The Shawnee National Forest, in Southern Illinois, consists of over 28,000 acres of land situated between the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. There are many different trails to choose from depending on how far you want to hike or how much effort you want to put in.
The Garden of the Gods is one of the most photographed trails down there and for good reason. It is breathtaking.
The trail itself is only ¼ mile long and is nicely paved with flagstone. The sandstone rock formations can be walked across, how far out depends on the daredevil in you. But you don’t need to risk your life to fully experience the panoramic views from that high up.
We were there in November and the leaves were mostly orange and there was still some snow from the early snowfall that hit the area a few days before. This only added to the beauty.
Rim Rock Nature Trail is nearby and another short hike. Unless you veer off the path like we did. More on that later. The trail itself is a 1.7 mile loop that includes an upper and lower trail. The lower trail takes you down a steep staircase and then through a maze of rock formations.
From there, the trail is rugged in some places and a bit of a climb back up to the parking lot. The views along the way are mostly sandstone bluffs that tower above you.
There is a point in the loop where you can take a side trip away from the trail. It is another ½ mile path that, unfortunately, does not loop back into the original trail. So, you have to hike another ½ mile to get back on track. The bonus, however, is the detour ends at Pounds Hollow Lake. So you can relax on the “beach” before you head back.
I already cannot wait to go back in the Spring or Summer to see everything in bloom!