National Forest



Shawnee National Forest bushwhacking sounds like a scary thing to do. Doesn’t it?

The truth is that it can be scary for some people. If you’re prone to get lost and panicking, bushwhacking isn’t going to be wise. If you like adventuring and can handle being off-trail, you’ll have no issue bushwhacking.

Needless to say, Shawnee National Forest bushwhacking is not for the faint of heart.

Lucky for you, I’m a professional at bushwhacking. And I’m okay telling you how to do it without ruining the hiking adventure. Keep reading this guide if you want to learn more about bushwhacking in the Shawnee National Forest or elsewhere.

Shawnee National Forest Bushwhacking: Navigation

To better your Shawnee National Forest bushwhacking skills, you first need to learn navigation.

You can learn to use a map and compass, or you can get an app.

I use a premium app called OnXHunt. It’s made for hunters, but it’s excellent for bushwhacking, too, because it shows topography and property boundaries, which are essential to know when hiking off-trail.

Knowing how to navigate can help you choose the right direction without putting in too much work. Contour lines will help you understand how steep an area will be. Knowing this will help you understand how easy or hard your hike will be.

If you don’t learn these things, your Shawnee National Forest bushwhacking adventure can turn into a very bad time.

Shawnee National Forest bushwhacking

Shawnee National Forest Bushwhacking: Gear

Shawnee National Forest bushwhacking adventures require a good amount of gear.

You want to make sure you pack enough gear to be able to spend the night in the forest if you need to. Because with bushwhacking, the risks of getting hurt or getting lost do increase. I’m not saying that will happen to you. I’ve yet to get seriously injured and have always returned to the vehicle before dark unless I knew I would be night hiking.

You got to bring enough water and food to be comfortable. Bring a water filter and know how to use it. Bring a map and a compass. Bring a headlamp and some extra batteries. Bring some additional layers for warmth. Those oversized rain ponchos are great for rain, but they also make beautiful shelters. Bring what you’d need for a backpacking trip, even if you plan to day hike.

Be careful with gear that gets snagged. Trekking poles, for example, aren’t the best Shawnee National Forest bushwhacking gear because they’d get hung up along the way. Think before you hand stuff from your pack or your belt.


Shawnee National Forest Bushwhacking: Safety

As I mentioned above, Shawnee National Forest bushwhacking could increase your safety risks.

Bushwhacking is difficult. If you can’t read a map, you might be hitting rolling hills and steep terrains. There are bigger chances of falling when bushwhacking. You might trip or slip easier. There is no easier trail for you the hike on, so everything will be in your way. During certain seasons, you’ll encounter ticks when bushwhacking. You might also see more snakes, many of which are venomous.

A Shawnee National Forest bushwhacking adventure isn’t for everyone. There is a lot to see off the beaten path, but sometimes, it’s best to stay on the trail. Ensure you can put safety first when bushwhacking, and always watch your next step.

There is plenty of stuff to see in the Shawnee National Forest without leaving a trail. Bushwhacking isn’t everyone. Don’t feel like you have to do it if you don’t feel comfortable about doing it.


Leaving No Trace is Important

There are many areas where you should never bushwhack. You should always Leave No Trace when bushwhacking. Don’t create a new trail where a trail wasn’t meant to be established!

Make sure you practice Leave No Trace when going on a Shawnee National Forest bushwhacking adventure. Watch where you step. Don’t destroy precious plants and flora to get through the trees. Be mindful of where you’re putting your feet. Never go off trail in a nature preserve, natural area, or anywhere with signs asking you to stay on the trail. But some places like hidden gems and waterfalls require you to bushwhack, and there’s nothing wrong with going to see those things. Just do it to preserve nature in mind.

I recommend Shawnee National Forest bushwhacking activities in the winter months. Most precious plants and flora are down for the season. You can see more and know what way you should go. Fewer ticks and seed ticks can mess your day up when they bite you. And the snakes are hibernating.

Just remember always to put the environment first and ensure you’re safe about it.


Shawnee National Forest bushwhacking is a blast. Hunters do it when hunting. People do it to find and record rare plant species. Hikers can do it, too, to see the hidden gems they usually don’t see. But anyone who does it for any reason should do it with the things talked about above in mind. If you’ve enjoyed this article, subscribe to my free monthly newsletter for more tips and resources.

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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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