Hiking The Observation Trail At The Garden Of The Gods In The Shawnee National Forest
The Observation Trail (trailhead: 37.60463, -88.38436) at the Garden Of The Gods can be found in the Shawnee National Forest of Illinois.
This is a great hike for the whole family with hardly any elevation gain and it’s pet friendly so bring along your fur babies.
Make sure your little ones and pets don’t get too close to the edge though because this whole area is high cliffs and surrounded by dropoffs.
Restrooms, picnic areas, and trashcans are available to the public near the parking lot.
There is a decent size parking lot, but this is one of the most photographed locations in the state and gets quite busy. If possible visit early and during the week so it’s not as crowded.
Rumor is sunsets are spectacular here, but we didn’t go for sunset so can’t confirm that little factoid.
The sign at the trailhead says it’s a 1/4 mile loop, but it’s closer to at least 1/2 a mile.
When we hiked it our Strava app actually said we walked 0.62 miles. The main loop is paved with flagstone, but there are a lot of little dirt spur trails to take.
These spur trails lead to multiple viewpoints and cool rock formations to check out.
I think the length of the hike is determined by how much exploring you do. My advice is to take all the little side trails and explore as much as possible.
Each little nook and cranny offers a different perspective of the area or a unique new sandstone rock formation to discover such as Camel Rock, Table Rock, Anvil Rock, Mushroom Rock, and Devil’s Smokestack.
There are plenty of opportunities for some rock scrambling for the kids (or the adults) so don’t skip out on that fun.
Depending on how brave you are you can climb up higher for more panoramic views or get closer to the edge for a different perspective.
Please use caution during this hike though and never risk your safety for that perfect Instagram shot.
There are some short, steep grades and steps along the trail, but nothing too strenuous, and benches are scattered about if you need a rest.
A number of interpretive signs along the trail highlight the various historical and geologic features of the area.
Garden of the Gods has amazing panoramic views of the surrounding wilderness and incredible geologic formations earning its spot as one of the most popular places in the state to visit.
Although it may be overcrowded at times it should still be added to your list of future destinations to explore.