Hike the Garden of the Gods Observation Trail

Illinois Observation Trail, Garden of the Gods

Added by Sunshine LeMontree

Just 5 hours south of Chicago, explore a unique wilderness area characterized by fantastic rock formations, gorgeous forests, rivers and canyons.

In the southernmost part of Illinois, Shawnee National Forest is a wonderful natural area that transports you far from the flat agricultural landscape typical of so much of the Midwest. Located in the central area of the forest, Garden of the Gods is a 3,318-acre wilderness area characterized by unique rock formations, deep layers of forest, amazing views and fantastic hikes along rivers and through canyons. To gain your bearings, take the short Garden of the Gods Observation Trail. It's a quarter mile loop walk, paved with flagstones for easy accessibility, but it provides wonderful photo opportunities along the cliffs. Afterward, venture into the Garden of Gods Wilderness Area to explore. An all-year campground is located nearby, but camping is available for free throughout the wilderness area.

Pack List

  • Good shoes
  • Camera
  • Water bottle
If you are hiking through the Wilderness Area or on a nearby trail, bring:
  • Daypack
  • Plenty of water
  • Good shoes
  • Rain jacket
  • Snacks
  • Topographical map & compass
  • First aid kit
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More



Camping, Hiking

Skill Level:



Year Round

Trail Type:



1 Miles



Dog Friendly
Easy Parking

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How to Get There

4 months ago

Something worth driving for

My friends and I spent a weekend down in Southern IL and this was one of our favorite stops. The views are comparable to Devil's Lake in Baraboo, WI and are likely at their best in the fall when the leaves change colors. The main observation area was fairly busy, but the ease of the hike and quality of reward still made it well worth it. This definitely should be on your list as a stop anytime you find yourself in the area.

4 months ago

5 months ago


The observation trail was an easy hike, and the view was more than rewarding. Even in the rain, it was great.

5 months ago

5 months ago


Really beautiful and so close to home.

5 months ago

5 months ago

Don't miss the sunset!

This is the best spot in Southern Illinois to watch the sunset, hands down. The drive from the parking lot is still safe after dark, so no worries!

5 months ago

6 months ago

Amazing Rock Formations

They are incredible to look at and so much fun to climb on!

6 months ago

7 months ago

Natural Obstacle Course!!!


7 months ago

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