Shawnee National Forest Carol Ep 19 LKB Graphic

LKB 019: Shawnee National Forest, Illinois, Off Most People’s Radar

(Last Updated On: April 26, 2021)

Introduction to the Episode

Welcome to the nineteenth episode of Locals Know Best! I’m your host, Cindy. I’m a full-time RVer and lover of all things travel-related. Years of adventuring on the road have taught me one fundamental lesson; locals ALWAYS know best! Every episode of this podcast will dive into one local’s perfect day of outdoor adventure in their town!

Today, I’ll be speaking with Carol Hoffman about many of the incredible adventures possible in Shawnee National Forest country in Southern Illinois.

Join Carol and me as we zip through the canopy, ride horseback, hike, bike, spend time on the lake, rock climb, rappel and paint with Alpacas, all in Illinois’ only National Forest!

Links to all the places and activities we talk about in the episode (and a map of the area) can be found below!

Biking in Shawnee National Forest Giant City

Where is Shawnee National Forest?

Carol: The Southern tip of Illinois has Illinois’ only national forest, the Shawnee National Forest.

How big is Shawnee National Forest?

Carol: The Southern tip of Illinois is quite in contrast with the rest of the state. It has gently rolling hills and cliffs. The national forest covers 280,000 acres.

Shawnee National Forest Devils Standtable Climber

Things to do in Shawnee National Forest

Carol: Within that area, you’ll find a lot of hiking, biking, hunting, fishing, outdoor opportunities… The topography is very different than the rest of the prairie state of Illinois. We have a lot of Rocky Bluffs, scenic overlooks, dense forests, so a lot of the opportunity is very different than the rest of the state.

Links to all the places and activities we talk about in the episode (and a map of the area) can be found below!

Shawnee National Forest Giant City Stables

Where is Giant City State Park?

Carol recommends exploring the National Forest from Giant City State Park, Illinois!

Carol: Giant City [has] a lot of different opportunities very close together that can be easily reached in under 30 minutes. Whether you [want] to be up in the canopy of the trees, or on horseback, or on a lake, or hiking in the forest, it [has] all those opportunities right there together, easily accessible.

Giant City State Park is a treasure trove of outdoor recreation, breathtaking views, hiking among plants and animals, fishing, hunting, boating, kayaking, swimming, even rock climbing, and rappelling are options in Giant City State Park.

Giant City Nature Trail

About Carol Hoffman

Shawnee National Forest episode Carol

Learn more about Shawnee National Forest and Giant City State Park at SouthernmostIllinois.com or call their toll-free number for more information at 1-800-SEE-IT-HERE.

Carol is a birdwatcher, hiker, and all-around nature enthusiast.

She has been promoting the scenic beauty of Shawnee forest country for 25 years.

Listen to the Episode

Click here to listen to this episode of Locals Know Best!

Shawnee National Forest Giant City Stables

What We Cover in this Episode

  • What makes the Shawnee National Forest area so different than the rest of the prairie state of Illinois.
  • Why the Giant City State Park area can give you the biggest bang for your buck when visiting this area.
  • The best and worst time of year to visit Shawnee National Forest, Illinois.
  • Why this area is “not an amusement park, where everything is safety checked. This is mother nature.”
  • Where to stay when visiting Shawnee National Forest and Giant City State Park, including an upscale boutique option.
  • The best places for coffee and pastries near Shawnee National Forest and Giant City State Park.
  • The best places to zip around in the canopy, ride horseback, bike, spend time on the lake, rock climb, and rappel.
  • The best meal to order for lunch at the rustic Giant City Lodge.
  • A not-to-be-missed Instagram worth lookout spot.
  • Why the visitor center is worth a stop.
  • The best trails to hike in Giant City State Park.
  • A Mother-Daughter run ranch where you can paint or do yoga with alpacas!
  • The best local wineries to wind down at after a long day outdoors.
  • The best spot for dinner in the Shawnee National Forest area.
  • The best Instagram locations in Shawnee National Forest.
Shawnee National Forest Alpacas

Maps

Carol’s Shawnee National Forest Itinerary Map

Shawnee National Forest Map

Shawnee National Forest map

Giant City State Park Map

(Including Giant City State Park Trails)

Giant City State Park trail map
Map from Illinois.gov, downloadable here.

Links to Places Mentioned in this Episode:

Giant City Lodge

Where to stay when visiting Shawnee National Forest:

Carol: It depends… Do you want to stroll right on the trails in the park, or do you want to be in the small town and walk downtown?

In Giant City State Park option: Giant City State Park Cabins

Carol: Giant City State Park has 34 cabins in the park, three different styles of cabins to choose from. They range from the older, rustic, one-room cabins to a little bit more elite cabins that are out on the bluffs at the park.

The cabins are kind of rustic. There are no cooking facilities in them. You can grill out at picnic grounds, of course, in the park, but the lodge is walking distance and a great place to have a nice [breakfast, lunch, or dinner].

In Giant City State Park option: Giant City State Park Lodge

Shawnee National Forest Giant City Lodge

Carol: The lodge is a rustic, cabin-feel atmosphere, you know, high beam ceilings and a very rustic, outdoorsy feel. So that’s an experience in and of itself. It has a little gift shop and a lounge and sitting area to enjoy the park.

Downtown Anna option: Davie School Inn

Carol: If you wanted a more upscale option… in Anna, there is the very unique Davie School Inn that is right at the edge of [Giant City State Park],… and walking distance to downtown. [It’s] a renovated school transformed into a boutique inn.

Other Shawnee National Forest Cabin Rentals & Cabins Near Shawnee National Forest:

Check out listings for other Shawnee National Forest Cabins options on Airbnb.

Giant City State Park Camping: Little Grassy Lake Campground and Marina

Outdoor Adventures Mentioned in this Episode:

Rolling Oak Alpaca Ranch
Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour

Shawnee National Forest Restaurants & Wineries Mentioned in this Episode:

Shawnee National Forest Giant City Lodge Lunch
Shawnee National Forest Blue Sky Winery

Shawnee National Forest Instagram Photo Spots Mentioned in this Episode:

Giant City Water Tower Lookout

Thanks for Listening!

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