Shawnee National Forest, located in southern Illinois, is a renowned outdoor destination for nature enthusiasts. Boasting breathtaking landscapes, diverse wildlife, and extensive trail systems, the forest offers numerous opportunities for outdoor activities like hiking, camping, and horseback riding. In particular, Shawnee National Forest has a plethora of excellent horse trails that cater to riders of all levels. Here are some of the top horse trails in Shawnee National Forest:
1. River to River Trail: The River to River Trail is a long-distance trail that stretches across the entire Shawnee National Forest, covering approximately 160 miles from the Ohio River to the Mississippi River. This trail is perfect for horseback riders seeking an extensive and adventurous experience. It meanders through various terrains, including forests, grasslands, and creeks, offering stunning views and exciting challenges along the way.
2. Bay Creek Ranch: Bay Creek Ranch is a privately owned horse trail located on the eastern side of the Shawnee National Forest. This trail system covers over 30 miles of well-maintained trails that wind through diverse landscapes, including dense forests, rolling hills, and meadows. Riders can enjoy the beautiful scenery while encountering wildlife such as deer and wild turkeys. Bay Creek Ranch offers guided trail rides for riders of all skill levels and even provides horse rentals for those who don't have their own.
3. Garden of the Gods Horse Trail: The Garden of the Gods is a must-visit destination within Shawnee National Forest, and fortunately, there are horse trails available to explore this breathtaking area. The Garden of the Gods Horse Trail is approximately 11 miles long and offers spectacular views of unique rock formations, lush forests, and stunning overlooks. Riders can experience the awe-inspiring beauty of the area while enjoying a leisurely ride through this popular tourist spot.
4. High Knob Horse Trail: Located in the western part of the Shawnee National Forest, the High Knob Horse Trail offers riders an opportunity to explore the forest's rugged terrain. Covering about 10 miles, this trail takes riders to the summit of High Knob, providing panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. The trail is moderately challenging, making it a great choice for experienced riders looking for an exhilarating ride.
5. River to River Trail - Trigg Tower Section: Another section of the River to River Trail, the Trigg Tower Section, offers picturesque scenery and diverse landscapes. The trail covers around 13 miles and takes riders through forests, valleys, and creeks. A highlight of this section is the Trigg Tower, a historic fire tower that offers breathtaking views of the Shawnee National Forest. The Trigg Tower Section is suitable for riders of all skill levels, making it a family-friendly choice.
Before embarking on any horseback riding adventure in Shawnee National Forest, it is essential to familiarize yourself with the forest's rules and regulations. Additionally, riders should ensure they have proper equipment, including well-fitted saddles, sturdy helmets, and appropriate footwear. It is also important to consider weather conditions and plan your ride accordingly.
Exploring the top horse trails in Shawnee National Forest will undoubtedly provide riders with unforgettable experiences and opportunities to connect with nature. The forest's stunning beauty and diverse landscapes make it a perfect destination for horseback riding enthusiasts of all levels. So, saddle up and embark on an equestrian adventure in the scenic Shawnee National Forest.