Natural Areas Garden of the Gods Recreation Area

Garden of the Gods Recreation Area

Garden of the Gods Recreation Area is the result of millions of years of years of wild geological processes and extreme erosion. The area was once the shoreline of a giant inland sea that covered western Indiana, Kentucky and parts of southern Illinois. 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. Uplift 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.

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. Extreme 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.

Length:
Observation Trail (stone path) - 1/4 mile

Total Trail System – 5.5 miles (excluding River to River segment)

Travel Time: 3-4 hours

Surface Type: Dirt

Difficulty Level: Easy - Difficult

Facilities: Picnic areas, restrooms, parking, camping, interpretive signs along the Observation Trail.

Safety: Trail tread may be slippery during and after rain.

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.

* Information courtesy of USDA Forest Service.

Garden of the Gods Recreation Area

Shawnee National Forest Hidden Springs Ranger District (618) 658-2111 2008
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.
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.
Visit our website at www.fs.fed.us/r9/forests/shawnee. The USDA
Forest Service is a multicultural organization and is committed to the goal
of ensuring equal opportunity for all in employment and program delivery.
Length:
Observation Trail (stone path) - 1/4 mile
Total Trail System – 5.5 miles (excluding River to River
segment)
Map
Travel Time: 3-4 hours
Surface Type: Dirt
Difficulty Level: Easy - Difficult
Recommended Season: Spring, summer and fall
Facilities: Picnic areas, restrooms, parking, camping,
interpretive signs along the Observation Trail.
Access: 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.
Safety: Trail tread may be slippery during and after rain.
Trail Markings: River To River Trail (blue i)
Hiker/Equestrian Trail
Hiker-Only Trail (blue)
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.

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