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The Best Spots for Camping in Shawnee National Forest

The Shawnee National Forest is an awe-inspiring preservation of nature. It has so many great adventures and experiences to offer. Camping can be one of the best ways to see the pristine beauty of the area. However, some areas are better than others. Let’s explore the Shawnee National Forest, camping spots, and other activities in the area.

Where Is Shawnee National Forest? 

The Shawnee National Forest sits at the southern tip of Illinois. The headquarters sit in Harrisburg, Ill., but there are ranger district offices in Jonesboro and Vienna.

The forest spreads through the Ozark and Shawnee Hills and covers 280,000 acres of federally managed land. 

The Shawnee National Forest - Southern Illinois, USA - 2021

What Is There to Do in Shawnee National Forest? 

There are plenty of things to do if you’re staying in or near the Shawnee National Forest. For example, hiking and horseback riding trails stretch through the forest. Camping is also available in the area. But be aware that campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. You can’t make a reservation.

Shawnee National Forest camping
From hiking to horseback riding, Shawnee National Forest is a great adventure.

Best Shawnee National Forest Camping Spots 

Camping is one of the best ways to experience the forest. Let’s explore each camping spot further and hopefully find the perfect place for you to experience what Shawnee has to offer.

Man hiking in the forest.
Take some time in Shawnee Forest by camping nearby.

Shawnee Forest Campground 

The Shawnee Forest Campground is located near Vienna, Ill. A local family developed the campground when they saw a need for more RV locations with full hookups.

The Shawnee Forest Campground isn’t a fully-developed campsite, but it provides the basics, including water, sewer, and electrical hookups, fire rings, and picnic tables. It also provides locations for laundry and bathing. All these amenities make this a luxurious site for Shawnee National Forest camping.

Video of Shawnee Forest Campground, IL from Priscilla B.

Oak Point Campground 

The Oak Point Campground sits in the Lake Glendale Recreation area and is ideal for Shawnee National Forest camping.

The campground provides 34 plots that include both electricity and water. Twenty-five sites are primitive. Being close to the Lake Glendale Recreation area makes it easy to enjoy all this area offers, including swimming, boating, and kayaking at Glendale Beach.

Oak Point Campground Review & Shawnee National Forest Adventures in Pop-Up Camper!

Hilltop Campground 

Find Hilltop Campground near Goreville, Ill. It hosts 52 shady sites with water, sewer, and electrical hookups. Although there’s no Wi-Fi, it does receive good cell phone service for ATT, Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile. Using your hotspot should be an option while staying at this location. It also has bathroom and shower facilities.

Pro Tip: Whether you work from home or just want to binge watch Netflix, a campground with Wi-Fi is crucial. This is How to Find Campgrounds with WiFi.

Tent set up for camping near trees near shawnee national forest
There are plenty of camping options near Shawnee National Forest.

Red Bud Campground 

Nestled in the Bell Smith Recreation Area, you’ll discover Red Bud Campground. The Bell Smith Springs has impressive views of rocky streams and scenic canyons and provides excellent trails for hiking. The trail system includes more than eight miles of hiking trails that take you to magical rock formations like the Devil’s Backbone, Boulder Falls, and even a natural rock bridge.

The Red Bud Campground maintains 21 tent sites with 20 RV sites with hookups and 21 RV sites without hookups. This campground also includes vault toilets, but there are no showers for this Shawnee National Forest camping experience.

Video of Shawnee National Forest Red Bud Campground, IL from Art S.

Tall Tree Lake Campground 

The Tall Tree Lake Campground rests in a secluded location. It’s small, with only eight sites for RVs, and is also located near Vienna. There are more than 50 tent sites. The RV sites have electrical, sewer, and water hookups, a fire ring, and a picnic table.

Campers at this location enjoy the nearby fishing holes.

Tent set up in campsite
You can RV or tent camp at many campgrounds around Shawnee National Forest.

Crab Orchard Lake Campground 

The Crab Orchard Lake campground is located near Crab Orchard Lake and is in the Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge. Therefore, this campground is an excellent opportunity for Shawnee National Forest camping if you want to interact with the wildlife.

The Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge is home to animals from the forest, water, and cropland habitats. The campground has 250 sites. You can also swim in the lake.

The ride into Orchard Lake Campground

Marion Campground & RV Park 

The Marion Campground & RV Park is a fully loaded option for Shawnee National Forest camping. It has 58 full-service sites with access to electrical, water, and sewer hookups.

But this location provides so much more. Additional amenities include cable TV, Wi-Fi, a gaming room, laundry facilities, showers, and a playground and picnic pavilion. Campers staying here can enjoy all the comforts of home while visiting the forest.

Pro Tip: Want to camp for free? Use these Best Boondocking Apps and Websites for Amazing Free Camping.


Enjoy Shawnee National Forest Camping

Nature is beautiful, and few would argue that beauty abounds in Shawnee National Forest. Camping here can allow you to experience many unique activities. Regardless of the site you choose, you’re sure to enjoy yourself and look forward to the next time you can visit the Shawnee National Forest.

Have you ever camped in Shawnee National Forest before? How was your experience? Drop a comment below!

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About Tom and Caitlin Morton

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of “Go North” on Amazon Prime Video, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for and an Arizona travel guide.

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