Take a short hike to the top of a bluff that is the home to the remnants of a historic structure created by the Native Americans over 1,000 years ago.
Difficulty: Climb at beginning, but levels out on top with rocky outcrops
Length: 1/3 mile
Highlights: Stone fort and high overlooks
If you are short on time and can only do two trails at Giant City State Park, my suggestions would be the Giant City Nature Trail and Stonefort Trail.
This trail is home to one of several stone walls in Southern Illinois. Two others I have already written about are the walls at Rim Rock and War Bluff. Out of all the walls this one is probably the most visited, because of its proximity to Carbondale and the popularity of the other features of the park.
The stone fort or wall was built around 600-800 A.D. by Native Americans. A 256 foot long structure was piled rock by rock on the narrow backside of a bluff that has sheer drop-offs on three sides.
Archaeologists debate the reasons for the construction of the walls. Some believe that they were neutral areas were Native American tribes could come together for social or economic activities. A popular theory is that the enclosure of the bluffs created a sacred area for the Native Americans.
The first recorded reports of the stonewall occurred around the 1880’s, by the first part of the 1900’s a large part of the wall had been scattered. It was not until the “New Deal” era that the wall began to reclaim its original structure. The CCC rebuilt the wall using the remnants of the scattered rocks, which is what we see today.
The trail head is located a short distance from the downtown Makanda entrance. Drive past the Trillium Trail and the first shelter. After a short distance a large parking area will appear on the right. The trail is across the road and immediately climbs a steep hill. A cascading stream bed will be on the left and the bluff will be on the right.
Near the top of the hill the trail veers off to the right and soon the stone fort comes into view. Continue through the passage between the wall and head to the right or left. The trail loops around the bluff giving excellent views of a grassy area and the main road below.
There are several side trails and user-made trails that can sometimes be confusing, but if the trail leads off the bluff any other route than the one you came up just backtrack to find your way out.
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Use the map below to get directions by clicking on the tab and entering your address. The tab is the an absolute approximation trailhead location.