After canceling our trip earlier in the season due to severe weather, the time was finally here to visit Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois.
The weather was looking almost perfect for the long weekend. Thursday evening immediately after work, we are packed and ready to go! The sun was shining with a warm 82°.
Our goal for the night was to make it to Bedford, Indiana where we stayed at a Super 8. We usually never stay at Super 8’s but the online reviews seemed pretty good and the price was right. I’ll just say, it wasn’t the best hotel we’ve stayed at but surely wasn’t worst either. I personally wouldn’t recommend this hotel and more than likely won’t be staying at any Super 8 hotels in the future. Live and learn.
Friday morning we were a little slow moving due to the terrible bed from the previous night. After a couple hours of sunshine and the excitement of the coming days, I completely forgot about the lack of sleep. Shortly before crossing into Illinois, I realized that I forgot to bring the strap for our camera. Without that, we couldn’t get any pictures from the back of the bike. Now I didn’t think this would be a problem, I figured we could stop and buy one, right? Not in southwestern Indiana. Finding a strap was going to be a little harder than I thought. For that matter, finding a store was harder than I thought! Eventually we came across a Walmart and I knew they sold cameras so certainly they would have straps, I was wrong. Shocking, I know! Spending more time than we should have, we finally found something that would suffice and we were on our way.
Making our way to Illinois was trouble free and curve free. The roads are very straight in this area. So much so that whenever I seen a sign for an upcoming corner, I got quite excited! Once in Harrisburg, Illinois we figured eating lunch would be a good idea, because there aren’t too many choices in Shawnee National Forest.
After lunch we had a short 20 mile ride to Garden of the Gods. One thing I want to mention, almost immediately after turning south on Illinois 145/34 there is a Forest Headquarters building on the right. We didn’t stop and I’m not sure if they have any info about the area available or not, but It might be worth checking out. I figured there would be some type of park office or visitor center near Garden of the Gods. but we never did see anything like that. I was glad I researched the area before we left home, which I always recommend doing on any trip.
This is a must see if you are in the area! I was pleasantly surprised at how awesome this was. The parking lot does have a restroom if needed. The trail is well kept and they have constructed wooden bridges and guard rails where needed but this is no place to let small children run free! Once upon the rocks, there is nothing to keep you from falling off.
Next on our agenda is Rim Rock Trail just a little east of Garden of the Gods. They have a nice picnic area with restrooms. The trail was a little disappointing. If we had went there before Garden of the Gods we may have felt differently. I guess from the name I just assumed that we would have a great view of a gorge but that’s not the case. There was only one decent view.
After leaving Rim Rock, we head to our cabin, Shawnee Forest Cabins, which is only a couple minutes south of Garden of the Gods. We were very impressed by these cabins. I can’t say enough good about them and the only small complaint I have is a lack of places to hang or place personal items of clothing for example. We called twice with questions and they were very friendly and courteous. This is a one bedroom cabin but they also have two bedrooms available. It has a complete kitchen, TV, small electric fireplace, grill, firepit with wood and our favorite, a hot tub on the deck! For more info check out our video on YouTube.
Saturday morning the temps were in the low 50’s so it was a good time to use our heated gear and Sherri told me she was very thankful for them. I have a pair of heated gloves and she has a pair of heated gloves and jacket but unfortunately we forgot the jacket.
Our first destination for the day was Heron Pond. Getting back there we had to take a one lane gravel road which was about ¾ mile long. There really wasn’t even room to pull over in some spots. If another vehicle came, I’m not sure what we could have done, I’m just glad we didn’t have to find out.
We really liked this area. I think part of why I liked it was because there weren’t crowds of people that usually can be associated with the popular attractions. The trail followed a creek or small river until we ended at Heron Pond cypress swamp. I guess due to being later in the season the water level was down, well that may be an understatement. There is a floating walkway that takes you back in the swamp a short distance where you turn around and come back out. From what I’ve read, If you go in the summer make sure to use bug spray. I recommend checking this out if in the area. Sherri wasn’t too happy about the gravel road leading back there but it worked out fine.
After leaving Heron Pond we headed over to the town of Metropolis. You know, the town where Superman worked! Well, disguised as Clark Kent. The whole town seemed to embrace the idea. We happened to eat at a Hardee’s and the inside had a Superman theme. With different statues located around town and the main one is a 15’ Superman located in Superman Square. There you can get a picture of the statue with friends and family standing by it. In the square you can find a Superman museum and they also have a visitor center there, which employed a very friendly lady who was quite helpful with area information.
On the east side of Metropolis is Fort Massac, a state park with different historical events and reenactments. We didn’t spend a lot of time there but if you’re into history you’ll probably enjoy a visit here. It’s also located right on the river with a nice view.
Continuing east toward Cave in Rock State Park you come to the small town first, which was once home to River Pirates and fugitives. Today the town has a population of 350.
The park is just east of town and I was pleasantly surprised at the landscape. The park is located right on the river and other than checking out the cave, we were able to walk directly along the river bank. We also walked up top and enjoyed an excellent view of the river from there. This park is a little out of the way but it’s worth spending a little time to go see it.
Upon leaving Cave in Rock State Park, we headed back to our cabin and enjoyed a nice relaxing evening.
Sunday rolled around too quickly! Time to head for home, but fortunately under sunny skies! Once into Indiana we decided to stop in Leavenworth at The Overlook Restaurant on In-
Once at the restaurant we enjoyed a fantastic lunch with a beautiful view of the Ohio River! We have eaten here a few times now and have never been disappointed. One thing to mention is, if you are in a hurry, this isn’t fast food but it’s worth the wait.
After lunch, we headed for home. It was a great trip but as all do, ended to quickly!
Hopefully this may help some people that are looking for a place to visit. We spent two days there but could have spent more. It’s not high volume like other tourist areas.
For more information check out our video below
|Garden of the Gods Illinois|
|Breaks Interstate Park|
|Pennsylvania and West Virginia|
|Indiana River Ride|