Tent campers have the option of utilizing the many established campgrounds throughout the forest or the available dispersed camping areas.
Tent Friendly Campgrounds
Pharaoh's Campground is ideal for visitors who want to spend time at Garden of the God's with its location in the Garden of the God's Recreation Area. The campground is open year-round, and its 12 sites are first come- first served. This campground features accessible sites, toilets, picnic tables, and drinking water. Although primarily for tent camping, Pharaoh's Campground can also accommodate small camping trailers, but there are no RV services, and the spaces are small. Sites are $10 a night and typically available during the week. However, summer weekends can fill up fast. The nearest town is Herod, Illinois, 5 miles away. To get to the site, Take Highway 145 south for 5 miles to Highway 34, then take 34 south for 10 miles. Turn east onto Karbers Ridge Road and travel 2.5 miles, then turn north on Forest Road. After 1.5 miles, you will reach the recreation area entrance road.
For more information: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/shawnee/recreation/camping-cabins/recarea/?recid=10685&actid=29
Pine Ridge Campground
Another camping option near Garden of the Gods is Pine Ridge Campground at Pounds Hollow. Campers here can enjoy access to the 25-acre Pounds Hollow Lake located just down the ridge from the campground. Pine Ridge offers 13 electric sites and 22 non-electric sites on a first come- first served basis at a cost of $10 per night. This campground, perfect for tents and small trailers, has drinking water, toilets, picnic tables, and accessible sites. The campground is open March 15th to December 15th, while the beach can be accessed May to September. To access the campground: From Harrisburg take Highway 34/145 south for 6 miles, and then continue on Highway 34 south for 9 miles. Turn east onto Karbers Ridge Road and go 9 miles to the recreation area entrance. Or, from Evansville, Indiana, take Highway 62 west and continue on Illinois State Route 141 to Highway 1. Go south on Highway 1 for about 24 miles to Karbers Ridge Road, and then head west for two miles to the recreation area entrance.
For more information: https://www.hipcamp.com/illinois/shawnee/pounds-hollow-campground
The Redbud Campground is located in the Bell Smith Springs Recreation Area, one of the most unique and picturesque in the forest. This 21-site campground is tucked away amidst the rocky streams and cliffs lined with Illinois flora. There are no reservations at Redbud and sites are $10 a night. This is the perfect area for hiking lovers with direct access to eight miles of trails leading to Devil's Backbone, Boulder Falls, as well as many scenic overlooks and hidden springs. This campground offers accessible camping, toilets, drinking water, and parking. With no electrical hookups, it is best suited for tents and small trailers. To access the campground: From Harrisburg, take Highway 145 south for 11 miles to Burden Falls Road. Then turn right, go 5 miles to Ozark Rd, turn left, and go to Bell Smith Springs Road. Turn right and travel 2 miles to Bell Smith Springs. Or, from Vienna, take Highway 45 north for 12 miles to Ozark Road. Turn right and go 10 miles to Bell Smith Springs Rd. Turn right and proceed 2 miles to Bell Smith Springs.
For more information: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/shawnee/recarea/?recid=13020
Pine Hills Campground
Nestled beneath the pines, Pine Hills Campground has 13 campsites well suited for tents and small camping trailers. This is a more remote site with no water or electric hook-ups. The sites are all first come- first served and are $10 a night. Campers at Pine Hills can take Pine Hills Road to the top of the bluffs which offers a beautiful panorama of the LaRue Swamp and Mississippi River Floodplain. To get to the campground from Jonesboro, take Illinois 146 west to Route 127 North, then go north three miles to the State Forest blacktop road. Turn west and travel 9 miles to FR236 or Pine Hills Road. The campground is .07 miles north on Pine Hills road.
For more information: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/shawnee/recreation/camping-cabins/recarea/?recid=10677&actid=29
Trail of Tears Campground
Located near Little Grand Canyon, Pomona Natural Bridge, and Larue-Pine, the campground at Trail of Tears State Forest is a secluded option for those looking for car camping and backpacking options. Some campground sites include log shelters with adjacent privies. From December 24th to the end of the spring wild turkey hunting season, the road into the campground is closed, but campers are still welcome to walk into available sites. A standard site is $8 per night with shelters available for $25. Group camping is also available.
For reservations and more information: https://www.reserveamerica.com/camping/trail-of-tears-state-forest/r/campgroundDetails.do?contractCode=IL&parkId=455951
Those looking for a bit more privacy can enjoy dispersed camping in many areas of the park. Primitive camping is allowed Shawnee National Forest except in recreation areas, natural areas, along lake shores, near streams, or on trails. Vehicles should be left at overnight parking areas. Some of the notable dispersed camping areas include:
Campers here can enjoy the tranquility of this 118-acre lake. Anglers might want to try their luck catching the bass, catfish or panfish that populate the lake.
Garden of the Gods Recreation Area
One of the most popular sites in the Shawnee National Forest, the Garden of the Gods Recreation Area is also great for backpackers. There is a backpacker's lot located within the recreation area that allows access to both the Indian Point Trail and the River-to-River Trail. Once you have hiked beyond the recreation area boundary, you are free to set up camp and enjoy this beautiful wilderness.
Climbers might prefer the bluffs and rock faces offered at Jackson Falls. Camping in the area is free, and there is a vault toilet.
Pennant Bar Openlands
For those looking for hunting and trapping options, the Pennant Bar Ranch is over 100 acres of grasses, shrubs, and lowlands, offering opportunities for both fishing and hunting.
For more information on dispersed camping in the park: https://www.fs.usda.gov/activity/shawnee/recreation/camping-cabins/?recid=10669&actid=34