Hike, Bike, Paddle & Ride: A Shawnee National Forest Adventure

Discover the Shawnee National Forest by canoe, foot, horseback and bike as you enjoy expert-led excursions, spot wildlife and gather ‘round the campfire to learn the region’s story.
Not yet reviewed
Program No. 13605RJ
6 days
Starts at

At a Glance

The hidden gem of Southern Illinois is a close-kept secret of outdoor enthusiasts filled with deep canyons, waterfalls, rock-bottom creeks and cypress swamps. Hike, bike, paddle and ride on horseback through oak-hickory hardwood forests, open pastures, sandstone canyons and the northernmost cypress swamp in America. naturalists interpret the area’s natural and cultural history where north, south, east and west overlap creating one of the most biologically diverse regions on the continent.
Activity Level
Outdoor: Spirited
Hiking 5 miles over hilly, wooded, and rocky terrain. Paddling for 3+ hours on flat water in a canoe or kayak. Bike riding 15+ miles on flat to downgrade railroad bed. Horseback riding three hours: one hour of instruction, two-hour trail ride.There is a strict 225lb weight limit for our horseback riding programs. Participants must be physically fit enough to mount and dismount a horse with little or no assistance. Good core strength and balance are a must. Back, legs, and joints must be in good condition. Riding is not a sitting activity; you use your entire body. Those who have trouble walking long distances or standing for long periods of time will probably have trouble riding a horse.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 10 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Hike through oak-hickory forest and sandstone canyons to the highest free-falling waterfall in Illinois.
  • Bike down an 1800s-era railroad grade through scenic countryside and ride horses through Camp Ondessonk's rolling pastures and wooded hills.
  • Paddle through an ancient cypress swamp watching for bald eagles and spend your evenings exploring the nocturnal world and gathered around the campfire as you rest for the next day’s adventure.

General Notes

The Retreat Difference: This unique, often basic and no-frills experience at a Road Scholar Retreat includes opportunities for early morning exercise, interaction with the local community for insight into local life, an authentic farm-to-table or locally sourced meal, a live performance or event, and a value-priced single room. Due to the nature of this program, listening devices are not available.
Featured Expert
All Experts
Profile Image
Catherine Limkeman
Catherine Limkeman grew up in northern Kentucky, and joined the Camp Ondessonk as full-time staff in October 2017 as the equestrian director. She has recently received her master’s from Wheaton College and has spent the past couple years as the graduate assistant in charge of the equestrian program at HoneyRock Camp, the Outdoor Center of Wheaton College. She has worked as a wilderness guide in the upper Midwest and as a head wrangler in Washington state and northern Wisconsin.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image
Catherine Limkeman
View biography
<%= Bio %>
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Illinois Wildflowers
by Don Kruz
Color Photos and Descriptions of more than 400 flowers in "The Prairie State"
A Sand County Almanac
by Aldo Leopold
Since his death in 1948, Aldo Leopold has been increasingly recognized as one of the indispensable figures of American environmentalism. A pioneering forester, sportsman, wildlife manager, and ecologist, he was also a gifted writer whose farsighted land ethic is proving increasingly relevant in our own time.
Introduction to Paddling: Canoeing Basics for Lakes and Rivers
by American Canoe Association
Learn the basics canoeing from the American Canoe Association.
Field guide to Trees
by National Audubon Society
Great field guide for trees in Southern Illinois
Basic Horsemanship
by Gaydell M. Collier, Eleanor F. Prince
Introductory guide to horses.

Click here to provide website feedback
Website Feedback