With its breathtaking natural beauty and unlimited opportunities for outdoor recreation, a trip to Giant City State Park near Carbondale is sure to delight visitors of all ages. From camping and horseback riding to fishing and rappelling, its an outdoor lovers paradise. Visitors will marvel at the many wilderness trails, and a sure treat awaits anyone hiking the Giant City Nature Trail, home of the Giant City Streets formed 12,000 years ago by huge bluffs of sandstone. Nestled in the Shawnee National Forest, just minutes south of Carbondale, the area was named for the unique impressions made by its massive sandstone structures. Eons of geological faulting and folding have molded a landscape like none other, which is now clothed in lush garments of fern, moss, large flowering mints, hundreds of species of wild flowers and 75-plus varieties of towering trees. The natural splendor of Giant City has made it a renowned retreat that attracts more than 1.2 million visitors annually.
Hiked the Red Cedar Trail today. (7/23/16) It was well marked. I only got turned around a couple of times and it was quickly corrected. The campground is hard to find. You must walk up an electric power pole right of way, in order to find it. Take lots of water. The description says easy. It's not easy. Yes, parts of it are on roads or gravel paths, but other parts are up and down hills. It balances out. I hiked the trail in 5.5 hours. It would be a nice trail to camp on, then finish the next day.
Did the Red Cedar trail this winter. It's short on the wow factor that you see in the shorter trails and the river to river in the park, but it's a good walk in the woods. The western side is not as well marked as the rest of the trail and hasn't quite recovered from the blow down a few years back. Plenty of spots to filter water.
14 mile loop, plan ahead to either pack extra water or purify your own. The far North end leg is cool, except overgrown and tick filled. we did the loop in 1 day but I would recommend making it an overnight trip, camp at one of the campgrounds half way down the trail.
This was my first backpacking experience, so I was glad to make it to the campsite at the back of the trail. the northern portion of the trail is pretty rugged- lots of hills, lots of bluffs, and lots of brush. Definitely beautiful the whole way. The trail was a bit washed out in a few places, and markers were occasionally hard to spot, but having the map from the visitor's center was really helpful. The campsite is called primitive, but there's three fire rings, a few picnic tables, and a couple outhouses. The southern part of the trail was pretty flat and easy going, and merged with the horse trail for a mile or so. The trail markers were pretty hard to spot and understand after the giant city road crossing, but again, referencing the map helps a lot. All in all, the trail was fun and in good shape. I'd recommend it to a first time backpacker, but not to the average day hiker.