I’m from central Illinois and looking for suggestions of 2 to 3 Night backpacking trips that are a days drive (or less). I’ve driven as far as the Pinhoti Trail (amazing) but that’s about the outside of the driving distance and I’m hoping for solid trips (loops if possible) a bit closer to home. Thanks for the input. Hike on!
I backpack a lot in Shawnee Nat'l Forest, particularly on the River to River Trail. You can make loops fairly easily around the Garden of the Gods area. Here's a link to a very useful website for finding various points of interest, arches, waterfalls, etc.: Map
This shouldn't be too far from you, I live in the area of I-64 and I-57 and most of it is within 2 hours for me.