The 284,400 acre Shawnee National Forest is Illinois' only national forest. It includes nine small wilderness areas totaling 29,000 acres, all under 5000 acres, beautiful areas but too small for extended backpacking. Only three trails in the Shawnee lend themselves to backpacking.
The first is 160 mile River-to-River Trail, also designated as a horse trail, allows at-large camping. It is rated easy to moderate in difficulty level. One may start at Battery Rock on the Ohio River (6.5 miles above Cave in the Rock) or at Devil's Backbone Park in Grand Tower on the Mississippi River. The trail is marked with a blue letter "i." (Get the guide book, River To River Trail Guide by John O'Dell.) Since it is predominantly a horse trail, it is chewed up pretty bad in all low areas with poor drainage, and we didn't hike it.
The 12 mile Lake Kincaid Trail winds around the southwestern portion of man-made Lake Kincaid, but at only 12 miles it's more of a day hike.
The 16 mile Red Cedar Trail is within Illinois' Giant City State Park which is one of several state parks located within the national forest. We backpacked this trail which was marked with red on white paint blazes as seen in this photo with Steve and Scott.
This national forest is at the bottom of Illinois cradled between the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, so it is bluff country as seen in the photo below. We saw a lot of sights like this and climbed a few to get good views.
This trail covers easy terrain with minor ups and downs, crosses occasional roads as it loops around the perimeter of the state park, and is well marked.
We stop in this photo to digest some of the history of the area at this old cemetery.
Overnight camping is only allowed at the half-way point where water, tables, and pit toilets are available. Campgrounds, cabins, and a lodge with restaurant are also in the state park. The sole camping area was this large meadow which had campground amenities provided. This is my tent. The boys chose to pitch theirs at the far end of the meadow, something about someone's snoring as I recall.
The trail wound round and round, tracing the irregular perimeter of the state park operated land. Most was dense forest as seen below, so the scenery was always lovely though we seldom saw great open expanses of land around us.