Truth be told, the entirety of the Shawnee National Forest in Illinois could be multiple blog posts. Our focus, however, is on the Lake Glendale Recreation Area, which sits about a half hour from our last stop in Metropolis. And if Metropolis is the home to Superman, Lake Glendale would be his weekend fishing retreat to get away from the paparazzi.
The scenery leaving the Ohio River north towards the Shawnee National Forest changes rapidly, as you quickly find yourself traveling along low hills and farmland before entering a huge section of forest. Lake Glendale itself is an 80-acre lake that is nestled neatly in the forest, and it is truly a cozy gem away from any busy areas. Fishing is allowed, swimming can be done at the large beach, and boating is available as long as it’s oar- or trolling motor-powered.
When we arrived, we were able to pick out any of the open campsites at the recreation area. The actual camp area is fairly large and they had plenty of openings, but it’s also worth noting that we arrived on a Sunday afternoon when some people presumably were leaving. We grabbed a spot near the lake and one of the hiking trail entrances, popped up camp, and realized we had enough light to go venture out on the trail around the lake.
The hiking trail is about 3 miles, and it loops all the way around the lake. It’s well-maintained, with just a couple of creek/mud crossings that you just need to tread lightly through. There is a dam crossing on one side that is wide open before you loop around the beach house and enter the forest again. Now, everything I’ve just mentioned is super neat and important information for hikers. However, WE FOUND WILD BLACKBERRIES ON THE DAM! You have to understand how much of a treat this was for me; I used to find wild blackberries growing up while I was cutting our grass, and I’d stop for like ten minutes just to sit there and eat them. The ones we found on the dam were just getting ripe, and it made me really happy to be able to share that experience with the family.
We had a wonderful hike and we ended up back at camp just before nightfall. I used every trick in the book to get us a roaring fire going out of wet wood, and eventually we were able to sit back and roast some brats and hot dogs. We knew the next day was going to be a significant travel day, so everyone went to bed early while I finished up our blog post on Hattie B’s in Nashville.
I’d be doing a disservice if I didn’t mention the facilities at Lake Glendale. The bath houses were clean and surprisingly cool. They had firewood for sale and other items, but don’t expect a full camp store or supply office. The place was a treat for both tent campers and RV campers alike, as there was a good mix of both. Also, while on the hike we came across a couple of their meeting pavilions, which are equipped with tables and a large fireplace. The pavilions seemed like a really neat place for a group gathering, especially in the fall when it cools off and you could have a large fire going…kinda like if you were a bunch of Vikings in a hall. 😁
Lake Glendale was probably our most concerning stop before we arrived, because we didn’t have a good phone number to contact anyone to find out about the area. We showed up not truly sure what to expect, but we were pleasantly surprised. It’s a peaceful, clean retreat away from the cities, and everyone in the family loved it. When we head back to the Shawnee National Forest, we’ll definitely be returning to use it as a jump-off to explore so much more of the land. Plus, they have blackberries.