This is what ziplining sounds like: It starts as a low hum and then revs up to a soprano trill as you gain speed. The aria is broken only by shrieks of delight as tourgoers zoom through the forest on a Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour.
The three-hour zip-lining adventure crosses 35 acres of dense trees and sandstone bluffs bordering the Shawnee National Forest near Makanda, Illinois, about 115 miles southeast of St. Louis. Each segment of the gravity-fed cable system provides woodsy views and a thrill as you glide along the course. Zip No. 6 swoops 40 feet above the forest floor; No. 8 runs more than 1,000 feet long and clocks up to 40 mph. In addition to the zip lines, three short hikes between platforms squeeze past giant boulders and cross suspension bridges.
A 20-minute “flight school” prepares you for the course, covering the how-tos of launching, riding and breaking at the end of each zip. But nothing can quite prepare you for the first heart-pumping step off a platform high above the ground and then suddenly, flying.
More to Explore
The Shawnee National Forest region has al fresco activities, farm-fresh eats and a cozy stay. For information, contact the Southernmost Illinois Tourism Bureau. (800) 248-4373; southernmostillinois.com
What to do
Cobden Peach Festival See the Peach Queen, dig into cobbler and enjoy a carnival ride at Cobden’s annual stone-fruit celebration, August 1–2, 2014. southernmostillinois.com
Giant City Stables This Makanda outfitter leads horseback rides on the trails of the Shawnee National Forest; hour ride, $45. (618) 529-4110; giantcitystables.com
Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour The year-round three-hour course in Makanda costs $85. (855) 386-9477; shawneezip.com
Shawnee Hills Wine Trail A dozen wineries dot the 30 miles of this trail. shawneewinetrail.com
Where to eat
The Blue Boar Restaurant Platters of house-smoked barbecue, Cajun-style cooking and rum-sauced bread pudding draw hungry travelers to Cobden. (618) 833-7788; theblueboarrestaurant.com
Giant City Lodge Tucked into Giant City State Park, the lodge serves family-style chicken dinners and just-like-Grandma’s biscuits and gravy. (618) 457-4921; giantcitylodge.com
Where to stay
Makanda Inn Experience tasteful design, friendly hospitality and a hot multicourse breakfast at this inn. From $119. (618) 697-7929; makandainn.com