Explore the most popular nature trips 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.

This trail was spectacular! Well marked and great scenic views. Although, you have to hike the full loop to enjoy the views but it is worth it.

Beautiful scenery!

Never disappointed! Beautiful!

Nice trail. The trailhead rates it as moderate to difficult, but I would say moderate is a fair assessment with quite a bit of up and down. It was raining when we started and so was pretty muddy and poison ivy is all over the sides of the trail. A lot of wild life, including turtles, frogs, lizards, cray fish, deer, several species of dragonflies as well as a poisonous snake in the brush when the trail takes you over the lake. Was there for 4 nights over Memorial Day weekend and only saw a hand full of other groups. Overall a great time.

This has been my absolute favorite thus far. We started by going left out of the parking lot and walked a gravel trail for a while, thinking that was all the trail was. We arrived at a scenic outpost and, had we stopped there, I can say it would have been a disappointment given how highly this trail is rated. The best, it turns out, was yet to come. From the outlook you hit a few cross backs that take you down in to a ravine where you climb down some rocks to get to the basin below. This was beautiful and moderately challenging, on rainy or wet days it would be difficult, and if you plan on bringing small children or pets you should know that you WILL have to lift them or carry them during some parts of this trail. Ya worth it, however, and the bottoms are pretty in their own right. Once you come to the end of the basin and it’s time to climb out the other side, there is a long stretch of rocks you climb up. There are hand and footholds to help that are placed at just the right places to help out. We took to climbing these with some speed and, at the top, we were both happy to sit for a minute and catch our breath. Once you are on top of the rock area, you’re not done. The rest of the trail is almost all an elevation climb and, by the time you reach the parking lot, you’re gassed. This trail was a great assortment of all the good stuff that I thoroughly enjoyed. I will be bringing my girls next time so they can experience it!

Traveled from Tennessee just to see it and it didn’t disappoint. Just wish it was a little longer. Absolutely beautiful!!

Wish we could have found where to descend from the upper rim trail. We enjoy the hike but wished we could have gotten to the falls.

The rock formations were really cool. We had fun climbing on all the rocks. Views were amazing!

A lot of fun, if a bit slippery in some parts. Took my 7 year old son and he had a blast.

First trip to GOG! Awesome. Rock formations overlook GOG, westward. Was looking for a sunrise meditation facing the east. Not possible due to the tree tops. Totally satisfied, though. Perfect for a sunset meditation and gazing.

Amazing views, beautifully maintained trail. Just be careful as you hop and climb over the rocks - the height is very high and there’s not much to grab onto. Other than the normal safety precautions this is a wonderful hike!

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.

beautiful area.

Great hike. I went with my husband and two dogs. Definitely wear waterproof hiking shoes with good grip because the creek beds are slippery.

Grrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!

Gurrr!!!!! Woooooo!

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.

Amazing views. Climbs are up some awesome rock formations, beautiful trees and wildlife.

Make sure to keep your dogs by you at all times!! Some places are very slippery and ur dogs will start sliding. But other than that it was a blast! I want to go back!

Good little morning hike, very short but worth it to see the rock formations.

We loved this trail! Took us 2 hours, good clip at the start along the wooded and wildflower ridge line. Then definitely took our time to descend into the canyon. The waterfall was beautiful but slippery and muddy in spots so we took our time to find the right footing. Giant rock formations line the riverbed bottom. A lot of rewards on this trail for the effort. It’s very well marked, follow the diamonds.

hiking
1 month ago

We went to both Jackson Falls and Burden Falls today. Based off of a review left here we went to Jackson Falls first and we were actually a bit disappointed. Unless you're up for a 7-mile roundtrip hike you can't get to the bottom of the falls meaning you don't get much of a view of the actual waterfall. The hike leading up to it was short, easy and pretty. There were lots of little "falls" to look out and hop around. We decided to try Burden Falls (it's right on the way back) to see if maybe we could get a better view of some of the falls. We LOVED Burden Falls and would definitely recommend you see it. The road leads you directly to the falls so there's no hike out. BUT if you're up for some rock climbing (it's a bit tough at times) you can get an awesome view of the falls! Also, the road leading to Jackson Falls was long and VERY rough. Wasn't worth it in our opinion. If you can only go to one DEFINITELY go to Burden Falls.

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

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 ;)

Easy hike with nice views. Geology rocks!

Really cool trail, has it’s challenging spots because of slippery rocks. The trail flooded out in a couple of spots, but it was still easy to get through!

very easy hike. trails well maintained.

hiking
2 months 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.

Best trail that we have hiked in the Shawnee. It was challenging at times and the views were rewarding!

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