Southern Illinois is an incredible place for outdoor enthusiasts and fans of nature. Vast expanses of forest, beautiful and unique rock formations and incredible wildlife makes this a go-to place for: Hiking, climbing, hunting, boating, biking, fishing, wildlife viewing and more. Many of the hikes are easily accessible for hikers of any ability and can be done in a couple miles or less but most can also be expanded to accommodate the most hardcore hikers, climbers or runners.
Garden of the Gods - Observation Trail - 7 miles from cabins
This is the main attraction to the area. The observation trail is an unbelievably scenic 1/4 mile trail that is easily accessible for people of any age/ability. You can spend anywhere from 15 minutes to hours on this short trail depending on how much climbing around and how much beauty you want to soak in. Our favorite way to do the loop is clock-wise. This is also the fastest way to get to the best view of Camel Rock. The view from the bluffs above Camel Rock towards the south is the 2nd best vista on the trail (our opinion). A great trail to see more than once since its so close and so short. It also very different looking in different conditions and time of day. Rating: Easy 1 out of 10
Rim Rock - entrance is 100 yards east of our main entrance on the left
We hear again and again from our guests that Rim Rock is their favorite hike in the area. It has an easy 3/4 mile upper loop and about 1.5 mile lower loop. Recommended route is taking the lower loop on the right side, going up the stairs in the "main attraction" area on the back of the loop and going right which brings you out on the left upper loop. That is 1.25 miles. Do it the opposite way if you do it a 2nd time. Some really great bluff lines you can follow on the other sides of the canyons. Incredible bluffs, unique rock formations, "fat man squeezes", a creek, lots of wildflowers and well marked. There is also a trail that leads over to Pounds Hollow Lake that starts along the backside of the loop (easy 1/2 mile out and back). Best of all, you can easily walk to it right from your cabin! Rating: Moderate 3 out of 10
Pounds Hollow Lake - 2 miles
A beautiful and very clean 28 acre National Forest lake. A nice swim beach, pavilions, picnic area, BBQ pits and restrooms. Good fishing with about a mile of trails along the lakeshore. You can also take out kayaks or canoes, bring your own or rent one at Garden of the Gods Outpost. There is a 1/2 mile trail over to Rim Rock trail and it's only 1.5 miles to Rim Rock's Dogwood Cabins!
Cave in Rock State Park- 15 miles
This 50' wide and 1oo+yard deep cave is located right on the banks of the Ohio River that was once used by River Pirates! Just a short walk from the parking lot. There are also some nice views from the bluffs overlooking the Ohio River. Great restaurant at the lodge in the park that is reasonably priced. Great spot to enjoy a drink and watch the barges go by or the ferry criss-crossing the Ohio. Rating Easy 2 out of 10
High Knob- 5 miles
Main loop is a 1 mile moderate hike. Some cool slot canyons and rock formations. Great place to see sunsets from with a big westerly vista. To get to the trail, one end of the loop is about a 100 feet back down the road from the parking lot on the left, the other is 100 feet farther down on the right. There is a trailhead on the north end of the parking lot that can cut the loop in half if needed. There are a few other trails in the area; to the east is Hurricane Bluff and to the west towards Garden of the Gods is Buzzards Roost both can be accessed via the River to River trail which comes across the road near the entrance sign for High Knob. Rating: Moderate 3 out of 10
Burden Falls- 27 miles (10 minutes from Jackson Falls)
Scenic wet-weather waterfall located only 100 yards off parking lot with some smaller upper-falls at the parking lot. Shortest route to the bottom is crossing below the upper-falls then going to the right at the top of the falls and then "scrambling" down, not super difficult but do not attempt if you are not comfortable. Or you can take a trail off to the left from the upper-falls going out about 1/2 mile and then walking back along some nice bluffs back to the falls. Lots of areas to explore as well as additional trails. Rating: Moderate 1 out of 10 to the top of falls, Moderate 4 out of 10 to the bottom
Jackson Falls- 37 miles (10 minutes from Burden Falls)
Multiple beautiful wet-weather waterfalls. Easy 1/3 mile hike to top of falls, about 1.5 mile fairly easy hike to the bottom with one scramble section. At top of falls, cross the creek and follow the trail to the left (as you are looking out over falls) for about 3/4 mile, you will cross a smaller creek/waterfall, then about 100 yards up there are some large boulders along the bluff line that you can scramble down and follow the trail back along to the falls. An easier way down is about another .5 miles up the trail. Many miles of scenic hiking along the top and bottom sections of this area. The long line of towering bluffs makes this area super scenic and a mecca for climbers. We have some maps on hand to help you better navigate the area if you need them. There is a new trail map up at the parking lot.
Bell Smith Springs- 30 miles from Rim Rock's (near falls above)
Over 8 miles of trails, multiple creeks, springs and scenic canyons. Beautiful vegetation and full of the signature rock formations
Sand Cave - 31 miles (near Bell Smith)
Nice medium sized cave with some really cool bluff lines just beyond it. About 1.5 mile fairly easy hike, out and back. Park at the intersection that maps bring you too, walk forward down logging road and trail will go off the right down the bluff line.
Trigg Tower- 39 miles from Rim Rock's (Jackson Falls area)
Not a huge tower but some nice views. Not many you can go up in anymore.
Mantle Rock- 37 miles
At 188', it is the largest natural bridge east of the Mississippi. A 2.5 mile moderate loop that includes the natural bridge, nice rock formations, creeks and a stretch of the original Trail of Tears.
There are many other hiking areas in the area; Thacker Hollow, Blue Hole, Buzzards Roost, Beaver Trail, Stone Face, etc..... If you are looking for something else or information on some other the other parks a little farther away (Ferne Clyffe, Giant City, Cache River, etc...) let us know and we are happy to share our knowledge of the area.
Our county (Hardin) and neighboring Pope county is consistently among the top deer and turkey producers in the state and the region (per acre). Publicly accessible areas are numerous in the vast forests of the Shawnee.
We have a wide variety of birds, butterflies, insects, spiders, snakes, rodents and more. There are a variety of different eco-systems in the area as well as we some of the most isolated spots in the region.
The Cache River is a great area for a leisurely float (it's more of a lake than a river), there is a 2 mile canoe trail and you can see some of the oldest trees in Illinois including a 1500 year old Bald Cypress! For rentals check out Cache Bayou Outfitters, very nice people and reasonable! $40 for 4 hours
There are numerous antique shops in some of the many surrounding small towns; Equality, Elizabethtown, Golcanda and more. There are some Amish stores across the ferry in Kentucky featuring furniture, food and crafts.
There are countless lakes and rivers in the area to try your luck. 28 acre Pounds Hollow is 2 miles away. 105 acre Glen O Jones Lake is 20 miles away. There are many other small lakes in the area that you would likely have to yourself. The Smithton Pool of the Ohio River is about 15 miles away and is 72 miles long and over 27,000 acres in size. There are numerous rivers along the Ohio that are also great fishing spots; Saline River, Big Grand Pierre Creek, Lusk Creek and more. There are also many fishing tournaments held along the Ohio out of Golcanda marina, Rosiclare Ramp and Lusk Creek Ramp. Golcanda marina has pontoons and fishing boat rental. You can check fishing reports and tournament listings here.
Horseback Riding- 49 miles
Lake Glendale Stables has affordable riding with a lot of options for length of ride and will let you ride to your ability level. Good operation with good horses in a great area to ride. Facility also has a zipline that customers can use that ends in a lake! $45 for 1 hour, $80 for 2 hours... they also have longer rides
Zip Line- 59 miles
Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour has 8 zip lines as long as 1100 feet hitting speeds of almost 40 mph and aerial bridges! A 3 hour tour costs $85