intro: Canyons, sheer sandstone cliffs, and rocky-bottomed streams are sprinkled throughout the rugged, wooded terrain on this moderately difficult 4.6-mile hike through Garden of the Gods Wilderness.
It’s for good reason that Garden of the Gods draws crowds during the summer. A stone’s throw from the parking area, visitors can stand atop strangely shaped rock formations and take in 30-mile views of the surrounding wooded hills. Few visitors, however, explore the high cliffs, rocky canyons, and picturesque little streams of the surrounding area. This 4.6-mile hike will delight off-trail explorers with its numerous rock overhangs and small caves along the base of the sandstone cliffs.
To the Trailhead: From Harrisburg, head south on IL 145. Turn left on IL 34, and then turn left on Karbers Ridge Road. Turn left again on Garden of the Gods Road. The entrance to the recreation area is on the left.
Distance: 4.58 mi
Total Time: none
Speed: 0.0 mph
Pace: 0:00 / mi
Active Time: none
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Points of Interest
Location: 37.605606, -88.384979
Start at the map board located at the lower level of the parking area.
Location: 37.607758, -88.385201
After passing a small rocky outcropping called Anvil Rock, continue straight on trail 108K @ the T-junction. Fifty yards later, turn L on trail 108D at another T-junction.
Location: 37.605751, -88.387520
The trail surface gets rocky as you descend about 100 feet. Turn R on trail 108C @ T-junction. As the trail winds beneath stands of elm, maple, and oak, you’ll pass low rough-textured sandstone formations bulging up on the sides of the trail.
Location: 37.609470, -88.391556
Turn L on trail 001A @ T-junction.
Location: 37.612831, -88.397881
Watch for several tiny rocky streams coming together as you descend about 200 feet. Closer to the canyon floor, sandstone cliffs appear on each side of the trail: their heavily layered surface looks like a stack of pancakes viewed from the side. Ferns and mosses cling to sides of the cliff; cave-like overhangs are scattered along the base of the cliffs.
Location: 37.608311, -88.397278
Near where two branches of Eagle Creek converge, turn L on trail 152B @ T-junction.
Location: 37.602974, -88.390518
The landscape smoothes out as you gradually climb out of the canyon. Follow trail 001 straight ahead toward High Knob @ 4-way junction.
Location: 37.602467, -88.384285
Turn L @ T-junction just before crossing the park road.
Location: 37.601212, -88.378174
As the grey sandstone cliffs soar 150 feet upwards, you’ll pass big cracks and tiny canyons that invite off-trail exploration. Have your hiking partner snap a shot of you standing in the 20-foot-wide opening of the natural stone archway.
Location: 37.602730, -88.376335
Turn L on trail 108J @ T-junction. After ducking under a rock overhang, follow the sound of a small seasonal waterfall that drops 30 feet from a crack in the cliff.
Location: 37.604954, -88.378868
At T-junction with campground access trail, turn R.
Location: 37.610512, -88.380318
At T-junction with trail 001A, turn L.
Location: 37.607948, -88.385010
Turn L at 2 successive T-junctions, following signs to the parking lot.
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