Shawnee National Forest, Giant City State Park and the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail are just a few of the adventures visitors will find in southern Illinois.

By By Margaret Doyle
August 01, 2017

The scenic southern Illinois burg of Makanda nestles near the lush Shawnee National Forest.

Garden of the Gods, Shawnee National Forest. Photo: Courtesy of IOT

Outdoor enthusiasts make tracks to Makanda's Giant City State Park, which gets its name from the steep, carved sandstone cliffs that resemble city streets fit for a giant. Hikers explore miles of trails or gather their gear and tackle rock-climbing and rappelling on the massive bluffs.

Giant City State Park. Photo: John Noltner

Giant City Stables leads guided horseback tours along wooded paths. The outdoor excitement continues with thrilling ziplines through dense forest trees on the Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour.

Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour. Photo: Ed Baumgarten

The clear and calm waters of Little Grassy Lake, part of the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, are ideal for a day of fishing and boating. For a calmer detour, the quirky Makanda Boardwalk showcases the works of local artisans, including metalwork and gemstone jewelry.


Sample the flavors of southern Illinois grapes at 12 vineyards and wineries on the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail. Blue Sky Vineyard, inspired by a Tuscan villa, is known for its picturesque grounds with outdoor terraces overlooking a lake.

Blue Sky Vineyard. Photo: Courtesy of IOT

At Cobden's Owl Creek Vineyard, the hard ciders are nearly as popular as the wines and are best enjoyed on the shady upstairs deck.

Owl Creek Vineyard. Photo: Courtesy of IOT

White Crane Canoe Rentals in Ullin gives two-hour guided tours, by canoe or kayak, of the Cache River, Illinois' hidden bayou. Spot little blue herons, black vultures and other wildlife in the wetlands and forests of the Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge.

White Crane Canoe Rentals. Photo: Courtesy of IOT


For a fine dining experience, Tom's Place in DeSoto offers a six-course menu of seasonal items chosen by proprietor and chef Lasse Sorensen. Yellow Moon Cafe in charming Cobden is another local favorite. Ingredients are sourced from area farmers, so the menu changes weekly, with favorite items like baked peach salad and Asian sea bass. Bands play in Yellow Moon's intimate listening room. Cobden's rustic The Blue Boar Restaurant and Bar serves Cajun cuisine (think étouffée) along with baby back ribs from local caterer The Great Boars of Fire.


At Rocky Comfort Cabins, an offbeat lodging option is the hobbit-style Cove, a grass-roof earthen shelter with round windows and sun tunnels that flood the cabin with light. Giant City Lodge offers vintage cabins nestled in the woods with modern conveniences.

Giant City Lodge. Photo: John Noltner

The stunning Makanda Inn and Cottages, an eco-friendly retreat located on 18 forest acres, is constructed with all-natural building materials.

For more information on this getaway and other Illinois adventures, visit