5 Shawnee National Forest Hikes without the Crowds

Here are 5 Shawnee National Forest Hikes that you can go on without having to deal with a lot of tourists. At many popular Shawnee National Forest Hikes, there are usually a lot of people also visiting the area. Some of the more popular and crowded Shawnee National Forest Hikes are Garden of the Gods Observation Trail, Rim Rock, Little Grand Canyon, Jackson Falls, Burden Falls and Bell Smith Springs. Crowded Shawnee National Forest Hikes are not always a bad thing but at times, we’re always looking for the less crowded hikes to enjoy some peace, quiet and solitude. Now we’ll jump into 5 Shawnee National Forest Hikes that tend to be less crowded than the popular hiking areas within the National Forest.

Shawnee National Forest Hikes 1:

The Old Stoneface Trail

(Photo by Sierra Group, Shawnee Group)
The Old Stoneface Trail earns a spot on the 5 Shawnee National Forest Hikes without the Crowds list due to its solitude and lack of crowds. I’ve visited this trail multiple times throughout the year and have always been the only one out there during my several hour visits.
Due to a recent flood, the main trailhead is inaccessible but there is limited parking available at the entrance of the trailhead road. This hike is rugged, a few miles of out and back hiking, blazed and include facial-styled rock formations, tall bluffs, forested areas and exceptionally scenic overlooks. For directions to get to the Old Stoneface Trail, click here.

Shawnee National Forest Hikes 2:

Bulge Hole Ecological Area

Nestled in between the eastern and western sides of the forest, the Bulge Hole Ecological Area earns its spot within the 5 Shawnee National Forest Hikes without the Crowds list because of its remote location and almost hidden path. There are no official blazed trails at Bulge Hole and the trailhead is not marked. This is a very rugged area to hike often requiring bushwhacking.
(Photo by Shawn Gossman, Hiking with Shawn)
It is advised to wear pants due to the amount of briars and sticker bush that is present. This less crowded spot should be used after a good couple of days of heavy rain as it will allow you to see not one, not two but over 15 different waterfalls all within a few miles of hiking. For more information and directions to Bulge Hole Ecological Area, click here to read my main blog post about the area.

Shawnee National Forest Hikes 3:

Trail 049

(Photo by Shawn Gossman, Hiking with Shawn)
At many times, there are so many people at Jackson Falls that it is difficult to find a parking spot. If you enjoy a longer hike, I highly suggest you check out Trail 049 at the East Trigg Trailhead off of Trigg Tower Road near Ozark, Illinois. You will get on the River to River Trail first and be given several different trail options to choose from.
You can do a short loop 001T trail to see Cove Hollow or you can get on Trail 049 North to go to Jackson Falls or Trail 049 South to go to Millstone Lake (Bay Creek #5). I often use Trail 049 multiple times a year because I love traveling in that area so much. For directions on how to get to Trail 049 and the East Trigg Trailhead, click here.

Shawnee National Forest Hikes 4:

West Godwin to Hutchins Creek

Located on the West Side of the Shawnee National Forest is about a 6 mile out and back hike within the Clear Springs Wilderness Area. This hike starts at West Godwin Trailhead on the upper portion of Pine Hills Road near LaRue Pine Hills Research Natural Area. You will hike the River to River Trail through a very diverse hardwood forest. The trail is rugged with rolling hills and switchbacks.
(Photo by Shawn Gossman, Hiking with Shawn)
Once you come to the border of the Clear Springs and Bald Knob wilderness line, you’ll be at the scenic and wild Hutchins Creek that makes it all worth the visit. If the creek is drier, hiking it is a treat and there are often small pools of crystal clear water for you to wade into. If the creek is high with water, there is even more fun to be had (please play safely!). For more information on getting to this hike, please click here.

Shawnee National Forest Hikes 5:

Panther Den Wilderness Area

(Photo by Shawn Gossman, Hiking with Shawn)
Panther Den Wilderness Area makes it on the list of 5 Shawnee National Forest Hikes without the Crowds because of its remoteness and often forgotten trails. Each and every time I have visited Panther Den Wilderness, there has been either no or very few other hikers in the area. The wilderness area offers a few miles of loop trail taking you through a diverse forest and eventually, a very unique cluster of bluffs and rock formations.
One of the formations resembles a den that which is why the area is called Panther Den. But ignore the name; there hasn’t been an official population of mountain lions in the Shawnee National Forest since the 1800s. For more details on how to get to Panther Den Wilderness, please click here.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article about 5 Shawnee National Forest Hikes without the Crowds. If you have enjoyed this article, please share it on your social networking profiles, pages and groups to help support me for taking the time to write it. If this article gets a lot shares and becomes popular, I write more like it. Feel free to leave a comment down below telling me what you thought about this article and other Shawnee National Forest Hikes without the Crowds that you would like to add in to the mix!
Shawn J. Gossman

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.
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