Explore Shawnee Trail – Southern Illinois

Following Illinois Route 3 through southern Illinois takes the explorer or weekend traveler down the Shawnee Trail and across southern Illinois.

No matter the season or the interest of the traveler, the Shawnee Trail of southern Illinois has something to offer everyone. Whether starting at the southern end near Belknap or heading north to Chester to visit Popeye, there are many adventures for the weekend traveler.


Shawnee Trail is named after the Shawnee Indians who once occupied the area. This area of Illinois is a ridge of limestone that extends from the Mississippi River to the Ohio River in southern Illinois. The French occupied the area in the early 1700s and Fort Kaskaskia State Historic Site commemorates this time with picnic areas and many informational plaques telling the history of the area.

Annual Festivals

Parades, pageants, local food, music, and other entertainment are found at festivals throughout the area of the Shawnee Trail.

Big Muddy Film Festival

The annual Big Muddy Film Festival is held in February in Carbondale, Illinois. This festival is a 10-day film festival that has run over three decades, to bring independent films to the community. These films are not usually available to the public. This is one of the oldest film festivals run not only by the community, but the area students from the college. For more information, phone 618-453-1482.

Herrienfesta Italiana

May brings a celebration of spring is here along with the many outdoor activities available. If you enjoy Italiana, pay a visit to Herrin, Illinois for the Herrienfesta Italiana. The festival includes live entertainment, car show, contests, fireworks, and much more. Of course, great food is always available at festivals and this one is no different.

Old King Coal Festival

Old King Coal Festival in West Frankfort has been held around Labor Day since 2003. This four-day festival celebrates the rich history of coal in Illinois. Events begin with a Miner’s Memorial Service to honor those lost to the coal industry. The event is filled with family-oriented fun activities.

No matter the season, southern Illinois along the Shawnee Trail has a festival to visit and enjoy. Pick a month and plan a trip for a day or a weekend, there is something for everyone down the Shawnee Trail.

Shawnee Hills Wine Trail

The Shawnee Trail is home to 12 unique wineries. In the heart of the Shawnee Hills lies the Shawnee National Forest that is home to the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail. The Shawnee Hills Wine Trail offers wine from family-owned wineries along with rolling hills and relaxing views to enjoy while tasting the local wine.

The Shawnee Hills Wine Trail follows a 30-mile loop through southern Illinois. This part of the Shawnee Trail offers history, antique shops, quaint bed and breakfast, unique shopping experiences, parks, and many other attractions, making this area a great weekend or week-long getaway.

Outdoor Activities

Many counties around the Shawnee Trail offer great opportunities for all types of outdoor activities. From hiking to camping, biking to horseback riding as well as canoeing and bird watching to name a few, there is an activity to participate in and enjoy along the Shawnee Trail.

Cache River State National Area

Cache River State National Area is located in the southernmost part of Illinois that is carved out by glacial floodwaters of the Ohio River forming a rich and vast wetland area. The 14,489 acres that are part of several southern Illinois counties offer more than 18 miles of designated foot trails. Most of the offered trails are easy to walk with the trail length determined on the round trip distances the hiker chooses.

Lower Cache River

Canoeists can enjoy the Cache River with routes marked by international canoe symbols. The Upper Cache River is very difficult, but the Lower Cache River is quite a canoeing experience. Check out the birds and wildlife while canoeing the river and enjoying nature.

Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods Recreation Area offers trails, great observation points, and beautiful rock formations. Springtime offers an abundance of wildflowers, birds, wildlife along the numerous streams in the recreation area.

Many of the parks, wineries, and recreation areas offer lodging and camping facilities. Some of the parks have planned trips by canoe or horseback through the area. The Shawnee Trail offers many activities for the outdoorsman or weekend-camper. Explore and find the right getaway of family fun and activities down the Shawnee Trail of southern Illinois.

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