Shawnee National Forest

Swimming Holes

for Everyone

Are you looking for Shawnee National Forest swimming holes?

This summer has been pretty hot so far. It is nice to take a dip outside and cool off after a hot day of hiking and recreating.

Luckily, the Shawnee National Forest has great swimming holes for everyone to enjoy.

Whether you want to go to a developed beach with amenities or a water hole off the beaten path away from the crowds, the Shawnee has a place for you.

In this article, we’ll explore ten different Shawnee National Forest swimming holes for everyone.

As a general disclaimer, many of these areas don’t have lifeguards or may not officially have swimming status. Always put safety first and be aware of the potential hazards.


Shawnee National Forest Swimming Holes: Public Beaches

Sometimes you need to find a beach to take the kids or enjoy the amenities of swimming while being comfortable.


#1 Lake Glendale Beach

Lake Glendale Beach (Google Map Directions) is one of the best options for visiting a public swimming beach. The beach includes restrooms, a shower house, and a concession stand with yummy treats for the whole family.

The cost is $5 for ages six and up and $3 for ages five and under.

There is plenty of parking and plenty of swimming room for everyone.

Make a weekend of it by camping at the campground (electric and non-electric available).

Other recreational opportunities around the area include mountain bike trails, hiking, and picnicking.

After a good swim, head to the Chocolate Factory for treats and hand-dipped ice cream!


#2 Pounds Hollow Beach

Pounds Hollow Beach (Google Map Directions)  is another excellent option for those looking for a good sand beach swimming area. The beach includes restrooms, water, and plenty of parking.

There is no cost to park or swim at the beach.

Pounds Hollow, right next to the beach, has a great campground with electric and non-electric sites. Rim Rock’s Dogwood Cabins is also a great lodging option across the road from the nearby Rim Rock National Recreation Trail.

Other opportunities around the area include hiking, horseback riding, and picnicking.

After enjoying the beach, head to Garden of the Gods Outpost for some delicious soft-serve ice cream, Shawnee National Forest merch, area maps, camping supplies, and of course, Sasquatch stuff.


Shawnee National Forest Swimming Holes: Natural Swimming Holes

Sometimes a beach is a just a little too much concrete and modern technologies. Sometimes you need an easy place to get to with more nature involved.


#3 Bell Smith Springs – Hunting Branch

Hunting Branch Trailhead (Google Map Directions) offers a lovely water hole in the parking lot. Just look for the swinging rope.

This isn’t an official swimming area, but people often go there to take a dip. Be cautious of any rocks, snakes, and potential debris. Please pack out what you pack in and help us keep our National Forest clean and safe for everyone.

This area has plenty of parking, but it gets pretty popular during warmer days.

Enjoy the Mill Branch Trail (red trail) while you visit this area. There are even more water hole opportunities along the trail.

Head to Murphy’s Pit BBQ in Ozark for some great food after your visit.


#4 Bell Smith Springs – Jumping Spring

The Jumping Spring (Google Map Directions) at Bell Smith Springs’s main section offers a famous swimming hole.

While this area isn’t officially considered a swimming area, there are stars and a constructed trail leading up to an area that is obviously used for jumping. There are also signs pointing to the area, calling it a spring. It seems like the area is meant for swimming.

This area does get popular during the summer, and some visitors drink alcohol as well. Glass bottles are banned, and violations should be reported to the US Forest Service Law Enforcement. Please pick up your trash and help us keep this awesome place awesomely clean.

Enjoy other trails in the area, including the Natural Arch (yellow) and the blue trail, which are the longer trails.

For great dining after playing, head over to Shotgun Eddy’s in Eddyville.


#5 Indian Kitchen Trail

Take a few-mile hike down the Indian Kitchen trail (Google Map Directions)  to where the Lusk Creek enters the scene, presenting a perfect Shawnee National Forest swimming hole off the beaten path.

There is even a sand-like beach right by the water.

This area is in the wilderness, and there is often no cell phone coverage. It can be a rugged adventure. Use caution and use common sense.

Pack out what you pack in.

Enjoy the many hiking and horseback riding trails the area has to offer. And riders, enjoy a Highline where the Natural Area starts so you can tie off and take a dip, too!

Head to Harrisburg, Illinois, for some great dining options after your trip to the Lusk Creek Canyon.


#6 Big Creek

Right across the road from the Illinois Iron Furnace is Big Creek (Google Map Directions), where you can enjoy a swim, wade, or even a snorkel.

This area tends to get popular on warmer weekends among locals and travelers alike.

There is plenty of areas to park. No trash services exist, so make sure you pick up after yourself.

Enjoy a visit to the Iron Furnace during your adventure.

Head to the E-Town River Restaurant in Elizabethtown when you work up an appetite.


#7 Millstone Lake

If you’re looking for a great lake to Kayak or fish, check out Millstone Lake (Google Map Directions), which would also be great to take a dip in.

The road to the lake is rough, so drive carefully, and you should be fine.

Law enforcement routinely checks on this place, so be sure to take out your trash after you’re done or risk getting the fine you’ll deserve if you litter.

Enjoy countless hiking trails and horseback riding trails in the area.

Head to Ned’s Shed in Vienna (cash only) for some great burgers and feel-good food options!


#8 Hutchins Creek (Easy Access)

The easy way to Hutchins Creek (Google Map Directions) provides a drive-to-creek option where you can park and play without leaving sight of your car.

Hutchins Creek is a favorite for locals and visitors who know about it. But it is off the beaten path!

There are usually pockets of water that are great for wading in.

There is plenty of hiking and horseback riding trails in the area.

Head to Bottoms Up Family Bar and Grill for excellent chicken after taking your dip.


Shawnee National Forest Swimming Holes: Secret Places

These aren’t secret since I put them and their locations in this article. But they’re hard to get to and reserved for those who like that sort of thing. These spots let you work for them!


#9 Bay Creek

Go the Bell Smith Springs (Google Map Directions) and hike the blue trail. Once you get to the creek, get off the trail and follow the creek heading eastward.

There are plenty of spots for wading in the creek and laying out.

This is an area where it would be scarce to see someone else.

During the summer, with overgrowth and leaves on the trees, this area will be extremely rugged and difficult to navigate.

Only the prepared should take on this journey.


#10 Hutchins Creek (Wilderness Access)

This is my favorite Shawnee National Forest swimming hole area. Park at Godwin East (Google Map Directions) on the Bald Knob Wilderness side and take the River to River Trail to Hutchins Creek. The trail is rugged and hilly; you must navigate off-trail during the summer to get around the stinging nettle.

It sounds terrible, and it would probably be a bad experience for people who are not prepared.

But for those who like the challenge and want a secluded swimming or wading area, then this trail is for you.


And there you have it – 10 Shawnee National Forest swimming holes for everyone to enjoy. Remember, I’m not endorsing these spots as official swimming areas. You use these at your own risk. Please abide by the laws and always pack out what you pack in.


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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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