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.

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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
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 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
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.

See

Sample the flavors of southern Illinois grapes at 11 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
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
Owl Creek Vineyard. Photo: Courtesy of IOT

Cache Bayou Outfitters in Ullin gives 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.

Canoe Rentals. Photo: Courtesy of IOT
Cache River Canoe Rentals. Photo: Courtesy of IOT

Savor

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. Dinner at the Brick House Grill in Anna might include a beef filet or steamed mussels. Scratch Brewing Company, just a few miles from Shawnee National Forest in Ava, promises one of the world's most beautiful places to drink beer (says All About Beer magazine). 

Stay

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
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.

The owners of Davie School Inn in Anna have turned a 1910 elementary school into a posh bed-and-breakfast with 11 themed suites