Garden of the Gods Recreation Area

  

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. To find out more read the signs along the Observation Trail.Garden of the Gods has Observation Trail, Pharaoh Campground and a picnic area. Observation Trail is a 1/4-mile flagstone loop walk containing unique sandstone rock formations and panoramic views of the surrounding Garden of the God Wilderness. Interpretive signs explain the geological history. Wooden and rock steps occur at midpoint.

At a Glance

Current Conditions: Water is no longer provided at the Garden of the Gods Observation Trail. The water pump at the trailhead has been permanently closed. Campground water pump is now open and potable water is available.
Operational Hours: Recreation Area is open year round. Picnic area and Observation Trail hours of operation are from dawn to dusk. 
Reservations: Campground is first come- first served.
Fees Pharaoh Campground fee $10
Open Season: Year-round
Busiest Season: April and October
Closest Towns: Herod, IL or Harrisburg, IL
Restroom: All areas have vault toilets.
Information Center: Surrounding Area Attractions: Pounds Hollow Recreation Area, Rim Rock National Recreation Trail, River to River Trail, High Knob Picnic Area, Glen O. Jones Lake, Ohio River National Scenic Byway. The nearest hospital is Harrisburg Medical Center in Harrisburg.

General Information

Directions:

 

From Harrisburg, take Highway 145 south 5 miles to Highway 34, turn south. Take 34 south for 5 miles, then east on Karbers Ridge Road 2.5 miles to Garden of the Gods Road. Turn north onto Garden of the Gods Road. 1.5 miles to recreation area entrance road. There are directional signs from Harrisburg to the recreation area.

Trail Markings: River To River Trail - blue i
Hiker/Equestrian Trail - white diamond
Hiker-Only Trail include:  The Observation Trail, Indian Point Trail, portions of the Anvil Rock Trail, and Trail # 108H. 


Recreation Map

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Activities


Camping & Cabins

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Hiking

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Picnicking

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Picnicking

Garden of the Gods Picnic Area has 6 picnic units
 

General Info:

Safety Information:

Trail tread may be slippery during and after rain.


Overview/Background:

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. To find out more read the signs along the Observation Trail.

 


Directions:

From Harrisburg, take Highway 145 south 5 miles
to Highway 34, turn south. Take 34 south for 5 miles, then
east on Karbers Ridge Road 2.5 miles to Garden of the Gods
Road. Turn north onto Garden of the Gods Road. 1.5 miles
to recreation area entrance road. There are directional signs
from Harrisburg to the recreation area.

 


Permits & Regulations:

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. Please Keep in Mind:

  1. Pets are allowed only on a leash.
  2. Picnic areas and Observation Trail are open 6am-10pm.
  3. Use trash receptacles. Pack It In, Pack It Out rules apply to
    the entire trail system.
  4. Camp only at designated sites in the campground.
  5. Disposable food and beverage containers are not permitted
    on the Observation Trail.
  6. Stay on the designated trail and leave the beauty of the
    rocks and plants for others to enjoy.

Safety Information:

Trail tread may be slippery during and after rain.


Overview/Background:

The Observation Trail

The Garden of the Gods Observation Trail is a ¼ mile long
interpretive trail. It is made of natural flagstone and leads to areas
near the bluffs, where there are outstanding views of the Shawnee
Hills and the Garden of the Gods Wilderness. Visitors will find many
interesting rock formations with names such as Camel Rock, Anvil
Rock and Devil’s Smokestack. The Observation Trail has some short,
steep grades and a few steps. However, as a whole, the trail is not
tiring. Caution should be used because there are high cliffs in the area.


Trail System
Access is good from Garden of the Gods Recreation Area to the
River to River Trail and Garden of the Gods Wilderness. Rocky
streams, sheer cliffs, pine stands, hardwood forest, trickling
streams, rock overhangs and scenic vistas are encountered along
this trail system. Springtime offers abundant wild flowers and
rushing streams. Autumn offers beautiful fall colors and ripe fruit,
such as persimmons. Users are encouraged to obtain more detailed
maps before entering the backcountry. Overnight parking is
available at the backpacker’s parking lot.

 

 

Camping & Picnicking

Pharaoh Campground is open year round. Facilities include 12
campsites, tables, fire grills, toilets, drinking water and trails. Nice
views of the Shawnee Hills can be seen from the campground and
picnic areas. The Pharaoh Picnic Ground is open year round as in the
Observation Area. Call for fees.
Wilderness
Garden of the Gods Wilderness is 3,300 acres in size and is
relatively undisturbed. The Garden of the Gods Wilderness borders
the Recreation Area on three sides. No motorized vehicles or
mechanized equipment is permitted in the Wilderness. Visitors are
encouraged to “leave no trace” of their visit.

Surrounding Area
Pounds Hollow Recreation Area, Rim Rock National Recreation
Trail, River to River Trail, High Knob Picnic Area, Illinois Iron
Furnace, Saline County Conservation Area and Ohio River
National Scenic Byway. The nearest hospital is Harrisburg
Medical Center in Harrisburg.

 

 

 


 


Seasonal Information:

Spring, summer and fall


 


Safety Information:

Trail tread may be slippery during and after rain.

Trail Markings: River To River Trail (blue i)
Hiker/Equestrian Trail
Hiker-Only Trail (blue)