosquitoes, which might deter you from wanting to do it. But if you can handle them, the trails look lovely, all green and fully leafed out.

Each season is going to have its own reasoning for doing the challenge.

Wildflowers and daffodils bloom around old home sites in the spring.

Warm weather and greenery in the summer.

The changing colors of the fall.

And the ability to see everything after leaf off during the winter.

There are many different reasons to do the challenge throughout the different seasons.

Whichever season you choose, start as early in the day as possible to ensure you have plenty of daylight hours to work with.


What are the best tips to know for the Shawnee Challenge?

Plan before you go.

Tell someone about it first so they can help others help you if you don’t come back home. Show them where you’re going and ensure they have the information they need to share with first responders if you don’t come home.

Always no matter what, put safety first.

Then make sure you download Avenza and the Shawnee Challenge Avenza Map. Both the app and the map are free. The app doesn’t require a cell phone signal to work, either. It will go off your GPS location.

Make sure you get the app and map because it will keep you on the Shawnee Challenge route and help you when you may be lost.

The trails are not marked very well, and there are quite a few junctions. Our free app will keep you on the trail. It is a no-brainer to download and use it. You must also record with that app and map to get your reward after completing the challenge. That’s a requirement!

Bring plenty of hydration. I like to put electrolyte tablets in two water bottles when I go. I use Hammer Nutrition electrolytes (not sponsored) and put two tablets in each bottle. It helps me a lot as I sweat more than most people do.

Bring a few snacks. I enjoy the Nature Valley Fruit and Nut Bars (not sponsored) and bring about two with me each time I do the challenge.

Bring a hand towel to wipe your face off when it is warm.

Wear a helmet if you bike. There are many rocks, roots, creeks, and uneven terrain where you could wreck. Without a helmet on, the injuries can be significant. Protect your head!

Wear comfortable hiking-specific or biking-specific clothing. I wear skin-tight cycling kits so tree limbs and vegetation don’t snag on my clothes as I ride.

When you get to junctions where there are multiple trails to take – open your app up with the map, and it will show you exactly where you need to go.


Why was the Shawnee Challenge created?

I got the idea of the Shawnee Challenge from the National Park Service.

My family goes to Eminence, Missouri, along the Current River each year to camp, hike, and enjoy the park and riverways.

One year, I noticed a sign for the Current River Challenge: a hike plus float adventure challenge where you get a sticker after completing it. There was no time limit, and it was completely self-supported.

I took that idea back home and presented it as a way to promote the newly designated mountain biking trails around Dixon Springs State Park and Lake Glendale in the Shawnee National Forest.

My idea was a hiking and biking challenge.

I created my plan and pitched it to the US Forest Service, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Shawnee Mountain Bike Association, Friends of the Shawnee National Forest, and Southernmost Illinois Tourism. Ultimately, everyone agreed to partner with me and make this challenge a reality. Southernmost Illinois Tourism has done more for the challenge than I ever expected, and I am so thankful for their dedication to serving this area for tourism!

The goal of the Shawnee Challenge was and still is tourism.

I want to get people to southern Illinois to do this free challenge even if they can only do half one year and visit the following year to complete the other half.

The goal is tourism for southern Illinois because visitors spend money at our Mom and Pop shops, enjoy our trails, tell others about us, and develop economic stability because of tourism. Southern Illinois depends on tourism, and I advocate that forever.

I stand firmly beside our local businesses and help get them customers.

But it’s also for us locals, because why not enjoy a local challenge?!


This Challenge Supports the Local Mountain Bike Community

The designation of the first mountain bike trails in the Shawnee National Forest took a long time to make happen.

It was a long fight that lasted many years.

Some people and groups do not think mountain bikers should have any trails in the forest. However, many of those people are gone, and the newer people who replaced them are all about sharing and designations to help promote safety for ALL trail users.

Shawnee Challenge was made to support the dedication of the Shawnee Mountain Bike Association and the people and groups before them. They have always dreamed of mountain bike designation in the Shawnee National Forest.

The forest is for everyone, and Shawnee Challenge and Hiking with Shawn stand by that – firmly.


The Future of the Challenge!

In the future, more challenges are planned to be held.

I would like to potentially add other biking options to Touch of Nature Mountain Bike Trails, Tunnel Hill State Trail, and other designated biking trails.

I also want to add some paddling options to the challenge where users can kayak or canoe.

And I’d like to get some equestrian options into the challenge so horseback and mule riders can also participate.

The idea is to ensure all activities are being done on trails designated for those groups so everyone can safely enjoy participating in the challenge together.


And that is how you can do this challenge! So, tell me, friend – do you accept the Shawnee Challenge?


Alrighty folks, I hope you have enjoyed this content. I provide it for free and it takes a while to create. If you would be so kind enough to support my efforts, you can do so by sharing this post with others, especially on social media. Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube Channel to see my latest videos, shorts and live streams. Follow me on FacebookInstagramTwitter and TikTok for unique content that you will only find on those pages. You might also join my Southern Illinois Hiking & Outdoor Resources Group on Facebook, too!

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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!



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. I hope you enjoy my website and I encourage you to interact with me!

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