Explore the most popular cave trails in Shawnee National Forest with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

I loved the terrain and views. But people are LIVING in these woods. We seriously had a man request that we “pay the troll toll” because we accidentally came upon his home during our short walk. We played it cool and gave him some cashews and he was alright with us passing through but still, wth. Then we encountered a set of campers

This was too cool. There was plenty to explore here, so many cool rock formations, while you're on the bottom floor you can't help but just stare up in awe. The long staircase through some narrow passages in the natural rock was awesome and if my current physical state would have allowed me to, I would have just kept going up and down that portion.

My husband and I were staying the in campground at Garden of the Gods so this was a must-see. We were not disappointed. It's a really short trail but you could spend a long time just standing on the rocks and looking out. We're from SE Michigan which is very flat so this was something really different to see! I could see this being sketchy for parents with young kids, personally if I had children with me I would put them on a leash because there are no guard rails and it's a long fall down.

In the Shawnee National Forest is a rock escarpment known as Rim Rock. This park is just a few minutes drive from Garden of the Gods so plan to do this trail on the same day. The trail goes up over the hill along a paved flagstone trail and then dives down through the rocks where it passes through narrow slot canyons to the canyon below. the center of the trail is just an enjoyable walk in the woods with no scenery. But once you reach the northern part of the loop you'll see the steps leading down to narrow stone passages. Return to the top of the steps to follow a rock outcropping back along the western loop or descend tot he bottom of the passage until you reach the canyon floor where you can continue CW along massive cliffs back to the trailhead.

Gurrr!!!!! Woooooo!

Grrrr! Rawr! Great place to sleep, throw rocks and stalk deer.

Within the Shawnee National Forest of southern Illinois lies the Garden of the Gods Wilderness, so named for the unique rock formations. This mid-western region was once a primordial swamp and the action of the water wore this exposed cliff face into rounded pinnacles. It's a magical place where people come to sit or stand on the edges of the cliffs and look out at the wilderness. Those with no fear of heights can be seen jumping from rock to rock over 200 foot crevices. Most of this loop can be navigated fairly easily with a stroller although there are a few steps here and there where a lift will be necessary. In addition to the main flagstone trail there are numerous short side trails to various overlooks or climbing opportunities. Although a popular trail where there will be many other visitors, they will be spread out pretty far and what few are visible will give a good perspective to the sheer size of the bluffs. Due to the relatively level and reasonably smooth flagstone trail with beautiful views only 5 minutes from the parking lot, this would be an ideal visit for those who may be mobility-impaired.

went with Katie and marley. was a beautiful day, nice view with plenty of fresh air.

This is a really beautiful backpacking trail. Emerging from winter, I wanted something short and relaxing rather than lengthy. This trail was perfect! I camped overlooking the lake and we had phenomenal weather. Beware of ticks -- I had one tick on me to remove.

stunning! Yes the trail is easy but there is ample opportunity for a great workout if you want it by climbing over boulders and adventuring down the cliffs. Be careful though! I only recommend climbing if you are experienced or athletically conditioned. While we were there someone fell and a life flight had to be called. Climb at your own risk. I did ;)

A trail with views. Not particularly difficult until the trek back up that involves many stairs but I was so distracted by the natural rock formations I barely noticed. Takes about an hour.

Nice quick little hike! Well marked trails with bluffs, slots to walk through in the bluffs and a creek. You can do the loop on the map, or continue on to pounds hollow (1/2 mile) by the creek. Shaded picnic benches are available.

Easy hike with nice views. Geology rocks!

very easy hike. trails well maintained.

hiking
29 days ago

Our group loved this hike. Very easy flat trail to a wonderful cave. The cave was much larger than expected. Gave this one a 3 star only because of the off the beaten path feel to it. There is no parking lot and no trail head to this one. You simply drive to the end of Sand Cave road and park in the grass next to the dirt road looking entrance to the hike. After you get on the trail it is very easy to follow. Once again a very enjoyable hike that not a lot of people visit so if you are looking for easy and remote this is the trail for you!

Always a favorite of ours this is a most see if you are going to Shawnee. While a short very easy trail the real attraction is the rocks to climb all over. This trail is extremely popular and very busy so highly recommend getting there early if you want to take decent pictures of the place. Other than that even with the crowds everyone is spread out on the rocks so it isn't to crazy.

The trail was very easy to follow and the entire left wing was paved stone. After a weekend in the Shawnee, I would rank this area 3rd after Garden of the Gods and Little Grand Canyon. If you go to the Garden of the Gods, you must go down the road to this area. The area is covered with moss covered rocks and then you descend down the bluff cutting through wedges in the large rocks. We went on a wet weekend and the water was trickling from everywhere. Once down near the creek the trail splits. We thought that this was the junction of the middle and right side loop, but this is actually the right side loop and the trail that goes up to the lake and back. If you go up the lake trail about 1/4 mile you will find a small waterfall. The site map indicates that most people hike up to this waterfall and back out. From the trail head, the left and middle trails will both take you to the top of the stairs on the bluff, the right trail will take you to the bottom of the bluff.

This is a great place to stop and explore. As others said, the trail itself is very short, but this place is more about exploring. We did a ton of climbing. Without climbing there are still plenty of beautiful vantage points. There was a good bit of trash that could be picked up as you walk across the decks they have built near the swirl rocks. Garden of the Gods and Little Grand Canyon are tied for the best places to visit from our weekend.

started in e town, stoped hiking in eddyville. this part of the trail hiked has a lot of forks that are not marked what way to go. trail has been moved around a lot, but they never took down the old blazes. wasted about 10 miles following false trails, lusk creek is the worst part.

walking
1 month ago

This is a great short trail. We took about an hour to enjoy all of the side trails to the overlooks and to read all of the interpretive panels with our 4 sons. There are clean outhouses and trash bins at the trailhead. Just up the hill is a nice picnic area and primitive campground.

Indian Point Trail is just down the road for a slightly longer, family-friendly hike.

This area is beautiful, but respect for the potential danger is a must.

Easy to follow trail with beautiful views of garden of gods.

incredible

Beautiful, surreal landscape! Excellent for photography

Gorgeous views! Kids didn’t want to leave!

The trail is short, but beautiful. There are benches along the trail to sit and enjoy the view. I went in March. The view in summer or fall would be even better.

Trail was really great, but it was really hard to find in the beginning. We went in the wrong direction and hit "no trespassing" signs after about half a mile. The trails are also not very well marked. It can also get pretty muddy in places.

We did this hike yesterday, starting at Rim Rock (we took the path to the far right (of the four options) and making our way to Pounds Hollow. We actually spent a little time at Pounds Hollow to take a break (up the bluff), then hiked back, where there is a small sign at the point of the three large bluff/ rock formation areas. We headed the opposite direction that we came from to ox-lot cave and wandered/ climbed around until we found a stone staircase. That led between the rock formations and toward a recently created or remodeled wooden staircase that takes you to the top of Ox-lot. We then took the upper trail back to the parking area. During our hike, we ended up with a distance of 4 miles and climbed the equivalent of 37 flights. It was an excellent time. Calling it a moderate hike/ trail is mostly accurate. I would say easy to moderate. I did take the time to climb up a few of the formations and experience different views. I would recommend it just to really take everything in. Recent rains meant the water was flowing nicely and there were very few people there, so you really got to hear the amazing, peaceful, serene sounds of nature!

SNF has done a wonderful job keeping this area up. The addition of walkways, benches, and bridges simplify the trail, but do not take away from the environment. Most is likely done as a protective feature for the natural areas and the hikers. This is a family friendly place. There were only 5 other families/ couples there when we left, only two others when we arrived.

This Trail Is small VERY SMALL! but worth the stop it is listed in the Smothsonia as the top 50 in the USA! On Smithsonia.Com and top for Illinois very Beautiful place. if you trail it it dont take long but in my case it lasted for almost 9 hours .Put me in a Wilderness and I'll stay as long as possible and cry when I have to leave. There are a few folks walking around but I seem to be able to figure out where to go to get away from them plus I went in the middle of the week so that helps. beautiful place I was there in Oct 2017 for the fall colors PERFECT!!!!!!!!

Amazing rock formations

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