Location: Giant City State Park
Managed: Illinois DNR
Trail Type: Loop
Nearest Town: Makanda
Rare Spring Wildflowers, Massive Bluffs, Cool Cave Shelter
Rugged Trail at Bottom of Bluff, Slippery Rocks, Steep Climb
Located a short distance from the Makanda entrance , this two-mile “rugged” hike is located in the 170- acre Fern Rocks Nature Preserve. Dedicated in 1973, this area is made up of two unique communities which allow wildflowers to thrive.
In the heart of the preserve lies a wall of sandstone, that keeps the area below the bluff moist and out of direct sunlight for most of the day. This creates an environment that allows a variety of wildflowers to thrive. The top of the sandstone bluff receives direct light and retains a thin layer of soil where a variety of “hearty” wildflowers grow .
Among the list of wildflowers you will see on a spring day are: trillium, jack-in-the-pulpit, purple violet, spiderwort, dutchman’s breeches, prairie trillium, and wood poppy. Two rare species are also found here, French’s Shooting Star and Forbes’ Saxifrage.
If your interest is not in wildflowers or if you have arrived after spring, this is still one of the best trails in Giant City. Although, this trail stays near the road, it still retains a “wild” feel, that others trails lack. Right from the beginning you will hike up to the massive bluff-line and walk the twists and turns around huge boulders, that were once attached to bluff.
Around the halfway point you will begin to steeply ascend to the top of the bluff. Here the hiking will be easier, because of the more level surface. The top of the bluff gives a different perspective, along with inspiring views. If you have children this will be the time to keep them closer, because of the steep drop-offs.
Soon you will descend back to your vehicle, but make sure to checkout a deep recess in the sandstone that holds an awesome “cave” shelter that goes several feet into the cold rock.
To get directions from Google Maps click on the red tab below and enter your address. Please be advised that the Google gives directions from the nearest “known” street.
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