Garden of the Gods Recreation Area

Area Status: Open
Garden of the Gods Wilderness looking south

One of the most photographed locations in the state, Garden of the Gods' scenic beauty is extraordinary. In the recreation area you can hike, camp, nature watch or picnic.

The Observation Trail features unique sandstone rock formations and panoramic views of the surrounding Garden of the God Wilderness. Interpretive signs explain the geological history. The 1/4-mile trail is made of natural sandstone and takes about an hour to walk. It contains short, steep grades and steps; benches are located along the trail and as a whole the trail is not tiring. Caution should be used due to the high cliffs in the area.  

Garden of the Gods Brochure and Map 

GOG Fall View GOG Anvil Rock GOG Boardwalk Garden of the Gods Wilderness looking south Image of Garden of the Gods

At a Glance

Operational Hours: Campground is open year-round.
Picnic area and Observation Trail hours of operation - 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. 
Reservations: Campground is first come- first serve.  No reservations.
Area Amenities: Interpretive Site, Accessible, Tent camping, Camping trailer, Picnic tables, Toilets, Drinking water, Parking
Fees: Campsite $10/night - 8 people & 2 vehicle max. Payment cash or check only.
Permit Info: No permit required for entering or camping in Garden of the Gods Wilderness.
Open Season: Year-round
Busiest Season: April and October & holiday weekends
  • Overnight parking allowed at Backpacker's Parking Lot only (Indian Point Trailhead).
  • Pets are allowed only on a leash.
  • Picnic areas and Observation Trail are open 6am-10pm.
  • Use trash receptacles where available. Pack It In, Pack It Out while on trails.
  • Camp only at designated sites in the campground.
  • Disposable food and beverage containers are not permitted on the Observation Trail.
  • Stay on the designated trail and leave the beauty of the rocks and plants for others to enjoy.
Closest Towns: Harrisburg, IL 62946
Water: Yes
Restroom: Vault toilets
Information Center: Forest Headquarters (618) 253-7114  or email the Forest Information Desk

General Information


From Harrisburg: Take Highway 145 south 5 miles, to Highway 34, then take 34 south for 10 miles. Then turn east onto Karbers Ridge Road 2.5 miles to Forest Road. Turn north. Drive 1.5 miles to the recreation area entrance road. 


Observation Trail has three large parking lots.

Overflow parking is at the Golden Circle Trailhead just outside the recreation area along Forest Road. To reach Golden Circle Trailhead from the Recreation Area, go back down the entrance road, turn north (left) onto Forest Road and go a short distance around the curve then turn east (right) into the Golden Circle Trailhead parking lot.

No overnight parking is allowed in picnic area or Observation Trail parking lots.

Overnight parking is allowed at Backpacker's Parking Trailhead in Garden of the Gods Recreation Area. There is also overnight parking allowed nearby outside of the Garden of the Gods Recreation Area at Hitching Post Trailhead along Eagle Creek Road (to the west) and to the east, Golden Circle Trailhead along Forest Road.

General Notes:

Know Before You Go

Additional Camping:  

Located 6 miles east of Garden of the Gods is Pounds Hollow Recreation Area with a large campground with 13 electric sites & 41 non-electric sites.

Trail Markings:
River To River Trail - blue letter
Hiker-Only Trails include:  The Observation Trail, Indian Point Trail, portions of the Anvil Rock Trail, and Trail # 108H. 

When venturing into Garden of the Gods wilderness or on extended hikes precautions should be taken: Carry water, food, first-aid kit, etc.  Poison ivy & venomous snakes are present in the area.

Be aware cell phone coverage is spotty or non-existent. Expect longer response times by emergency personnel. If you have an emergency and your cell phone is working, call 911.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Campground Camping

Dispersed Camping

Day Hiking


Horse Riding

Big Game Hunting

Small Game Hunting

Viewing Wildlife

Viewing Plants

Interpretive Areas




Interpretive Site: signs along observation trail
Camping trailer: pop-up trailers
Toilets: vault toilets
Parking: see parking info. above
Accessible: campground & vault toilets
Drinking water: in campground

Related Information

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities

Featured Events


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