There have been a lot of Shawnee Forest Beginner hiking folks in these last couple of years.
The global pandemic, mixed with just wanting to get out and get some fresh air, had a lot to do with it. Many people were stuck inside for a long time. Now they want to get outside and explore nature like they never did. And I’m sure I’ve encouraged many people to visit the Shawnee and hike. I hope so; it’s my mission, after all.
But Shawnee Forest beginner hiking isn’t what it always seems. It can be a blessing for many people who prepare for it. But it can be a nightmare for those who are prepared to hike the Shawnee. It’s not a National Park out there. It’s rugged, and nature is unforgiving.
If you’re contemplating some Shawnee Forest beginner hiking and want to ensure you have the best time possible, I want to give you these six tips to help you have the best adventure in the Shawnee National Forest.
Shawnee Forest Beginner Hiking Tip 1: Plan First
Before hiking in the Shawnee National Forest, try to plan it out best.
Watch the local Southern Illinois Weather and know what the day will be like. This way you can plan what you need to wear and if you need to bring a raincoat.
Look for maps and other navigational resources for the trail you wish to hike so that you can remain on the trail at all times. I’ve written more than 50 trail guides for the Shawnee National Forest. They’re free for you to enjoy.
Always tell someone where you plan to hike before you go. Print out a photo of a map of the area you will be and circle where you will park and what area the trail is in. If you don’t come back, that person can help search and rescue get to you sooner.
A good Shawnee Forest beginner hiking trip needs to have a good plan.
Shawnee Forest Beginner Hiker Tip 2: Essential Gear
You must bring the essential hiking gear with you during any tip you take into the Shawnee National Forest.
On every day hike I do, there is a specific type of gear I always bring. When I do overnight hikes, I get some extra gear.
REI has a good website about what essential gear you might want to bring, which would be ideal for Shawnee Forest beginner hiking trips.
But the essential gear you should bring is food, water, and safety gear. Make sure you have enough food and water to last a few days just in case something happens. Bring a basic first aid kit and some extra layers in case you need them.
Don’t be one of those hikers who don’t bring anything at all because they usually get lost, hurt, and sometimes die because of pure ignorance.
Shawnee Forest Beginner Hiking Tip 3: Protect Your Feet
The most expensive piece of hiking garb you should have is your footwear.
Your legs and feet will often be your primary source of hiking. If they get hurt, you get stranded where you are. Protecting your feet should be a priority when hiking.
Don’t go hiking in a pair of crocs and sandals unless you ask for trouble. You should be wearing hiking-specific boots or shoes. I’d also recommend hiking socks. I love alpaca wool socks in winter because they dry fast and keep my feet super warm.
My biggest Shawnee Forest beginner hiking mistake was not wearing waterproof boots during the winter. I would constantly get my foot soaking wet, getting so cold that it would hurt most of the hike. Don’t make that mistake. Let me be the one who’s experienced that for you and is telling you to avoid it.
Protecting your feet at all costs should be one of your main priorities.
Shawnee Forest Beginner Hiker Tip 4: Understand the Shawnee
You need to understand the Shawnee National Forest before venturing into it for the first time.
Southern Illinois is relatively flat for the most part. There are rolling hills south of Marion and Carbondale, but many areas look pretty flat. That’s because of urban development and farming. The Shawnee National Forest has been allowed to grow up, and much of its acreage was chosen to be the forest because its landscape is so different from everything else.
On the west side of the Shawnee National Forest, you can expect rolling hills and steep ridgelines and hillsides that will be impossible to climb. There have been many hillsides that I’ve had to climb on my hands and knees, grabbing saplings and anything I could to make it up without falling. The east side is no different, but there seem to be higher bluffs than ridgelines.
The Shawnee National Forest can be unforgiving to a new hiker. Any Shawnee Forest beginner hiking trip should be adequately planned out before you go on it.
Shawnee Forest Beginner Hiker Tip 5: Don’t Hike Alone
No one should ever go on a Shawnee Forest beginner hiking trip alone for the first time.
Try to find someone to go hiking with. So many things can go wrong when you’re hiking alone. You can get hurt. You can get lost. You can make bad choices. If you have someone there with you, they can get help when you can’t. They can also help you make the right decisions.
Find a friend to hike with. I have a group on Facebook called Southern Illinois Hiking & Outdoor Recreation. There are over 20,000 members on there. I’m sure you can find a hiking friend somewhere in that group.
Don’t go at it alone – find someone to hike with and make that your thing together.
Shawnee Forest Beginner Hiking Tip 6: Stay on the Trail
As a Shawnee Forest beginner hiking adventurer, you should always remain on the trail.
At first, bushwhacking isn’t going to be the best decision you make as a beginner. So, instead of getting off the beaten path, why not stay on it until you learn the ropes first? There are over 400 miles of hiking trails in the Shawnee National Forest. You don’t have a reason to leave the trail with much mileage to enjoy.
There are many hazards that you might experience when going off-trail. You have a better chance of encountering a snake. Some of those snakes will likely be venomous. You have a strong possibility of getting into poison ivy and sticker bush. Ticks and seed ticks will be likely when going off trail. You could slip, trip, and even fall off hidden cliffs while off-trail.
As a Shawnee Forest beginner hiking adventurer, your best bet is to stay on the trail at all times until you get better at hiking.
Thanks for reading my article on Shawnee Forest beginner hiking tips. If these tips have helped you, subscribe to my free monthly newsletter for more.
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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