Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Guided tours
Backcountry camping
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Situated in Southern Illinois, the Garden of the Gods Wilderness is the most spectacular section of the Shawnee National Forest. Spanning 3,318 acres, this grand area of rock formations features about 5.5 miles of interconnecting trails. They allow hikers and pets to explore these structures that have been chiseled by wind over the course of 300 million years. These sandstone rocks are truly a sight to see, they feature glazed designs from iron deposits carved over time. The trails are ideal for hiking, biking, and even horseback riding. Maps are available at the trail heads on site. From the campsites and some points along your hikes, you'll get to see the amazing bluff tops. Some of these formations drop 100 feet down and can even be climbed with the right equipment. Some of the rocks are so large or uniquely shaped that they have earned nicknames such as Anvil Rock, Mushroom Rock, and Camel Rock. 

It is $10 to camp at Garden of the Gods where sites typically have fire pits, picnic tables, and toilets on-site. The US Forest Service is contemplating adding a $5.00 day use fee for this area, so make sure to have some cash handy upon arrival. The nearest town with services is about 30 miles away. Observation Trail has two large parking lots. Overnight parking is allowed at Backpacker's Parking Lot in the Garden of the Gods Recreation Area and at Hitching Post Trailhead along Gape Hollow Road on the west side of Garden of the Gods Wilderness. No overnight parking is allowed in picnic area or Observation Trail parking lots. 

Campground is first come- first served. Be aware cell phone coverage is spotty or non-existent. Expect longer response times by emergency personnel.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

Day use fee

Open Year-round



Unbelievable rock formations. Panoramic views. Hiking opportunities.


Steep cliffs. Limited services. Summer crowds.


Vault toilet
Family friendly
Guided tours
Backcountry camping
Historically significant
Geologically significant
Bird watching
Big Game Watching
Big vistas
Horseback riding


Nearby Adventures

Lusk Creek Canyon National Natural Landmark
Trail of Tears National Historic Trail


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