The Shawnee Challenge

Shawnee Challenge Safety Information!

Welcome to the Shawnee Challenge Safety information page! Please review the following tips and recommendations to ensure that you can safely enjoy the Shawnee Challenge. Remember, the challenge is self-supported with no time limit, so it is recommended that you participate at a good pace where you can safely do so. Consider the following tips and information before you participate in this challenge:


Bicycle Safety:

  1. Wear a helmet at all times to avoid head and neck injuries that could occur during an accident. Mountain bike trails may have downed trees, roots, rocks, and washouts that could cause you to lose control and wreck. Not wearing a helmet will increase your chance of serious injury to even death after a crash.
  2. Pay attention to your ride surroundings. It is not recommended to wear ear buds or headphones while mountain biking. By blocking your hearing, you could be blocking out an approaching hazard and not realize it until it’s too late.
  3. Always yield to pedestrians. They always have the right-of-way even on trails where mountain biking is designated.
  4. Make sure your tires are not worn out, have the right amount of air in them and are checked before you start riding.
  5. Make sure basic bicycle maintenance has been performed, the chain is greased and everything that needs to be tightened has been snuggly tightened.
  6. Bring plenty of water and snacks with you on your ride. There are no reliable sources of water on the trail. Stay hydrated and stay fueled.
  7. The Shawnee National Forest can be rugged, hilly, and often times overgrown during warmer months – be prepared to get a pretty good workout on these trails.
  8. If you encounter wildlife (deer, snakes, bobcats, etc.), give them plenty of room and let them pass first.
  9. Never ride on a trail after it has rained in the past 24-hours. Doing so may damage the trails, making it difficult for others to enjoy.
  10. Poison ivy, thorns, biers, and venomous snakes do occur in this portion of the National Forest. Make sure to bring sunblock and bug spray as well.

Hiking Safety:

  1. Stay on the trail at all times to avoid getting lost. While the Shawnee National Forest may seem small, other property outside of it also includes woods and forest and getting lost can be a lot easier than you think.
  2. Pack plenty of food and drink with you on your hike. The forest is rugged, made up of rolling hills and if you hike during the summer-you can expect some hot and humid days ahead of you.
  3. Don’t get in a rush unless it is absolutely necessary. Getting in a rush may cause you to not see a hazard until it’s too late.
  4. Bring a map and compass or GPS/app to help you navigate your way through the Shawnee National Forest.
  5. Venomous snakes, poison ivy and thorn plants all occur within the Shawnee National Forest. Avoid these hazards by watching your step and using caution.
  6. The number one source of death in the Shawnee National Forest is from falling off bluffs and cliffs. Please watch your step especially around rock that could be as slick as ice.
  7. Make sure you pack comfortable hiking footwear and wear comfortable hiking clothing. Flipflops and a small bottle of water isn’t going to cut it in the rugged forest. This isn’t a walk in the park – it is supposed to be challenging you, remember that!
  8. Make sure you carry appropriate gear such as a backpack with food, water, water filter, matches, rain poncho, light with extra batteries, knife and a first aid kit.
  9. Bring plenty of sunblock and bug spray. Consider treating gear, clothing and footwear and anti-tick solutions (such as Permethrin) before venturing into the forest.
  10. While always thinking about your safety, please also consider the safety of other users while on the trail.

Sharing the Trail:

  • While hiking or mountain biking, if you see a horseback rider, stop and yield to them. The horse is harder to control than our bicycles or our feet as it often has a mind of its own. Talk in a calm and friendly manner to the rider and carry on a conversation so that the horse knows you are human and not a threat. Let the rider pass and follow any further instructions they may have as long as it is safe for you to do. Don’t do anything that could threaten your safety, ever!
  • As a mountain biker, you should consider adding a bell to your bike that will ring as you ride. A bear bell would be good for this. This will let other hikers and horseback riders in the area know that you are around. It is one extra way you can promote safety while recreating in the National Forest.
  • Mountain bikers should always yield to hikers and horseback riders. Hikers should always yield to horseback riders. Horseback riders have the right-of-way but should still slow down if possible and use caution.
  • Consider trail conditions before venturing out to mountain bike or ride a horse. If wet, your activities could severely damage the trail. Doing this is NOT appropriate and causes problems on those who maintain the trails. Those who damage trails are not friends of the National Forest.

Leave No Trace:

  • Please help us keep our Shawnee National Forest Clean by packing out what you pack in as there are no trash services in the area.
  • Littering is not only illegal and can result in serious fines, but it also poses a hazard for the wildlife who depend on the National Forest.
  • Litter is often picked up by volunteers. By littering and forcing a volunteer to clean up YOUR TRASH, you potentially put their lives at risk to other hazards.
  • If you see trash, please consider picking it up even if it isn’t yours. A true hero of the forest is someone who leaves the forest better than they found out to begin with.
  • When picking up trash, please use caution. Some trash can be dangerous like exposed needles and illegal drugs. Also, dangerous conditions could be present by the trash such as venomous snakes or sticker bush plants.

Recreate Responsibly:

  1. Check the status of the trail before you go to ensure that it is open and not temporarily closed. Please abide by closures put in place for maintenance, public health, and other intents. Participants found to be violating trail closures will be disqualified from awarding features of the Shawnee Challenge.
  2. Please practice physical distancing when sharing the trail with other users. Consider brining a face cover if an area is popular and don’t go out when you are sick.
  3. Plan ahead for your hike or bike ride and know what to expect such as the weather that day and how you will complete the hike or ride.
  4. Be safe about your challenge participation. Stay local and don’t get in a hurry. Don’t become injured and require others to risk their safety in order to save you.
  5. Remember to be accepting to all participants no matter their race, lifestyle, walks of life, religion and looks. The National Forest and our public land belong to everyone not just a select few.

Thank you for reading these important safety tips. Please be safe and we hope you enjoy participating in the Shawnee Challenge!

The Shawnee Challenge is an effort created in part by:

Hiking with Shawn
Southernmost Illinois

In Partnership With…