Top 10

Shawnee National Forest

Towns to Visit

in Southern Illinois

Shawnee National Forest towns are all a part of the Southern Illinois experience. While visiting the Shawnee, you will want to include visits into some of the Shawnee National Forest towns for other entertainment, shopping, lodging, and of course dining desires. Shawnee National Forest towns usually have unique local businesses and points of interest that you will not find anywhere else. It is important for local and visitors alike to consider stopping by Shawnee National Forest towns to help these local businesses which helps Southern Illinois as a whole. Remember, shopping local helps family-owned businesses that make this region unique.

Shawnee National Forest Towns #1:

Equality, Illinois

Equality, Illinois isn’t the biggest of the Shawnee National Forest Towns out there, but they have some interesting things you should check out. For starters, Equality is home to The Red Onion which is a local and traveler favorite when it comes to a delicious and unique dining experience. They say the steaks at The Red Onion are some of the best steaks found in the Midwest. After you get done eating, you might want to hike or bike that good food off right? Check out Glen O. Jones Lake for local recreation including hiking trails, a 5-mile paved bike trail, kayaking/canoeing, and fishing opportunities. The lake also provides an electric and non-electric campground. A great Shawnee National Forest hiking experience in this particular area is Old Stoneface.

Check out this Google Maps Link to learn how you can get to Equality. Zoom in and out to find The Red Onion, Glen O. Jones Lake, and the Old Stoneface Trail.

Shawnee National Forest Towns #2:

Metropolis, Illinois

Metropolis, Illinois is one of the most famous small towns in Southern Illinois and really, the world! How so? Watch a Superman movie! The huge City of Metropolis that the movie depicts is actually a small river town in Southern Illinois and the official Home of Superman. Visit Metropolis for everything Superman from the original Superman Museum to the Superman Statue. Even the local gas stations have Superman photo opportunities and souvenirs. For a wondering dining experience, check out Super City Bar & Grill which makes awesome pizza. Check out Fat Ed’s for some of the best burgers in town. The town even has its own Casino with a hotel. You can also check out Fort Massac State Park for campground (electrical and non-electrical), a pave biking trail, hiking and riverfront activities.

Check out this Google Maps Link to learn how you can get to Metropolis. Zoom in and out to discover all of the fun things to do in the area.

Shawnee National Forest Towns #3:

Karbers Ridge, Illinois

Karbers Ridge, Illinois is relatively small with very little population. It really isn’t even considered and incorporated community. I chose to add this hamlet to the Shawnee National Forest Towns list because there are plenty of things to do and businesses to support all around that particular area. First, you might want to check out Garden of the Gods Outpost for Shawnee National Forest maps, apparel and even Bigfoot gear. The store also sells some of the best ice cream around, firewood, hiking gear, and other cool stuff. Right across the street is Sassy the Sasquatch and she loves it when you take selfies with her. For unique lodging in the area, there is Shawnee Forest Cabins close to Garden of the Gods, or maybe you want to stay in a Treehouse Cabin? What about staying in a cabin with Llamas, Miniature Horses and Goats? You might also check out the restaurant at Double M Equestrian Camp where everyone is welcome to enjoy some awesome food. While venturing in this area, for great Shawnee National Forest hikes, check out Garden of the Gods Observation Trail, Rim Rock and High Knob.

Check out this Google Maps Link to learn how you can get to Karbers Ridge. Zoom in and out to discover all of the fun things to do in the area.

Shawnee National Forest Towns #4:

Cave-in-Rock, Illinois

Cave-in-Rock, Illinois is an awesome Ohio River community that you should visit! Not only to check out the awesome Pirate Cave where all sorts of craziness has happened over the years, and the Dining Lodge for local delicious food but the town itself has all sorts of stuff to do. If you like really cool rocks and crystals, check out Palmer’s Trading Post. But most of all if you want a unique experience, go ride across the river ferry for free! You can do this from your car, on foot or by bicycle. And it’s completely free to ride across and back, never leaving the ferry. A good hike in this area can be done on the trails at Cave-in-Rock State Park.

Check out this Google Maps Link to learn how you can get to Cave-in-Rock. Zoom in and out to discover all of the fun things to do in the area.

Shawnee National Forest Towns #5:

Elizabethtown, Illinois

Elizabethtown, Illinois is a big deal for the Shawnee National Forest towns list. This is because the 160-mile River to River Trail starts (or finishes depending how you look at it) in Elizabethtown. We commonly refer to this town as E-Town just so you know. One particular thing to do in E-Town is to eat at the world-famous E-Town River Restaurant which is located right on the Ohio River. You can drive to it or boat to it, whichever you prefer. They sell all sorts of delicious food and river river-caught fish that is to die for. For a fun hiking experience and free camping, check out Shawnee National Forest Tower Rock nearby to E-Town.

Check out this Google Maps Link to learn how you can get to Elizabethtown. Zoom in and out to discover all of the fun things to do in the area.

Shawnee National Forest Towns #6:

Eddyville, Illinois

Eddyville, Illinois is often called the central town of Shawnee National Forest recreation. This is a town a lot of different forest users eventually pass through whether in hiking boots, on horseback or bicycle tires – Eddyville is defiantly one of the more known of the Shawnee National Forest towns. In terms of Hiking, there is a lot of trails in and around Eddyville that you should check out including Bell Smith Springs, Indian Kitchen, Burden Falls and Lusk Creek Wilderness. You can camp at Hangout Campground which caters to all types of forest users. But one thing I highly suggest is eating at Shotgun Eddy’s in town in Eddyville. They have awesome breakfast choices and even better lunch menus. They have events, adult beverages (please drink responsibly) and it’s an all-around fun place to visit with all the stuff hanging on the walls.

Check out this Google Maps Link to learn how you can get to Eddyville. Zoom in and out to discover all of the fun things to do in the area.

Shawnee National Forest Towns #7:

Golconda, Illinois

Golconda, Illinois is probably one of the most happening of the Shawnee National Forest towns out there for being such a small town. There is so much to do there, and it has a lot of history. Ever heard of the Yodeling Boy? Mason Ramsey? He’s from Golconda! Aside from that, the annual world-famous Golconda Shrimp Festival brings people in from all over the world. And for more great food, check out Diver Down and Dairy Bar. There are plenty of places to lodge around Golconda including Golconda Lock & Dam Home and more. Take a walk-through downtown Golconda for even more unique dining and shopping experiences. When hiking in this area, check out Dixon Springs State Park and be sure to go across the street to the awesome Chocolate Factory for some amazing sweets!

Check out this Google Maps Link to learn how you can get to Golconda. Zoom in and out to discover all of the fun things to do in the area.

Shawnee National Forest Towns #8:

Vienna, Illinois

Vienna, Illinois has a lot of things going for the town and is sort of the center of Shawnee National Forest towns at that. The Hidden Springs Ranger Station for the Shawnee National Forest is located in Vienna. The Tunnel Hill State Trail HQ and most popular trailhead is also in this town. There are also many places to have a unique dining experience in Vienna including Vienna Diner, Family Pizza, Ned’s Shed, and Wildfires. Other nearby trails to check out around this area include Max Creek Vortex and Dutchman Lake Waterfall. For electrical-hookup camping, check out Shawnee Forest Campground.

Check out this Google Maps Link to learn how you can get to Vienna. Zoom in and out to discover all of the fun things to do in the area.

Shawnee National Forest Towns #9:

Harrisburg, Illinois

Harrisburg, Illinois is the largest of the Shawnee National Forest towns listed in this article. This town is also home of the headquarters for the US Forest Service – Shawnee National Forest. It is home of the Sasquatch Festival as well which is a very unique event held in Southern Illinois. There are a lot of Mom and Pop shops, sightseeing, bike trails, and dining in town as well. We recommend checking out Mackie’s Pizza which is mine and Michelle’s favorite place to eat. While in Harrisburg with your bicycle or running/hiking shoes, do check out Tunnel Hill State Trail.

Check out this Google Maps Link to learn how you can get to Harrisburg. Zoom in and out to discover all the fun things to do in the area.

Shawnee National Forest Towns #10:

Makanda, Illinois

Makanda, Illinois is last on our list of interesting Shawnee National Forest towns. This is the hometown of the popular and scenic Giant City State Park. Makanda is also home to the Makanda Mushroom Festival and the Vulture Festival. There are a lot of peace-loving hippies in Makanda to say the least but every one of them will make you feel welcomed in their little down. The Makanda Boardwalk is probably the main thing for fun to do in Makanda. It features various stores with unique gifts that everyone will love including rocks and incense. While visiting this area, make sure you eat the best fried chicken around at the Giant City Lodge. For lodging, check out Makanda Inn.

Check out this Google Maps Link to learn how you can get to Makanda. Zoom in and out to discover all of the fun things to do in the area.

That about sums of my top 10 Shawnee National Forest Towns that make Southern Illinois so unique. I’m sure many locals will agree with my choices. If you’re reading this as someone who has never visited Shawnee National Forest, do consider shopping in these Shawnee National Forest Towns for a unique experience that you probably won’t find anywhere else. Please feel free to comment below with other Shawnee National Forest Towns that I didn’t mention worth visiting and why folks should visit. If you enjoyed this kind of article and want to see more like it, please share it with your friends and especially on social media to help support my efforts.

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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. I hope you enjoy my website and I encourage you to interact with me!

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