Marion and Harrisburg provide easy access to unique geological formations, lakes, rivers and scenic drives in the land between the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers and the Shawnee National Forest. Marion, a fast-growing city of 16,000, is home to the area's largest shopping mall as well as antique and specialty stores, many located along Main Street and the downtown square. Harrisburg, population 9,800, is a gateway to some of the area's most scenic stops.
At Shawnee National Forest, more than 270,000 acres of sandstone bluffs, cliffs, forests, lakes, and rivers provide a beautiful backdrop for a wide variety of outdoor activities. One of the most popular destinations is Garden of the Gods, on the eastern side of the forest near Harrisburg, where trails and campsites sit among spectacular geological formations. There are several developed campgrounds within the forest. Drives along the Ohio River National Scenic Byway, provide additional views of the Shawnee National Forest and the river valley.
The forest has more than 300 miles of hiking, backpacking and horseback riding trails including the River-to-River Trail, which goes between the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Horse camps bordering the forest provide equestrian accommodations and access to trails. Fishing, sail boating, power boating, canoeing and swimming are popular on the more than 200 lakes and along more than 146 miles of rivers and streams. Jackson Falls is a designated rock climbing and rappelling area.
Just west of Marion, Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge is popular for camping, bird watching, hiking and goose hunting. South of Marion, two state parks, Ferne Clyffe and Giant City, offer views of the area's geological formations, camping and hiking trails. There are driving ranges, and several 8- and 19- hole, public and semi-private golf courses near Marion.
Marion is 16 miles east of Carbondale and 45 miles south of Mt. Vernon. It is accessible via Interstate Highway 57 and State Highway 13. Harrisburg is located 22 miles east of Marion along State Highway 13 and Interstate Highway 45. Accommodations in both cities include national and local hotels, camping and bed and breakfasts.