There's a Little Heaven in Garden of the Gods, Illinois - Tearing Up the Quilt (2023)

Last updated on 06/12/21 byquilt

Although I have lived in Chicago for many years, it was only recently as a visitor from upstate that I discovered the wooded beauty of the Shawnee National Forest and the Illinois Garden of the Gods. Who knew there was so much wilderness in a state known for growing corn?

Where is Shawnee National Forest?

I discovered the Shawnee National Forest not long ago while traveling through the Midwest. I traveled to discover new destinations in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.

The southern tip of the state of Illinois is defined by the meanders of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. Nestled between these two major US waterways are 280,000 acres of federally managed land spread across nine counties. In fact, the Shawnee Forest is called the land between the rivers.

Within this vast area are seven designated wilderness areas that are protected and managed to preserve natural environmental conditions. This natural landscape offers city dwellers an outdoor playground in 30 cities within a 6-hour drive.

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While most of the state of Illinois is flat with fertile soil suitable for agriculture, the southern tip is covered in unique rock formations, carved river canyons, and scenic cliffs created during the last Ice Age.

During the Ice Age, the massive Laurentide Ice Sheet covered much of Canada and North America and was responsible for the formation of the Great Lakes. The southernmost edge of this two-mile-thick ice sheet was in what is now southern Illinois. While the retreating ice sheet has smoothed the ground in its wake, this part of Illinois has retained its rocky, water-carved geography.

Exploring the Garden of the Gods, Illinois

One of these seven wilderness areas in southern Illinois is Garden of the Gods, not to be confused with the park of the same name in Colorado. However, this version of southern Illinois also has interesting rock formations and scenic trails through shady forests. If I didn't know better, I'd swear it wasn't Illinois.

The easy and rewarding hike from Observation Point took me through a canopy of trees and carved rocks and lookouts with sweeping panoramic views. I was careful not to miss the photographed Camel Rock, also featured in the 2016 America the Beautiful Quarters series.


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The trail is only 1/4 mile long, but I spent almost an hour exploring the nooks and crannies and avoiding some of the large boulders so I could see more from a distance. I think this would be an amazing place to see the fall colors when they are in full swing.

More hikes in the Shawnee National Forest near Garden of the Gods, Illinois

You can find information on all the hiking trails in the area atShawnee National Forest website🇧🇷 If you like to hike and camp in the backcountry, check out the 160-mile River to River Trail. If long-distance hikes aren't your thing, there are plenty of day hikes as well.

In addition to the Lookout Point Trail, I also tried the short 0.5-mile Rim Rock Trail, designated a National Recreational Trail, which runs along the edge of a rocky bluff.

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Along this walk I found the remains of an ancient stone wall built by prehistoric Indians about 1,500 years ago. The wall was almost 45 meters long and strategically placed to block the only accessible route to the top of the cliff where the indigenous tribe lived. Without the interpretive sign, I would have thought it was just another random pile of rocks from Mother Nature.

Other things to do near Garden of the Gods, IL

There is a surprising wealth of other things to do near Garden of the Gods, Illinois. From the unique local history to the interesting scenery, it wasn't hard to fill my day.

Cave in Rock State Park

As the name of the park suggests, the focus is onCave-in-Rock State ParkIt is a massive 55 foot wide limestone cave that was formed thousands of years ago. This landmark on the Ohio River became the first state park in Illinois.

Today the cave is an interesting sight and easy to visit since it is not very deep. Local legend has it that, in the early 19th century, the cave became a hideout for many river pirates and bandit gangs that roamed the region, including the infamous Jesse James, who exploited river trade in markets as far north as New Orleans.

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In recent history, Cave-in-Rock has been the backdrop for Hollywood. In 1956 Disney filmedDavy Crockett and the River PiratesHere and in 1962, John Ford used the cave for a scene in his epic western.How the West was conquered🇧🇷 Nearby Cave-in-Rock Kaylor's restaurant proudly displays cast photos from the Disney movie.

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Take a scenic ferry ride to Kentucky

You can drive IL Route 1 from Chicago to the town of Cave-in-Rock, then take a free ferry across the Ohio River to Kentucky and explore the local Amish community from there. Or you can just take a river cruise and go to Kentucky and then come back to continue your explorations of southern Illinois, which I did.

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There isn't much to see or do in the village of Cave-in-Rock, but that hasn't stopped one resident from making sure the village is beautiful. He used old bikes, spray-painted them bright colors and added matching flower baskets. These homemade art sculptures added fun and whimsy as I approached the ferry dock in town.

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Illinois Iron Furnace

This restored example of the iron furnace that was used in the area in the 19th century gives a glimpse of the industry that once thrived in this part of the state. There are informative displays detailing the history and process of making pig iron from local natural resources. There is also a visitor information center and picnic area on site.

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American Fluorite Museum

Fluorite (or flurospar) is a mineral from the state of Illinois. The geology that made this part of the state so scenic was also ideal for the formation of fluorite, the mineral name for the chemical calcium fluoride.

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Fluorite can crystallize in a variety of colors, including shades of purple, blue, green, yellow, pink, and white. Local American Indians used the mineral for jewelry and ceremonial carvings. In the 1870s, fluorspar, the industrial name for fluorspar, was found to be useful in removing impurities during the steelmaking process. This sparked a fluorspar mining boom in this region of southern Illinois.

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Fluorite is the main source of fluoride, which has many modern commercial uses, including its use in fluoride treatment to prevent tooth decay, and also in several common medicines.

Although fluorite is no longer mined in the United States, the American Fluorite Museum commemorates this important era in local history. Housed in the former offices of the Rosiclare Lead and Fluoride Mining Company, this interesting little museum was a treasure trove of colorful mineral displays and various mining accessories.

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You can also dig to find your own sample of fluorite. And if you're in the area during the first week of October, check out the annual Hardin County Fluorspar Festival.

Cabins in Garden of the Gods, Illinois

There are a plethora of lodging options in the Shawnee National Forest area. For a more detailed list seeextremo on from illinoistourist spot.

Cabins in the Shawnee National Forest

I stayedShawnee Woodland CabinsWhat are the closest cabins to the Garden of the Gods? You can choose from one- and two-bedroom cabins that offer all the comforts of home, including a full kitchen, fireplace, and outdoor fire pit. The one-bedroom cabins also have a jacuzzi on the deck.

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My stay here was quite comfortable and it certainly provided more than enough space and amenities for my two-night stay.

Timber Ridge Outpost

I also checked the interestingTimber Ridge Outposts and Cabinsoffers a variety of cabin accommodations in southern Illinois. You can stay in a cabin, a tree house or a big house. All units are fully equipped with kitchens, fire pits, firewood, folding chairs, and are pet friendly.

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After a day of hiking, I made it a point to grab a refreshing ice cream at the Garden Of the Gods outpost, which also features an old fashioned phone booth (remember those?).

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See more hotels near Garden of the Gods, Illinois

For other places to stay near Garden of the Gods, IL, check out Cave-in-Rock State Park and the River Rose Inn in nearby Elizabethtown, IL. I also checked them both though I didn't stay there.

State Park Lodge Cave-in-Rock

Cabanas no Cave-In-Rock State ParkThey are fully equipped with a kitchen and a private terrace with beautiful views of the Ohio River.

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Historic Inn Das River Rose

Built in the 1830s, the historic River Rose Inn Bed and Breakfast in Elizabethtown is the oldest hotel in Illinois and another lodging option in southern Illinois. The hotel sits on a bluff overlooking the Ohio River, and its large balcony makes the most of the view. Each of the five rooms is individually decorated and includes a small refrigerator, microwave, and coffee maker.

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Where to eat near Garden of the Gods, Illinois?

Cave-In-Rock State Park has its own restaurant known for its fried chicken and catfish. I enjoyed an excellent meal on the patio overlooking the Ohio River.

Another riverside place to eat catfish every day was the E-Town restaurant, not far downriver from the River Rose Inn. It's nothing fancy, but you won't find a fresher or better fried catfish dinner. The fish on my plate swam for a few more hours before I devoured it. This was also a great place to watch a spectacular sunset over the Ohio River.

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I hope my experiences in southern Illinois have inspired you to venture outdoors to the Land Between the Rivers and discover all the fun things to do in Shawnee National Forest and Garden of the Gods, Illinois.

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From the Shawnee Forest area, you can take a short drive to Paducah, Kentucky and visit the amazing National Quilt Museum. you can read about minePilgrimage to Paducahto learn all about this UNESCO World Heritage City of Creativity.

For another visit from Illinois to my favorite city of Chicago that's easy on the pocket, you can read mine.chicago on a budgetMail.

On this trip I continued my explorations of the Midwest in Indiana and discovered theartistic side of Indianapolis.

Please note that my visit was arranged by the Southern Illinois Office of Tourism and Shawnee Forest Cabins. All content and opinions are my own.

Thanks for the visit


fix it up!

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How was Garden of the Gods in Illinois formed? ›

Geology. During the Carboniferous period (circa 300 million years before the present), local geological conditions laid down a thick bed of gray sandstone in what is now southern Illinois. This bed of sandstone was later uplifted, and the Garden of the Gods is part of an uplifted sandstone plateau.

What town is Garden of the Gods in Illinois? ›

At a Glance
Operational Hours:Campground is open year-round. Picnic area and Observation Trail hours of operation - 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Closest Towns:Herod, IL 62947
Water:campground only
Restroom:vault toilets
8 more rows

Why is it called Garden of the Gods? ›

Back in 1859, when a surveyor named Rufus Cable first saw the towering fins of rock jutting over 300 feet into the air near Pikes Peak, he enthusiastically declared that it was “a fit place for the gods to assemble!” From this excited outburst came the name Garden of the Gods, by which we know this beautiful Colorado ...

What is special about Garden of the Gods? ›

Garden of the Gods is a popular natural landmark nestled at the foot of Pikes Peak on the west side of Colorado Springs. Known for its massive red rocks sticking straight out of the ground, tourists come from all over the world to wander the trails, see the wildlife and witness the formations for themselves.

How hard is the hike for Garden of the Gods Illinois? ›

Enjoy this 0.5-mile loop trail near Karbers Ridge, Illinois. Generally considered an easy route, it takes an average of 11 min to complete. This is a very popular area for birding, camping, and walking, so you'll likely encounter other people while exploring.

How long does it take to hike through Garden of the Gods? ›

The walk from The Visitor and Nature Center to the central “garden” is 10 – 15 min. It's a city park, it's free, and its landscape I stunning. If you are short on time, you can drive the loop, stop for photos.

How much does it cost to drive through Garden of the Gods? ›

Pikes Peak & Garden of the Gods – 3.5hrs – $149/pp

Pikes Peak is America's Mountain and the summit of adventure.

What are the 2 gardens in the Bible? ›

Two gardens are mentioned prominently in the Bible: the garden of Eden and the garden of Gethsemane. God placed the first man, Adam, in the garden of Eden; Jesus went into Gethsemane to restore what the first man had lost.

What is the garden of God in the Bible? ›

Garden of Eden, in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) book of Genesis, biblical earthly paradise inhabited by the first created man and woman, Adam and Eve, prior to their expulsion for disobeying the commands of God.

What does a garden symbolize in the Bible? ›

It was created by God as a safe enclosure for ADAMANDEVE; the enclosed garden is a symbol of theVirgin Mary in the Christian tradition. It is an archetypal image of the soul, of innocence, of happiness; it is a place for growth of the inner Self.

How long should I spend at Garden of the Gods? ›

How long does it take to go through Garden of the Gods Park? The average visitor spends at least 90 minutes to 2 hours exploring the park, especially if driving from location to location.

What is the moral of garden of Words? ›

Knowing that life must go on can become your power. You must believe that there is nothing more to do than to continue to look forward and to live. This story maybe flows in your life. I looked at the scenery in “The Garden of Words”, and I found a new reality to Shinjuku Gyoen.

What is the message of garden of Words? ›

The Garden of Words emphasizes the original meaning of koi—a "longing for someone in solitude"—but in a modern setting. Loneliness is the central element of the film, according to Shinkai.

What is the hardest hike? ›

Everest Base Camp (EBC) The Everest Base Camp Trek in the Himalayas in Nepal is one of the most famous and also, the hardest hikes in the world. Everest Base Camp at an altitude of 5,364m is where some of the best mountaineers in the world start their attempt to climb the highest mountain on the planet, Mount Everest.

Is Garden of the Gods a good hike? ›

Garden of the Gods is argueabley the best place to hike in Colorado Springs. Designated a National Natural Landmark, the park is known for its towering red sandstone formations and panoramic views of Pikes Peak.

What is the best trail to hike in Garden of the Gods? ›

According to users from, the best place to hike in Garden of the Gods is Palmer, Buckskin-Charley, Niobrara, and Bretag Trail Loop, which has a 4.6 star rating from 2,972 reviews.

Can you do Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods in one day? ›

Yes you can visit both Garden of the Gods Park and Pikes Peak in one day. The trip up Pikes Peak via the Cog Railway or the Pikes Peak highway takes approx. 3 hours round trip.

Can you drive your own car through Garden of the Gods? ›

Yes, you can drive through the Garden of the Gods and there are several parking areas. There is no charge to visit the Garden. It is a great place to visit!

How long is the drive through Garden of the Gods? ›

Driving yourself through Garden of the Gods is free and only takes about 20 minutes (depending on how fast the car in front of you is going!) We still recommend you stop by the Trading Post for a map, but the loop is pretty easy to follow and most of the main formations are visible from the road.

What should I wear to Garden of the Gods? ›

Recreation Wear or Casual Dress recommended. Our Pool Café offers casual outdoor dining with stunning views of Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak.

How did the Garden of the Gods get formed? ›

These rocks were created as ancient mountains eroded and were buried in their own sediments. Massive sand dunes moved across the land, and shallow seas and deeper oceans encroached and retreated. Each environment left behind gravel, sand, and ocean deposits that formed horizontal layers over millions of years.

How did Garden of the Gods get there? ›

It's some of coolest nature you've ever seen! Garden of the Gods was an area so beloved by Charles Elliott Perkins that his family gifted it to Colorado Springs under the conditions that it be free to all visitors forever after his death.

Was Garden of the Gods under water? ›

Garden of the Gods has been many things: a tropical haven; an inland sea; a field of sand dunes; and, even a vast swampy floodplain. Dinosaurs once grazed on the ferns and other tropical plants. Sea serpents swam in shallow waters and mammoths trudged through deep snow in May.

What caused the hills in southern Illinois? ›

The deltas of the Pennsylvanian Period later covered the entire state, building up great thicknesses of sediment as the land underneath gradually subsided over millions of years. These sediments compacted to form layers of rock that are more than 2,000 feet thick in southern Illinois.

What is the significance of the garden in the Bible? ›

Ordered and well-watered, a garden can symbolize the abundance that God offers to human beings, the quiet care that can produce fruitfulness in our lives and in the world around us and the hope that what is buried in death can produce great beauty.

Is Garden of the Gods a hard hike? ›

Garden of the Gods is argueabley the best place to hike in Colorado Springs. Designated a National Natural Landmark, the park is known for its towering red sandstone formations and panoramic views of Pikes Peak.
Trail Option #6 – The Balanced Rock Loop Hike.
Hike Distance0.7 Mile
Trail TypeLoop
1 more row
25 Aug 2021

How long does it take to walk through Garden of the Gods? ›

A self-guided Garden of the Gods tour with all of the essentials. The entire tour can be completed in 4-6 hours and combines the perfect mix of driving, hiking, learning, shopping and eating!

How much does it cost to go to Garden of the Gods? ›

Garden of the Gods is free, thanks to one man and his family: Charles Elliott Perkins.

How long does it take to go through Garden of the Gods? ›

Plan on at least 2 hours to drive the perimeter of the park or consider hiking Garden of the Gods. With its jagged rock groupings, diverse landscape and stunning views of Pikes Peak Mountain, hikes in the Garden of the Gods is the perfect place to take pictures and enjoy Colorado's fresh air.

Why is Garden of the Gods closed? ›

Road Construction Near Garden of the Gods Entrance

30th Street is closed in both directions between Fontanero Street and Gateway Road through early summer 2023. Access to Garden of the Gods Park, including the Visitor & Nature Center, will be maintained from Garden of the Gods Road.

Why are garden of Gods rocks Red? ›

The garden's red rock formations were created during a geological upheaval along a natural fault line millions of years ago.

Why is the land in Illinois so flat? ›

How Did the Illinois Prairies Form? Most of the land in the northern two-thirds of Illinois is flat. The movement of glaciers through what is now Illinois shaped the land. Four major glaciers have covered parts of Illinois during its past, the last about 12,000 years ago.

Why are there no fossils in Illinois? ›

No dinosaur bones or fossils have ever been discovered in Illinois -- for the simple reason that this state's geologic sediments were being eroded away, rather than actively deposited, during most of the Mesozoic Era [1] (250,000,000 BC to 65,000 BC).

How far down is bedrock in Illinois? ›

BEDROCK GEOLOGY. Beneath the glacial drift of Illinois many layers of rocks overlie a base of ancient crystalline rocks that in Illinois occur at depths of 2,000 to as much as 15,000 feet.


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