Things to Do at Camp Ondessonk
When Summer Camp is not in session, or when we are not hosting a specialty weekend, Camp Ondessonk is a great destination for hiking, biking, fishing, or camping at any time of year. There is no fee to visit Camp for the day to do some hiking with friends and family. If you are visiting on a weekday during normal business hours, please check in at the office located in the St. Noel Center upon arrival. Download all recreation information and maps click here. We hope to see you soon!
Hiking and Biking:
Camp Ondessonk has many miles of trails on our 983 acres. Hike out to Cedar Falls at old Camp Pakentuck to see the tallest free-falling waterfall in Illinois or check out Phantom’s Canyon. Our property is adjacent to thousands of acres of Shawnee National Forest and its vast network of trails to many other beautiful spots in the area. Please be mindful of trail regulations when exploring Camp Ondessonk and the Shawnee National Forest. There are many fragile environments that can be harmed even by foot traffic. Some of our trails that connect to Forest Service trails go through designated Natural Areas in which only human foot traffic is allowed; no bicycle, horse, or ATV. Please obey posted signage. Cyclists must wear a helmet at all times.
Want to sleep in a treehouse? Get a true Ondessonk experience by sleeping in the trees or under a waterfall. One of the highlights of an Ondessonk visit, our 3-sided treehouse cabin units take full advantage of their natural surroundings. They are intentionally designed and located to maximize visitors’ experience of tranquility and inspiration of Nature. Most cabin units have 5-6 cabins and sleep around 40 guests. All cabin units have fire pits, benches, picnic table, water spigot, outhouse, and are close to a showerhouse. There are also many areas around Camp to pitch a tent. Click here for more information and photos of our cabin units and tent areas. Click here to view our Open Camping Weekends. Call Camp well in advance to ensure availability. All guests must fill out the reservation form below to secure their reservation. On slow weekends, walk-ins may get lucky on a first-come, first-served basis. Inquire at the Office or Trading Post.
Camp Ondessonk is perfectly situated on the edge of a very large contiguous tract of Shawnee National Forest land and a great jumping off point for extended hikes. We are within a day’s hike or short drive to Bell Smith Springs, Jackson Falls, Max Creek, Trigg Lookout Tower, Burden Falls, Sand Cave among others. Our site is also an easy walk from roughly the half-way point on the River-to-River Trail. This 180-mile hiking trail stretches from the Ohio River to the Mississippi River across the Shawnee National Forest. Backpackers are welcome to call ahead and ask permission to leave their vehicle on-site while they explore the greater area around Camp on a multi-day excursion. Stay in a treehouse for a night while hiking through the area; call for availability. With advanced notice, we may also be able to shuttle you if possible.
Camp has four lakes available for fishing. Please call ahead for permission and all Illinois state regulations apply. Please refer to the Camp Map to see which lakes are available for fishing. There is no fishing allowed in our swimming lake, Lake St. Isaac. We do not allow personal watercraft or fishing boats on any of our bodies of water.
Schedule a Program at Camp:
Camp Ondessonk provides guided programs for those wishing to go rock climbing, rappelling, boating, horseback riding, swimming, and others. Guests are not allowed to participate in these activities on their own on Camp property. They must be led by trained Ondessonk staff only and scheduled in advance by calling Camp. Click here for more information on all our program offerings.
- For the safety of other guests, as well as people living on-site and our horses, dogs and other pets are NOT allowed at Camp Ondessonk, even on a leash.
- Please refrain from driving around Lake Echon on the Camp Road. Park your vehicle in the main parking lot and enjoy a nice walk through Camp! Foot traffic is usually welcome behind closed gates. Obey closed gates and posted signage regarding where vehicles can and cannot go.
- Personal watercraft such as canoes, kayaks, or row boats are NOT allowed on any lake. Please call camp to schedule a paddling program.
- Please do not bring in firewood. There is firewood available in the Wood Shed in the parking lot and ample wood in the forest.
- All cyclists must wear a helmet at all times.
- Fishing is NOT allowed in Lake St. Isaac, our swimming lake.
- Swimming is only allowed when a lifeguard is on duty. Call Camp to schedule a swimming program.
- Always be prepared with adequate clothing for any weather, extra food and water, first aid kit, and map of the area.
- Respect the natural and man-made environment by practicing Leave-No-Trace outdoor ethics.
- Cell reception is not reliable, but in case of emergency, call 911, then call the Camp office (618) 695-2489 or Camp’s cell phone (618) 759-1780.
Other Things To Do in Southern Illinois:
The hidden gem of Southern Illinois is a close-kept secret of outdoor enthusiasts and covered in rolling, unglaciated hills, deep canyons, waterfalls, rock-bottom creeks, and cypress swamps. This sparsely-populated and rugged region is where north and south, east and west overlap creating one of the most biologically diverse regions on the continent. Rich in natural and cultural history, visitors to Southern Illinois may feel they are in the Ozarks, Smokies, or the Deep South’s bayous without ever leaving the Midwest. Life slows down to nature’s pace here as the rugged land shapes the people who call it home. There are over a half-million acres of public land in Southern Illinois. With numerous state parks, National Wildlife Refuges, state natural areas, and the 270,000-acre Shawnee National Forest, it would take a lifetime to see all that Southern Illinois to offer the outdoor enthusiast. The area abounds with endless opportunities for hiking, biking, paddling, horseback riding, camping, backpacking, nature photography, bouldering, and rock climbing. The region is a registered American Viticultural Area and boasts numerous award-winning wineries along the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail. This is great way to spend an afternoon as you drive through wooded, rolling hills, scenic countryside, and the charming hamlets and villages along the way. There are also opportunities to enjoy shopping, site seeing, museums, historic sites, casinos, scenic drives, and even zip lining. The following links are helpful in planning your trip to Southern Illinois. Just be sure to stop by Camp Ondessonk!
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