Outdoor Recreation

Beautiful state and national parks form the centerpiece of outdoor recreation opportunities in the Carbondale region.

Illinois’ largest expanse of wooded land, the Shawnee National Forest, is located in the heart of Southern Illinois. Its 273,000 acres are a major attraction for outdoor lovers, offering wilderness trails, archaeological sites, waterfalls, drives along the National Scenic Byways, swimming, and bicycling.

Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge's 44,000 acres of land and water contain a wide diversity of flora and fauna and provide significant resting areas for migratory birds along the Mississippi Flyway. Hunting, fishing, camping, boating, swimming, environmental education, and wildlife observation are available here.

Giant City State Park offers breathtaking sandstone bluffs, many wilderness trails, hundreds of species of wildflowers, and the rustic Giant City Lodge, a popular lodging and dining stop. Recreation in the park includes camping, hiking, horseback riding, fishing and boating, and rappelling.

Rounding out local choices are great golf, beautiful public city parks with diverse amenities, and a variety of local festivals and events that cover every month of the calendar.

Website Links for Outdoor Recreation






Cedar Lake
Downtown Pavilion
Carbondale Park District
Giant City State Park
Giant City Lodge / Stable / Vistor Center
Shawnee Hills Forest
Shawnee Hills Wine Trail
Hickory Ridge Golf Course
River to River Trail
Green Earth

Photo Gallery

Quick Facts

  • Carbondale was named by Outdoor Life magazine as one of the top 200 towns for sportsmen and is home to one of Southern Illinois’ most beautiful recreational facilities right in its own backyard --- Cedar Lake.
  • The Town Square Pavilion was part of the original 1843 Freight Building built during the establishment of Carbondale by Carbondale founder, Daniel Brush.
  • In 1927, the state of Illinois acquired more than 1,100 acres of land in Union and Jackson counties and dedicated the area as Giant City State Park. In 1936, the Civilian Conservation Corps completed construction of a lodge and 12 overnight cabins on the highest point in the park. Today, the park has grown to encompass 4,000 acres of spectacular countryside plus the 110-acre Fern Rocks Nature Preserve.
  • Southern Illinois is home to and Carbondale the gateway to the Shawnee National Forest with over 265,000 acres of unspoiled land including seven wilderness areas.
  • The Shawnee Hills Wine Trail wineries are located in Jackson (Carbondale) and Union Counties in Southern Illinois offering ten award-winning wineries and fifteen bed and breakfasts along or near the wine trail
  • Golf Digest has awarded Carbondal's Hickory Ridge Golf Course a Four-star rating for the past six years.
  • To honor the spirit of those who first immigrated to Illinois, the river to river trail follows an east to west description measuring approximately 160 to 176 miles. Former president Delyte Morris, then president of Southern Illinois University, was a trail activist in the upkeep of the trail.
  • Green Earth was created in 1974 with the purpose of acquiring, preserving, and providing public access to natural areas in Carbondale.  The funding to establish this not-for-profit organization was provided by a grant from the City of Carbondale in the amount of $102,000.


Show Menu
Hide Menu