Shawnee Forest

Hidden Gems

You Need To See

Are you searching for Shawnee Forest hidden gems?

You’ve come to the right place. I am Hiking with Shawn, after all. I go hiking every chance I get, and it is my goal to almost every acre of the nearly 300,000 acres of Shawnee National Forest. I’ve found a lot of hidden gems across the forest.

And I’m very willing to share these Shawnee Forest hidden gems with you!

Shawnee Forest Hidden Gems on the West Side

Let’s look at the Shawnee Forest hidden gems on the West Side.


1 – Hidden Waterfalls of Little Grand Canyon

Have you been to these hidden waterfalls at Little Grand Canyon?

They’re just as cool as any waterfall and cascade feature over in the main LGC, but these are less visited.

They’re less visited because they’re hard to get to. The trail to them is no longer maintained. If the Big Muddy River is flooded, you won’t be able to reach the area.

If you visit this area, I recommend doing it during winter when the river is down, and the rattlesnakes are asleep.


2 – Amazing Bluffage at Horseshoe Bluff

Horseshoe Bluff has some of the most impressive-looking bluffage I’ve ever seen!

There is erosion and banding in the bluffs that is like no other. Yet, there are natural cave shelters, arches, windows, and formations for miles. And the scenic overlooks are amazing.

It’s one of the most strenuous hikes I’ve done. However, after you scale the bluff’s base, going up is tricky and could be dangerous.

This is rattlesnake country. Go during the winter for the best results and to see everything. Just be careful; it can be extremely steep in some places.


3 – Missouri Ozark-Like Creek at Horse Creek Trail

Alexander County has one of the prettiest creeks around the region, called Horse Creek.

A lot of people don’t visit this trail. It’s remote and hard to find. It’s hilly and longer. But the creek you experience visits worth taking.

I found the creek like the creeks at Eminence, Missouri but without the spring water. If you’re a rockhound or a rock tumbler, you might want to visit this spot.

Don’t go in the summer months because it’s overgrown, and there is a lot of stinging nettle around the low areas and creeks along the trail.


4 – A Great Hike along the Cedar Lake Trailhead

Most people hike Cove Hollow at Cedar Lake and skip this fantastic.

If you’re looking for a great walk in the woods, check out the Cedar Lake Trailhead trail. It’s mainly just a good hiking path, but there is quite a bit to see.

We went during the summer, and aside from spider webs, it was easy to hike and well-used. You’ll see scenic creeks, bluffage, and views of the lake, and the trail’s end is right down the road from the Little Cedar Lake spillway.

There is a creek you must cross, so if we’ve had rain lately, prepare to get your feet wet.


5 – Hike to Bald Knob Cross via Bold Knob Loop

You’ll like this trail if you want to take the long way to the Bald Knob Cross.

It is a nice loop that eventually goes uphill to the Bald Knob Cross of Peace. The trail itself is within the Bald Knob Wilderness designation.

We enjoyed the creek along this trail. There were plenty of rocks with fossils in them and cascading points. The hill up to the cross is pretty steep and is a guy buster, so you know.

Be careful going to this trail when it’s warm. This is rattlesnake country, and they’re often hard to spot.


Shawnee Forest Hidden Gems on the East Side

Let’s take a look at some of the Shawnee Forest hidden gems on the East Side.


6 – River to River Trail to Tunnel Hill State Trail

Take a hike on the area’s largest hiking trail until you reach the area’s largest bike trail!

Starting at Odum Tract EA, take the River to River Trail all the way to Tunnel Hill State Trail. This trail is technically a road, and the gate is not closed. So you could bike it if you wanted to. Just be careful of horses and off-road vehicles.

There is a lot to see in this area. If you come during the spring, there is a large field of daffodils where the gas line runs through. There are a lot of Shawnee Forest hidden gems around this trail, too. And it has one of the prettiest spots along the bike trail.

Some spots are very muddy after rain. It’s due to damage from off-road vehicles using the trail irresponsibly. Be careful when hiking around that so you don’t get hurt.

Shawnee Forest Hidden Gems

7 – Visit the Little Brother of Camp Ondessonk

There is some National Forest land that butts up against Camp Ondessonk worth checking out.

This area is called Pakentuck. It has three main waterfalls that are amazing to see running and frozen. There is a natural arch, scenic creeks, and even previously left behind settlement. It’s best to visit when it has been wet.

Parking is on the side of the road. I wrote a guide for it on this blog. Please drive slowly down the road to where you park and be considerate of people who live along the road.

If you plan to add Camp Ondessonk to your visit, ensure you get permission from them. Their property is private, and without permission, you’re illegally trespassing.


8 – Ghost Dance Canyon on Steroids Cascade

The name for this excellent rock waterfall cascade is Pine Hollow, Rocky Creek.

This is one of those places you must visit after a lot of rain. It’s a creek filled with thousands and thousands of large rocks. When a lot of water is rushing through, it’s like a larger version of Ghost Dance Canyon. It’s remarkable to see it in person.

In that area, there are other cool things to see, too. There are great cave shelters, waterfalls, and even an old cemetery.

Be respectful of private property around Pine Hollow. The Haskins (Fist of God) is private, and the owners don’t want people visiting it. If you see purple paint, that means anything behind it is private property.


9 – The Trail In Between Garden and Rim Rock

I’m not talking about High Knob; I’m talking about the hidden trail between Garden of the Gods and Rim Rock National Recreation Trail.

It’s called Thacker Hollow. If you’re a horseback rider, you probably know about it as it’s popular in that user community. But you can hike it too, and there are miles upon miles of trail to hike there.

There are creeks, bluffage, old cabins, an initial tree, and much more to see in that area.

Just be sure to talk to horseback riders and yield for them when you see them so that everyone can safely enjoy these Shawnee Forest hidden gems together.


10 – The Old Trail is Not Forgotten

Did you know the River to River Trail didn’t initially start at Elizabethtown?

It started a Battery Rock but was rerouted because the area is so remote. However, battery Rock was an important point during the Civil War in a conflict between Union and Confederate troops across the Ohio River in Caseyville, Kentucky. You can even find carvings left by Civil War soldiers at Battery Rock.

This area is probably one of our favorite areas to visit. It has the best Liesegang banding I’ve ever seen. Also, the beaches of the Ohio River are so scenic looking. There are some fantastic views of the river and bluffage along this area.

Battery Rock is best visited during the winter months. Be careful around hunting season, as hunters commonly use it.


These Shawnee Forest hidden gems are unique places to visit. Even though I’m writing about them, they’ll remain hidden gems because they’re harder to get to. The average tourist doesn’t want the headache of visiting a hard to get to the place. So please remember to Leave No Trace when seeing these gems. If you’d like more hidden gem locations in the Shawnee, subscribe to my free monthly newsletter.

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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!

Shawn Gossman

Shawn Gossman

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

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