Southernmost Illinois Offers Colorful Fall Hikes and Getaways

Bald Knob

Makanda: Gateway to Giant City and Outdoor Adventure, can easily fill a 3 or 4 day getaway! 

With its breathtaking natural beauty and unlimited opportunities for outdoor recreation, a trip to Giant City State Park and the Makanda area offers loads of fun. From camping and horseback riding to fishing and rappelling, it’s an outdoor lover’s paradise. You will love the many hiking trails. Especially popular is the Giant City Nature Trail, home of the “Giant City Streets” – huge bluffs of sandstone formed 12,000 years ago.

GIANT CITY VISITOR CENTER: Learn about the ‘Giant Streets’ that gave the park it’s name and get maps and trail details. 8 – 3:30 daily.

Giant City State Park Visitor’s Center contains an exhibit hall with displays of the natural, cultural, and geological features of the park. Don’t miss the 10 minute film about the park in the audio/visual room. There is a Discovery Corner that kids love to explore. Ask about the scavenger hunt for kids. Get a prize upon returning it at the end of the hike all filled out, but watch your time, the center closes at 3:30 PM.

Rock climbing and rappeling

Climbing and rappelling are permitted at the park in two locations. The areas of Devil’s Standtable cliff and Shelter #1 bluff at the Makanda entrance are accessible to climbers, and ropes are permitted on these cliffs. Climbers should bring their own equipment and go directly to the bluff, no check-in is necessary. No permanent anchors allowed. All climbing activities at the park are conducted at your own risk. Cliffs are steep and sandstone can be slippery when wet. Venomous copperhead snakes, an Illinois protected species, are found on sunny ledges. Please use caution. Southern Illinois sandstone bluff plant communities are fragile, so tread lightly in these areas. Always carry out what you carry in!


Exploration of the picturesque natural wonders of Giant City State Park’s 8 trails, can be enjoyed along the Post Oak, Devil’s Standtable, Giant City, Stonefort, Indian Creek, Trillium and Arrowwood trails. The Post Oak Trail has been designed for disabled visitors. The 12-mile Red Cedar Hiking Trail provides an invigorating challenge to the truly dedicated backpacker, and offers an overnight campsite at the halfway point. In Spring, Summer & fall, be sure to use insect and tick repellent. Trillium Trail is a great place to see spring flowers.

Hiking is available year-round, and if you have visited in another season winter can offer a very different experience. The weather is generally mild, and you can pretty much have the trails all to yourself. Enjoy a peacefulness that only winter can provide.

Winter is a great time to enjoy the slower, quieter side of Shawnee Forest Country in Southernmost Illinois. The cooler temperatures mean no bugs and the trees are bare, allowing you to see much further into the forests. Bluffs hidden behind the summer foliage emerge dramatically into sight.

Don’t miss this rustic beauty of Giant City Lodge, and a great place to refuel your body after an active day! (Feb. to mid Dec) 

Amazing hand-hewn log built lodge always impresses, and is a fun place to dine. Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, the spacious Lodge offers rustic beauty with multi-hued sandstone and white oak timber.

The Lodge serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, (Feb. to mid Dec) with an excellent reputation for food and hospitality. You’re sure to enjoy some of the best fried chicken ever if you choose the specialty of the Lodge, the all-you-can-eat Family Style Chicken Dinner. Be sure and save room for some warm fruit cobbler!

The Lodge also features a lounge and historic Clem & Arlies bar, gift shop, and guest cabins for a quiet getaway.

Much of Giant City was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps or CCC. A statue dedicated to the CCC sits in the courtyard.

Be sure and climb the spiral staircase of the Giant City water tower for the scenic views.

Cabin rental: 3 styles of cabins are available for rent. (Feb. to mid Dec)

The Historic Cabins are located on the south side of the Lodge, set in the location of the original CCC built cabins. These one-room cabins offer two double beds. 

The Prairie Cabins are located north of the lodge, offering a queen bed in the bedroom, with a full-size Murphy bed in the living room. Each unit connects to another unit by a common door.

Larger and more scenic with stylish decor, there are four Bluff Cabins nestled in the bluffs near the Lodge offering two queen beds in the bedroom, an electric fireplace in the living room, a wet bar with a small refrigerator, and a deck overlooking the woods below.

Giant City Stables: Saddle up for trail rides with experienced wranglers through private trails (Mid March to Mid Nov.) 

Even if you don’t want to ride, walk through the stables to see, and even pet the horses.

The Stable maintains approximately 30 horses of different types and breeds for your enjoyment. There are horses of all different levels and will match you with a horse that meets your needs. The trail rides are guided by experienced wranglers, who lead you through 3 plus miles of private trails in the heart of Giant City State Park.

Pony Rides: (Mid March to Mid Nov.) Hand led pony rides are available for children. These rides are hand led by one of our wranglers on a short trail.

Mountain Bike Trails: The nearby Touch of Nature Trails system offers over 10 miles of multi-use trails for bikers, hikers, and runners only. The Kid’s Terrain Park includes a pump track, a push bike track, and .25 mile fun loop to introduce kids to riding on trails. The trail system offers a variety of difficulty levels for users and can be accessed just off of Giant City Road after entering Touch of Nature.

Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour: Enjoy the breeze zipping through the trees!

Safety is always number one here, so don’t be afraid. This is the place to check zip lining off your bucket list! You will start off with ‘flight school’ before you ever get out in the canopy.

Allow 3 hours for an exciting canopy tour. The guides will educate you about the flora, fauna, geology and history of the outdoors by safely traversing an established route of ziplines and aerial bridges between platforms built in the trees. You must leave your phones and cameras behind, but staff will take photos for you, and you can rent a GoPro if you want to capture your zipping experience.

The tour includes 11 platforms high in the trees, three aerial suspension bridges, the longest stretching 180 feet, and two short ground hikes. What to add to the excitement – try one of the night time tours! www.shawneezip.com 

Little Grassy Fish Hatchery: One fish, two fish, red fish blue fish! Well, Bluegill and Redear Sunfish anyway.

Little Grassy produces about a million fish per year, on average, including channel catfish, blue catfish, largemouth bass, bluegills and redear sunfish. Most of the channel catfish produced by the state come from Little Grassy.

Great place to take your children for a lesson on how our fisheries help stock our ponds and other needs to our Eco system. The kids and adults alike can enjoy it.

The main event at Little Grassy is the catfish production. The production process of the channel catfish provides a great viewing experience for visitors. ‘Prime time” for viewing the production process is in June. Yearling catfish in outdoor raceways are available for feeding by visitors from Memorial Day through July.

While prime viewing is in the summer months, tours are available year round between 8:30 and 3:30. Be sure and ask about the record channel cat!

Swimming, Fishing and boat rental: Little Grassy Marina offers boat rentals of jon boats, canoes, kayaks, paddle boards and pontoons. 

Rolling Oak Alpaca Ranch:A family owned and operated farm. Schedule a visit to the ranch and you will get to know the alpacas that call Rolling Oak their home. While you are there you can shop locally produced products that include alpaca fiber scarfs, socks, hats and even soaps. 

Makanda: The Most Hippie Town In Illinois. Visit the unique shops on the Makanda boardwalk.

X doesn’t mark the spot, the Smiley Face water tower does!

When you’re not wandering through the woods, a good place to go is the Makanda Trading Co. This amazing general store opened in 2001 in rustic downtown. You’ll find a wealth of treasures to shop like stones, toys, incense, art, and much, much more to fill your new age home. Visions Art Gallery features local artists and their works, from paintings, stained glass, to ceramics. Rain Maker studios display impressive metal work jewelry, sculptures, and fountains.

Makanda Country Store Located on the historic Makanda Boardwalk features gourmet coffee, sandwiches, and hand-dipped ice cream. The store also has an array of hot sauces for purchase.

Each fall, vultures fly over Makanda and the surrounding areas and signal the beginning of fall and the arrival of the incredible fall colors of Makanda and southern Illinois. 

The 3rd weekend of October each year, Vulture Fest features live music, food, shopping, and art by local artists for purchase; all under the watchful eyes of Black and Turkey Vultures roosting in the trees overlooking the village.

Many attractions in this hippie town give it that feeling of being free-spirited. Don’t miss the Rainmaker Garden, and it will certainly put you in that Earth child, flower power vibe.

Learn more at www.southernmostillinois.com or call 1-800-C-IT-Here.