Attractions and Activities

 Shawnee National ForestShawnee National Forest Activities 

Totaling about 286,400 acres the Shawnee National Forest is located in the southern tip of Illinois and offers a variety of outdoor opportunities and diverse landscapes. In contrast with the remainder of Illinois, the Shawnee National Forest’s rolling landscape and rugged bluffs, is home to a diversity of plant and animal life. Covered in deciduous forests and cradled between two major river ways (Ohio River and Mississippi River), there’s never a shortage of things to do in the Shawnee National Forest.  

Quetil Hiking Trail  The trail is at most 1/2 mile long. As ones heads out they immediately notice that this trail was not always a trail. The level, flat surface was formerly a railway that was created around 1878. One can almost imagine a huge steam train soaring through the forest undergrowth, the train blaring its whistle, the sound reverberating off the sandstone making it even louder. What a sight to have seen, but the railway was abandoned in 1981 and the sound of trains evaporated from the residents of Alto Pass. Video by Gary Marks

With its breathtaking natural beauty and unlimited opportunities for outdoor recreation, a trip to Giant City State Park near Makanda, IL is sure to delight visitors of all ages. From horseback riding to fishing and rappelling, it’s an outdoor lover’s paradise. Visitors will marvel at the many wilderness trails. Especially popular is a hike on Giant City Nature Trail, home of the “Giant City Streets” – huge bluffs of sandstone formed 12,000 years ago.
Nestled in the Shawnee National Forest, Giant City State Park was named for the unique impressions made by its massive sandstone structures and a landscape like none other, clothed in lush garments of fern, moss, large flowering mints, hundreds of species of wild flowers and more than 75 varieties of towering trees.
The Giant City Visitor Center provides interpretive displays on the geology, plants, animals and history of the park, and information about other southern Illinois attractions.

The Shawnee Hills took millions of years to form. The rock formations and cliffs at Garden of the Gods are made of sandstone and are about 320 million years old. Long ago most of Illinois, western Indiana and western Kentucky were covered by a giant inland sea. For millions of years great rivers carried sand and mud to the sea, where it settled along the shoreline. Over time, the weight of the sediments turned them into layers of rock thousands of feet thick. At Garden of the Gods the sediment layers were over 20,000 feet thick or about 4 miles deep. Eventually, a great uplift occurred, raising the inland sea above sea level causing it to fill in with sand and mud. The uplift also fractured the bedrock exposing it to nature’s erosive forces. Since that time, windblown sand, rain and freezing and thawing actions have worn down the layers of sediment creating the beautiful rock formations at Garden of the Gods.


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