Garden of the Gods

Shawnee National Forest – Southern Illinois

Beautiful Garden of the Gods Recreation Area

Looking for spectacular views with a short hike among some of the most unique rock formations in the United States? Look no further than Garden of the Gods in Southern Illinois. The most popular hike in the Shawnee National Forest, Garden of the Gods gives tourists amazing insight into the geologic structure of Southern Illinois and a view that stretches for miles high over the pristine hills of Shawnee Forest.

More than 320 million years ago, the wind and rain patiently started to chisel away at large deposits of sedimentary rock located in what is now, Shawnee National Forest . Over the years, the elements have sculpted some of the most stunning and extraordinary rock formations known to man. There are also plenty of trails for backpacking and horseback riding, allowing nature lovers a welcome tour of what the lively environment has to offer.

Observation Trail at Garden of the Gods

Hike a short ¼ mile observation trail marked with flagstone pavers that allow tourists the opportunity to view miles of scenic Shawnee Forest woodlands from a historical vantage point. The observation trail has wooden and rock steps located midway through. Signs along the trail highlight the various historical and geologic features of these unique sandstone bluffs, while your eye takes in the panoramic view of the pristine woodlands below.

Hike this beloved trail to see a variety of wind and rain sculpted sandstone formations that are sure to peak the interest of even the most experienced hiker. Don’t forget to check out the most famous rock formation located along the trail, Camel Rock. Be sure to see the other popular rock formations such as Anvil Rock and Mushroom Rock.

Hiking Garden of the Gods

Are you wanting a more extended hike? 5.5 miles of interconnecting trails traverse the landscape of Garden of the Gods. See a variety of flora and fauna specific to Southern Illinois. Enjoy the delicate wildflowers of Spring or the beautiful colors of Autumn while you traverse the Garden of the Gods. Make Garden of the Gods a day trip and bring lunch to eat at one of the various picnicking sites located along the trails.

Equestrian trails and hiker-only trails meet up with the River to River trail along this scenic valley. Each trail is marked by a different color making the hikes easy to navigate. If you are looking for a wonderful family friendly and educational afternoon along the observation trail or a more vigorous hiking or horseback riding experience, Garden of the Gods in Southern Illinois has everything you want and more.

Garden of the Gods Camping

The park and its campsites are open year round. Pharaoh Campground has 12 campsites all outfitted with fire pits, picnic tables, toilets and drinking water. A $10 fee is required for camping. Just make sure to bring all the necessary roughing-it items. The nearest town is a good 20 minutes away, but the short drive is well worth the trip.

Get a cabin for the weekend at Shawnee Forest Cabins to enjoy everything Shawnee Forest has to offer while sleeping in the comfort of a warm bed and cozy living accommodations including kitchenettes, hot tubs, and fire pits.

Garden of the Gods Directions

Take Exit 54 off of Interstate 57 and follow Illinois 13 East for 25 miles. Turn Right onto US 45 in Harrisburg, IL and continue South for 1 mile. Then, turn Left onto Illinois 34 and follow the highway for 16 miles until you reach Karbers Ridge Road. Turn left onto Karbers Ridge Road  and follow the road East for 3 miles. Turn Left onto Illinois 10 and continue for around 1 mile. Finally, turn left onto Garden of the Gods Road and look for the recreation area to your left.

Things To Do in the Area

After taking a gander at the grandeur of Garden of the Gods, head over to Rim Rock for a longer hike. Take in even more of the awe inspiring rock formations all flowing down into the valley and end up near Pounds Hollow to swim away the heat or relax catching fish from the shoreline.

If you have an adventurous appetite, head over to E-Town River Restaurant and enjoy a meal while floating on the Ohio River. E-Town caters to boat traffic as well. Taste the freshest catfish in Southern Illinois caught daily right on the Ohio. Or, head over to Golconda, Illinois to find several small town restaurants and local night life adventures.

While in Golconda, stop by the Marina, rent a boat and go for a cruise up the Ohio River. For fishing enthusiasts, be sure to visit the Smithland Pools for sport fishing opportunities.

Garden of the Gods Illinois – Trail Map

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