The good news is the majority of these suggestions are FREE!!!!
WHAT IS THERE TO DO?
When you hear those five words from your kids, or you are just looking for an answer yourself, here is a list of things to do here in the beautiful Shawnee Forest of Southern Illinois. For further info, maps and links go to the "Area Attractions" page.
1. Hike the Rim Rock Recreational Trail which is right across the road from the Deer Run Cabin. Take a short hike around the stone paved trail at the top of Rim Rock through the woods, past the old Indian rock wall and on top of scenic bluffs. Will take about 45 minutes depending on your pace. Check out the old, old cedar trees that are hundreds of years old.
2. For a little longer even more beautiful hike. Take the stairs down into the canyon which you find at the far end of the paved trail. The path will take your through huge stone bluffs and narrow passageways. Continue down the stone cut stairs past Ox Lot Cave where livestock was housed earlier in the century. Listen for the spring that trickles in the overhang. Check out the massive bluffs all around you and imagine thousands of years ago when Native Americans made there home in these canyons and lived on top of Rim Rock. Continue on the path straight past Ox Lot Cave 1/4 mile to Pounds Hollow Lake. The lake is a 28 acre beautiful forest lake complete with swimming beach, plenty of fish and picnic tables. Watch for bald eagles, deer, turkey and other wildlife. The last time I walked the trail I saw a Pileated Woodpecker. Walk back the way you came and make a left just before Ox Lot Cave. The path will take you through more beautiful and interesting rock formations and bluffs and will continue back to where you began at the trailhead. This will take about two hours depending on your pace.
If you do not have time to walk to the lake just turn right just past Ox Lot Cave and continue back to the trailhead and the cabins across the road.
3. Hike the private 1.6 mile trail around the Rim Rock Cabin property. Trail is marked in blue and features mostly a wooded trail with sitting benches. One near a little creek and one in a hidden meadow where (if you sit quietly) you may see a deer or turkey. There are a couple of marked shortcuts if you do not want to do the entire trail. Pick up the trail on the main gravel road to Deer Run, Bear's Den and Cougar Bluff (trail goes behind Deer Run) or for Eagle's Retreat and Coyote Hollow follow the road in front of your cabins to the left and you will see the blue markers at the massive cedar tree before you get to the blacktop. We try very hard to keep mowed up for you. Wear bug spray!!!
4. Hike up to our barn and see our various animals. We have horses, goats, a mule, a donkey, chickens and guinea hens. One of our horses is 35 years old. His name is Red. You will know him when you see him.
5. The River to River Trail is just down the road and is a trail that goes across the entire State of Illinois from the Ohio River to the Mississippi. Just turn left out the driveway and go a short distance (past the water tower) to the first gravel road that crosses the blacktop. Go either way for the trail. If you turn right just drive or hike a short distance down the gravel road and watch for the trail cutting off into the woods to your left. You will have to hike as long as you want and then turn around and come back. If you turn left at the gravel road go about 300 feet and make another left on a country drive. Go about 1/4 mile and you will see the trail cut into the woods. You can hike to Camp Cadiz if you go left and you can hike to High Knob if you go right. If you have two vehicles it would be fun to deliver your car either to the Camp Cadiz Trailhead or the High Knob Trailhead and hike to your vehicle. River to River Trail is marked with a blue rectangle and a blue circle. Otherwise just hike and then come back. The hike from Karbers Ridge/Pounds Hollow blacktop (our blacktop) to Camp Cadiz is about 3 miles...to High Knob and approximately 3 miles to High Knob from the blacktop.
6. Drive 7 miles to Garden of the Gods Wilderness area. Take a left out of the driveway onto the blacktop. Go through the little town of Karbers Ridge and continue a short distance to the next blacktop right. There is a brick/metal building on the right and there is a sign that says Garden of the Gods. Turn right and go about 1 mile to the entrance of Garden of the Gods left. As you drive up the lane notice a trail that crosses the road with some bluffs on the right. That is a leg of the River to River Trail (item 5). There are some really beautiful bluffs along the drive. Take time to check them out. They are awesome and less crowded. Continue to the Observation Trail. This is about a 45 minute interpretive trail from which you can see many of the unusual and awesome rock formations. Note Camel Rock which will be on the 2016 American the Beautiful Quarter representing Illinois. This trail can take 45 minutes to two hours depending on how much time you spend. Careful with kids as there are some shear bluffs and keep your dogs on leash.
7. For a longer hike take the Backpackers Trail in Garden of the Gods Wilderness area. This is a beautiful area so take your camera.
8. Watch the sunset at Garden of the Gods. This can be breathtaking. The sunsets are pretty from the cabins as well.
10. Check out Cave in Rock State Park and visit the infamous river pirate cave. The Cave in Rock State Park restaurant has great food and the Sunday buffet is incredible. The views from the bluffs are spectacular. Sit and watch the river barges go go. Restaurant is now open only on Sat and Sun. Bummer
11. Take the free ferry across the Ohio River at Cave in Rock to Kentucky. There is a great Amish store just a few miles into Kentucky on 91 (the road that runs to the ferry on the Kentucky side). Get a map at the Amish store and visit various other Amish stores in the area including a fantastic bakery and flower store. Marion, Kentucky has a couple of good restaurants and antique shops. The Marion Cafe at the first stop light as you go into town and Front Porch restaurant. Take a right at the first light. Stay on 641. Front Porch is just at the edge of town on the left. If you are into minerals and beautiful rocks check out the Mineral Museum in Marion, Ky. You will be amazed at the collection. I'm told the Smithsonian has asked if they could have some of this collection. Very special. You can even go on a dig. Click here for schedule.
12. Drive to Saline County Wildlife area and Glen O Jones Lake. Drive as if you are driving to Garden of the Gods (6) but continue on past and continue on several miles to Saline County Wildlife Area on left. This includes a 135 acre beautiful fishing lake, a very nice park, a hiking trail (takes off from the Chief Tecumseh Statue) and a paved bike trail which goes into Equality and is approximately five miles long. In the summer time there is a vendor at the lake who sells sandwiches, etc. Vendor only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday. They rent small boats as well.
13. Go down to Pounds Hollow Lake and take a swim. There is a beach and it is an excellent place to go early in the morning before others arrive.
14. If you brought your road bike take a day trip and ride the Tunnel Hill Bike Trail. There are several trailheads and we suggest you get on at Vienna and head North, at Tunnel Hill (go North or South) or any of the other numerous trailheads. The trail is over 60 miles long and goes along an old railway. For a shorter ride drive to Saline County Wildlife area (12) and take the bike trail through the countryside to Equality. (About five miles). I'm told the Glen O Jones bike trail is not the greatest. You can ride in the park around the Glen O Jones Lake but there are steep grades. If you need to rent a bike there is a bike rental in Harrisburg. Check the "Area Attractions" page for further information.
15. Take your mountain bike around the private trail around our property. The Shawnee Forest does not allow mountain biking in the forest but there is a road just below us that would be excellent for a mountain bike ride. Blackridge Road runs through the forest and is very scenic. Just turn left out our driveway on to blacktop and go a short distance (past the water tower) to the first gravel road right. This is Blackridge Road and comes out on a blacktop. Turn left on the blacktop - go a short distance to Double M Campground. There is a restaurant there that is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday (until afternoon).
16. Golf at Hardin County's beautiful nine hole golf course near Cave in Rock. Just turn right out our driveway to Hwy 1. Go right on Hwy 1. Continue to first road left just past Hwy 146 turnoff. So reasonable. $11 for 9 holes AND cart. $20 for 18 holes and cart. Turn left (at Rose's Restaurant) Drive short distance to golf course. Very reasonable. If you want 18 holes Eldorado has a nice course as does Vienna. To go to Eldorado take right out our driveway to Hwy 1.
17. Book a horseback ride in the Shawnee Forest through Lake Glendale Stables. About 40 minutes from cabins. Stop at Chocolate and Ice Cream Factory on the way to or from.
18. Visit Dixon Springs State Park and the nearby Chocolate and Ice Cream Factory. Has walking trails and a swimming pool.
19. Hike Bell Smith Springs area. 40 minutes away. TAKE A TRAIL MAP. This area is extensive. Keep track of where you are.
20. Visit Burden Falls. Falls are beautiful in wet weather. The area has some good hiking as well. About 30 minutes away. While you are in the area continue on to Jackson Falls and Mill Stone Bluff. To make a day of it go to Bell Smith Springs as well. Beautiful area.
21. Go to a minor league ball game in Marion, Illinois. The Miners are a great team and doing well. They have a ball park in Marion.
22. Go to War Bluff Valley Sanctuary for some bird watching. Just go left out driveway to Hwy 34. Turn left to 146. Turn right on 146. Go approximately 7.5 miles to Bushwhack Road. Go approximately 2 miles to entrance.
23. Drive to High Knob and check out one of the highest areas in Southern Illinois. There are hiking trails in the area and River To River Trail crosses goes through High Knob. In the summer there is a little store where you can get ice cream or a drink. Take a left out our driveway and drive 3.3 miles to Karbers Ridge. In the middle of town take the gravel road to the right and drive until you reach High Knob on the right.
24. Go to the floating Catfish Restaurant in Elizabethtown for some great catfish.
25. Check out the only standing Iron Furnace in the state of Illinois. On the National Register of Historic Places step back to Civil War days when "pig-iron" was smelted at this, the first charcoal-fired iron furnace in Illinois. See Hardin County Visitors guide brochure for location.
26. Visit the Pioneer Village Museum in Harrisburg. Authentic log cabins and historical items.
27. Visit San Damiano's. Park like setting on the Ohio River complete with an Angel Walk, a 30 foot statue of Jesus and a beautiful overlook. Former Catholic Retreat now has buffet first Sunday of the month, on Mother's Day, Father's Day and Easter. Good food and nice gift shop.
28. Travel to Paducah on Saturday evening in the Summer....Go to downtown by the river. They have a festival each Saturday evening with music and several blocks reserved for the event. Good restaurants, carriage rides, good family event. Just sit and watch the river flow and the barges go by.
29. If gambling interests you visit Harrah's Riverboat in Metropolis
30. Go to historic Fort Massac in Metropolis. Visit the Superman store while you are there and see the gigantic statue of Superman.
31. Hike to the top of Tower Rock on the Ohio. Towering 160 feet about the river this majestic bluff is midway between the historic river towns of Elizabethtown and Cave in Rock.
32. Check out the Ole Heritage Antique Shop in Elizabethtown and the Rosiclare Antique Mall. Find the larger antique mall in Sturgis, Kentucky. (great place for antique lovers). You will find more antique shops in Eldorado, Il and on the square at Benton, Illinois. There is also a house full of antiques in Goreville called the Wolf House.
33. Visit Old Shawnee Town home of the First State Bank of Illinois (1840-1942). Also home of the John Marshal Home which became Illinois' first banking instutution in 1816. Turned down Chicago's request for a loan stating "it would never make it". Drive by the "Old Slave House" on Hwy 1 just South of Hwy 13. Build in 1830 and now owned (by not open) by the State of Illinois this infamous home was the site of a reverse underground railroad where slaves escaping to freedom in Illinois were recaptured back into slavery. Check out Hog Daddy's Saloon and biker bar. You can cross into Kentucky on the Old Shawnee Town bridge called the "Gateway to Illinois".
34. Scuba dive or train to dive at Mermet Springs. Mermet Springs is an 8/5 acre spring fed stone quarry located one mile north of Mermet, Illinois on US HWY 45. The quarry is devoted to diving and dive training. Call 618-527-3483. About 1 1/2 hour away.
35. Visit Cache River State Natural Area. Wetlands area with wooden walkways showasing massive cypress trees, many of which are more than 1000 years old. A little over an hour away. The Cache River Wetlands Visitors center is located couth of Cypress on Route 37. Drive to Vienna continue West of town on 146. Turn left on Old Cypress road. Or continue to Hwy 37 turn left and follow signs.
36. Hike the Lusk Creek Canyon area which is located three miles northeast of Eddyville in rural Pope County.
37. Fish at nearby Pounds Hollow Lake (28 acre forest lake), Glen O Jones Lake (135 acre lake) approximately 15 miles away past Garden of the Gods, the Ohio River, Whoopee Cat Lake or Lake Tecumseh (in the Shawnee Forest in the Iron Furnace area).
38. Set up a canoe trip on the Cache River. We now have two canoe vendors whom you can contact to either rent canoes on your own or take a guided tour. White Crane Rentals 618-201-4090 Shawnee Adventure Guides 888-588-9724 Both of these great vendors have other adventures as well. Plan ahead for these.
39. Check out the Shawnee Canopy Tours zip line. Awesome. Eight runs some over 1000 feet through the woods. 54 scenic miles away.
40. Check out Trail's End Restaurant at Double M Horsecamp. Just 5 minues away. Great food (Bob and I eat there three times a weekend). Only open from Friday noon through Sunday afternoon. Relaxing. Excellent service. Has items other than FRIED (that too). Amy and Heath are owners and just fun to be around. Horses everywhere. Take right out our driveway to Hwy 1. Turn left...go very short distance to next blacktop left. Just a few down that road. Can't miss it. Biscuits and gravy all day. Fantastic desserts. Closed December - first of March. 618-275-4440 Menu
41. Visit Hardin County's Fluorite Museum. Fluorite is a beautiful mineral used for numerous critical things including flux, fluoride, making aluminum. Hardin County was the fluorite capital of the WORLD and this is a wonderful museum depicting that era. Not to mention, the mineral is beautiful. Located on property in Rosiclare that was a fluorite mine the museum is extensive and very interesting. Volunteers man the property so only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
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