Things to Do at Camp Ondessonk
In the non-summer months when we are not hosting a specialty weekend, Camp Ondessonk is a great destination for hiking, mountain biking, fishing, or camping. On weekdays during normal business hours, please check in at the Office located in the St. Noel Center upon arrival. After hours or on weekends, call the on-duty cell phone (618) 759-1780 to be checked in. Call Camp in advance to inquire about scheduling a program for your group.
Hiking and Mountain Biking:
Camp Ondessonk has over a dozen miles of trails on our 983-acre property. 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 obey posted signage and be mindful of trail regulations and restrictions when exploring Camp Ondessonk and the Shawnee National Forest. There are many fragile environments that can be harmed even by foot traffic. Cyclists must wear a helmet at all times.
Get a true Ondessonk experience by sleeping among 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. All cabin units have fire pits, benches, picnic table, potable water spigot, outhouse, and are within a short walk to a showerhouse. There are also many areas at Camp to pitch a tent. Click here for more information and photos of our cabin units and tent areas. Call Camp in advance for availability. All guests must fill out the reservation form to secure their reservation. See above.
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 overnight 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. 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.
Other Things To Do in Southern Illinois:
Covered in rolling, unglaciated hills, deep canyons, waterfalls, rock-bottom creeks, and cypress swamps, the hidden gem of Southern Illinois is a well-kept secret of outdoor enthusiasts. 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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