Are you getting ready for 3-day weekend this week? If so, here are some great places in Southern Illinois to spend 3 days exploring the natural side of the Shawnee Hills.
1. Giant City State Park
This 4,000 acre state park is one of the best places to visit in Southern Illinois. It boasts 7 hiking trails that explore varied areas of the park.
Here’s a couple of my favorites:
- Trillium Trail – One of the best plant-life hikes in the park. In early spring this trails explodes with wildflowers. In late spring, the flowers are mostly gone, but the trail for near the bottom hugs massive bluffs that makes this hike well worth the effort.
- Giant City Nature Trail – Check out our article on this “classic” trail. This is the one that most people come to see and where the park receives its name from.
This parks also, has a great lodge that can serve up some of the best fried chicken in the state. The chicken dumplings are one of the local favorites.
2. Ferne Clyffe State Park
This area has fewer visitors than Giant City, but if you love to hike Ferne Clyffe has some of the best maintained trails in Southern Illinois.
Ferne Clyffe encompasses only 2,430 acres, but most of that area is allocated toward the Happy Hollow Trail and the harder to get to detached section, which have fewer visitors than the main section of the park.
Here are a couple of natural areas to check out:
- Big Rocky Hollow Trail: Click here to read our article on this trail. This flat easy trail is the most visited trail in Ferne Clyffe and for good reasons. At the end of this .75 round trip trail is an impressive 2-tier waterfall. Along the way you will encounter huge sandstone bluffs and if it has rained recently you will have the sound of water as your guide as you follow along a creek to the base of the falls.
- Round Bluff Nature Preserve Trail: Click here to read our article on this trail. This 1-mile loop trail circles an ancient sandstone knob that is home to an abundance of plant life. This trail receives fewer visitors than the Big Rocky Hollow Trail, but it is no less interesting. Look for ferns that cling to the bluff walls and be ready to climb three wooden stairs that will get your heart pumping.
3. Garden Of The Gods Area
When a lot of people think of Southern Illinois nature areas, the Observation Trail with its rock formations like Camel Rock, is the first place their mind wanders to. There is a reason for this, the Garden of the Gods area is home to bizarrely eroded rocks and one of the best scenic viewpoints in Southern Illinois. Just down the road is another area worth visiting called Rim Rock.
- Garden of the Gods Observation Trail – Click here for our article on this area. If there is one trail in Southern Illinois that everyone should view, this would be the one. This trail is a quarter-mile brief introduction to what wonders lie hidden within the Shawnee National Forest and state parks.
- Rim Rock Trail – Click here for our article on this area. This area receives fewer visitors than Garden of The Gods. The Rim Rock trail takes visitors by an old stonewall and down a long staircase to a giant crevice that leads to the an old “ox-lot” shelter
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