6 Great

Southern Illinois



Are you looking for Southern Illinois workout hikes?

There are Shawnee National Forest fitness trails throughout southern Illinois. There are trails for all different types of exercising, too.

Hiking is a great way to stay in shape, lose weight, and build muscle. This is especially true when you hit higher-elevation trails and have rolling hills.

But not all trails make for good Southern Illinois workout hikes.

In this article, you’ll learn about six Shawnee National Forest fitness trails worth checking out when looking for a great workout.

1 – Southern Illinois Workout Hikes: Little Grand Canyon

Little Grand Canyon is one of the best Shawnee National Forest fitness trails out there.

Enjoy a 3.5-mile loop trail with plenty of elevation and rolling hills. The hike back up will be the hilliest, with a max elevation of around 730’.

Some hikers visit this trail to run, while others focus on hiking. Either way, you’re going to get a workout.

Little Grand Canyon is best to visit when dry. Portions of the trail are a waterfall cascade and can be very hazardous when wet. Please use caution when going up and down the cascade area.

Little Grand Canyon will be one of your favorite Southern Illinois workout hikes after you’re finished with it.


2 – State Park Workout Hike: Red Cedar Trail

Red Cedar Trail is another one of the best Southern Illinois workout hikes to experience if you’re looking for a great fitness day.

The loop is about 12 miles with a total of around 1,500’ of elevation. If you want a hillier hike, go clockwise.

An annual trail run is also hosted here, so the trail is not a stranger to getting runners and exercise hikers on it.

Be careful running or hiking during the warmer months. Snakes, poison ivy, and undergrowth occur on the trail in the summer.

If you want to split your hike or run up in a few days’ worths, there is a campground in the middle of the trail.


3 – Touch of Nature Bike Trails

Whether you want to mountain bike it, run it or hike it – Touch of Nature has some of the best Southern Illinois workout trails in the region.

There are about 10 miles of single-track trail stretching around the perimeter of the SIU Touch of Nature Environmental Center. There are plenty of technical portions, hilly terrain, and loops.

It’s turning into one of the area’s favorite mountain biking destinations. But you can run and hike the trails, too.

Don’t use the trail when wet, especially on a bicycle. It tears up the trail, and the volunteers who maintain it would appreciate it if you respect the rules.

Stop by the Touch of Nature office or visit their website to get your parking pass.


4 – Southern Illinois Workout Hikes: Round Bluff Nature Preserve

If you’re looking for a short fitness hike with plenty of rolling hills and elevation, I suggest you visit Round Bluff at Ferne Clyffe State Park.

The loop trail is about a mile long. The max elevation of the trail is a whopping 690’. A few pleasant rolling hills and steep staircases make for a great workout.

There are many other trails in the state park if you want to add more hiking mileage. Blackjack Oak is a great one to add to the list of workouts.

Round Bluff is an Illinois Nature Preserve, so please stay on the designated trail.

Most state parks in southern Illinois make for great Southern Illinois workout hikes that are usually relatively safe and populated, too.


5 – Tunnel Hill State Trail is a Great Fitness Trail

Whether you want to bike, run, or hike – Tunnel Hill State Trail is the perfect trail for you.

The trail is over 50 miles out and back. But there are many trailheads to start at to make it shorter. So there is minimal elevation but plenty of distance for your pleasure.

A 50 and 100 miles foot race is held on the trail every year. It’s even a Boston Marathon qualifier.

Please share the trail with other cyclists, runners, and hikers.

Tunnel Hill is among the best Southern Illinois workout hikes in the area.

Southern Illinois Workout Hikes

6 – Shawnee National Forest Fitness Trails: Glendixon

Glendixon is a combination of Lake Glendale and Dixon Springs State Park.

You can do the Shawnee Challenge Route for 13 miles with a mix of loops and out-and-back trails. There are over 1,000 feet of elevation.

This is a designated mountain bike trail in the Shawnee National Forest. It is a gut-busting bike ride, but it makes for a great trail run or hike.

Please avoid mountain biking on the trail when it is wet. Rattlesnakes have recently been reported in the area. Please watch your step.

Enjoy over 19 miles of Southern Illinois workout hikes at Glendixon.


And that was six Shawnee National Forest fitness hikes for you to enjoy. These six hikes are spread across the forest so that you can choose the closest route. If you enjoyed this article and want to see more, subscribe to my newsletter today.

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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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