Why not consider the Shawnee National Forest in Illinois for your next romantic holiday or couples retreat? Like us, you’re probably looking for a great romantic getaway in the Midwest? The rolling hills and lush valleys of the Shawnee National Forest are a perfect backdrop for a great escape in the Midwest. Surprisingly, there are many activities to do in the area to help couples make fantastic memories together.
Shawnee National Forest | Best Romantic Getaways in the Midwest
If you’re a nature lover, the outdoor playground of the Shawnee National Forest offers plenty to do. It is said that exercise releases endorphins which are often referred to as “feel-good hormones.” Why not get the heart rate going by hitting up the local trails?
The Shawnee National Forest is one of the most pristine places in the Midwest to enjoy the outdoors. There are over 280,000 acres to explore with a vast array of ever-changing wilderness scenes: prairies, glades, barrens, streams, ponds, lakes, waterfalls, rocky outcrops, waterfalls, and many miles of hiking trails. Activities like horseback riding and fishing are enjoyed here too, so it’s easy to find an activity to enjoy no matter what your niche.
Most visitors seek out the highlights of the Shawnee National Forest while in the region. The most famous sight is in the Garden of the Gods Recreation Area with the crown jewel – Camel Rock. This iconic rock formation offers magnificent, expansive views from the top and is a great spot for a picnic or to watch the sunset.
If you’re looking to thoroughly explore the Shawnee Forest then you may consider purchasing:
Best Places in Shawnee National Forest by Activity
Couples that are coming to Shawnee National to enjoy a particular outdoor activity may find this insider “best of” guide helpful.
Hiking: Bell Smith Springs Recreation Area
Fishing: Bay Creek Lake #5
Cycling: Lake Glendale Recreation Area or Tunnel Hill State Trail
Guided Horseback Riding: Giant City Stables
Bird Watching: Panther Den Wilderness
Picnicking Goose Bay at Lake Glendale
Climbing: Jackson Falls
Shawnee Hills Wine Trail
Combining the beautiful rolling hills of the Shawnee National Forest and excellent wine makes touring the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail a great romantic getaway. In fact, couples can enjoy the loveliness along the trail all year round.
There are 11 wineries open for wine tastings along the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail. Even though they’re spread out over a 40-mile distance, it is possible to visit all of them over the course of a couple of days. However, if you’re short on time and only have the opportunity to visit a few, here are our picks for the best wineries on the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail:
- Blue Sky Vineyard.
- Alto Vineyard.
- Owl Creek Vineyard.
One of the best reasons to tour the area is the budget-friendly cost of touring the wineries. Most of the tastings cost only a couple of dollars and some of them are for up to 10 tastings! The Shawnee Hills Wine Trail map makes touring the area much easier. Also, make sure to double-check what times the wineries are open because all of the wineries are independent operators.
Most Romantic Accommodations in Shawnee National Forest
Due to the vastness of the forest, it is highly recommended that couples divide their choice of accommodations up based on the section of the forest that they’re visiting.
Located across from Camel Rock, the Shawnee Forest Cabins offer the perfect location as a base to explore. Avid hikers will love the fact that they can walk to the Garden of the Gods Recreation Area, in the heart of the National Forest. The cabins feature private hot tubs, fast Wi-Fi, fireplaces, satellite TV, outdoor fire pits, and full kitchens.
During our visit to the west section of the forest, we focused mainly on the Shawnee Wine Trail. However, we did make sure to visit the Pomona Natural Bridge which is located on this side of the forest.
Blue Sky Vineyards provides overnight guests with a truly hidden gem. Two spacious suites are located just above the winery tasting room. Our suite, the Tuscany Romance Suite, included a balcony that overlooked the wine bar and an additional balcony overlooking the vineyards and Shawnee Hills. Blue Sky Vineyard is probably the closest winery representing a Napa Valley Estate.
Looking for a great romantic getaway in the Midwest? Why not consider this area for your next holiday or couples retreat?
If you know of a hidden gem in the region that couples would enjoy, please offer your travel tip in the comment section below.