Shawnee National Forest & Makanda
Nestled between the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers in southern Illinois, Shawnee National Forest is ideal for all types of outdoor recreation and relaxation. The crown jewel of the landscape is the splendid Garden of the Gods, which looks over the rolling hills, canopies, open lands, lakes, creeks and rugged bluffs that define the forest.
Shawnee is also home to the Rim Rock Recreational Trail, where hikers pass jutting walls of rock covered with emerald-green moss as they meander through canyons under the forest canopy. In addition to the variety of trails, springs and historic sites, if you’re looking for true solitude, the forest offers designated ‘Wilderness’ areas, protected by the Illinois Wilderness Act of 1990.
Where to Stay
Makanda Inn & Cottages: Once you’ve explored Shawnee National Forest, spend a night at the Makanda Inn & Cottages. Utilizing natural building materials such as straw bales, recycled plastic roofing and reclaimed wood, the inn has a focus on energy conservation. These materials give the buildings a uniquely organic ambiance, perfect for continuing your escape from the man-made and mass-produced. With affordable rates and a perfect 5.0 rating on TripAdvisor, Makanda Inn is one of the most popular eco-friendly hotels in the region.
What to Do
Rolling Oak Alpaca Ranch: Feel the fleece up close at this family-owned alpaca ranch, where visitors can meet the exotic residents, learn about alpaca farming and shop a farm store filled with fluffy goods. The local, handmade products include yarn, felted goat milk soaps, dryer balls, shawls, socks and toys — much of it made by hand right here at Rolling Oak.
Giant City Stables: While in Makanda, take a horseback ride guided by experienced wranglers. For younger horse lovers, pony rides ease them into the experience, while teens and adults can take riding lessons for groups and individuals.