Hike More, Worry less in Shawnee Forest Country of Southern Illinois

Photo Caption: An outdoor enthusiast takes a break to take in the beautiful scenery in the Garden Of The Gods area of Southern Illinois.

Garden of the Gods and Rim Rock/Pounds Hollow Recreational area are two must see locations on the eastern side of the Shawnee National Forest of Southern Illinois. Both located just off Karbers Ridge blacktop, 30 minutes from Harrisburg.  Garden of the Gods consists of spectacular overlooks and views of unusual rock formations. One formation, known as Camel Rock, is featured in the America the Beautiful Quarter Program representing Illinois and came out in 2016.  The “Observation Trail” is a .25 mile stone path featuring some of the most well known formations.  This trail features interesting history about the geology of this area.  The rock in this area is over 4 miles deep and the fractured bedrock has created some interesting rock formations that represent various objects.

There are other trails which interconnect for plenty of hiking. For those people who want even more extensive hiking, River to River Trail enters the east end of the area from High Knob and proceeds south below the rock formations before bearing west again.  River to River Trail system stretches across Illinois from the Ohio River to the Mississippi.

While not as well known as Garden of the Gods, Rim Rock/Pounds Hollow Recreational area is just as awe inspiring in its own way and consists of a wonderfully scenic trail of exceptional beauty and historic values.  To early settlers this unique formation was known as “the Pounds” an old English term meaning “enclosure”.  The trail leads past remnants of a stone wall built by prehistoric Native Americans, an observation platform and steps descending through huge rock formations, narrow rock passageways via  stone steps to the floor below.  Ox Lot Cave, at the bottom, is a massive rock overhang where 19th century loggers kept their oxen and horses.  Continue hiking to the beautiful 28 acre forest lake known as Pounds Hollow Lake, or through massive sandstone canyons back to the top of the escarpment.   The upper trail is paved and less strenuous for hikers.  The lower trail has a dirt surface and leads along the base of the bluffs before looping back to the parking lot. 

At the intersection of Garden of the Gods and Karbers Ridge roads, is a popular ‘selfie spot’ with Sassy the Sasquatch.   Sassy is a7-foot-tall statue and has become a landmark in the sprawling forest near Herod, Illinois.  Also located on that corner is the

Garden of the Gods Outpost, where you’ll find souvenirs (to include items containing the likeness of “Sassy” – Shawnee Forest Country’s own Sasquatch), snacks, soft drinks, and ice cream.

For information: Southernmost Illinois Tourism Bureau, 800-C-IT-HERE