Camp Ondessonk – Illinois

Camp Ondessonk is a Catholic church camp located in Southern Illinois on the edge of the Shawnee National Forest. While I never attended this camp growing up, this post might bring back memories for a lot of people as a lot of people in our area attended this camp. My mom and aunt both went here!

The camp is open to the public to hike during the off-season when camp is not in session. Be sure to check their website and call if you have any questions.

Since we went on Good Friday, the camp was not “open”, but after calling ahead, they let us check in at the main kiosk. A small donation of $3 to $5 per person is recommended. Also, no dogs are allowed so Ellie had to sit this one out.

From the parking lot, we walked down the main park road and headed to to the trailhead for Phantom Canyon. We passed by several units (groups of cabins)!

Phantom Canyon is a spectacular trail. The trail starts right behind the Tekawitha Unit and immediately follows a huge bluff line. These rock walls were impressive!

You will see a sign for a shortcut, but I would recommend staying on the main trail. Once the trail starts to follow the creek, you are getting close to the waterfall! Crescent Falls tumbles over large rock boulders.

Be sure to follow the faint trail to the right which takes you up to another waterfall! This one was pretty spectacular!

We then followed the trail which crossed over the creek using a rope and checked out another seasonal waterfall.

The blue trail continues on for quite a while following a bluff line, but we took the shortcut back to the main trail and crossed over the creek.

We followed the park road and came to the iconic Amantacha swinging bridge!

You can cross over the bridge and head back to the main parking lot, but we continued on and just past the bridge is an amazing waterfall created by the spillway for Lake Echon. Amazing!

We planned to hike the camp road all the way around, but there is a ford in the road where the creek that feeds the above waterfall was covering the road and it was pretty deep. We played it safe, turned around and crossed over the swinging bridge. We headed to the other side because I had seen where the Chabanel unit had a waterfall that fell over a bluff into the middle of the unit. It was so cool! We kept deciding on which unit we liked the best and I chose this one!

From here, we backtracked to the main parking lot and headed off to visit Cedar Falls which is also on Camp Ondessonk property. You can see that post HERE! Be sure to check out Cedar Falls as you don’t want to miss the tallest free-falling waterfall in Illinois!

As we walked the grounds, I envisioned what it might be like to attend camp here. I have this grand idea that I would have loved to attend a camp like this growing up, but one year, I did go to a week long summer camp. I was so nervous when we arrived that as I was getting out of the car, I slammed my finger in the car door! Of course, it turned black and blue, was swollen and really painful so I had to sit out of all of the fun activities for the week like canoeing! Oh well! At least I could experience Camp Ondessonk by hiking it today!

I absolutely loved visiting Camp Ondessonk! It felt almost magical. This is a place you should visit for sure, just be respectful as this is private property. Special shout out to the Midwest Nomad Family blog as I had always had this place on my list to visit, but after reading their tips and tricks, I made it happen! Be sure to check out their blog!

Categories: Camp Ondessonk, Shawnee National ForestTags: , , , , ,


  1. Oh my! Brings back memories! Fay man’s misery & Hazel’s Horror are two of the rock formation we squeezed through! That first cabin was just as I remember. Funny, I don’t remember any waterfalls. I did get kicked by a horse there & still have the leg scar to prove it!
    All in all, fun times & id like to go back to see it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful! Thanks for your post. I have never heard of this place.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Beautiful! I will add this place to my list to visit when I am back in Southern IL!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I will have to check this one out!

    Liked by 1 person

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