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Garden of the Gods
Explore the dramatic rock formations, cliffs and trails of the most visited site in the Shawnee National Forest. Millions of years in the making, the Garden of the Gods provides spectacular views unlike anywhere in the Midwest. See Camel Rock, Anvil Rock, Devil's Smoke Stack and other magnificent rock formations in this hiker’s and photographer’s wonderland.
CITY: Karbers Ridge
Shawnee National Forest
The Shawnee National Forest is famed for its awesome Garden of the Gods, and is home to the Rim Rock Recreational Trail (the forest has a system of 403 miles of equestrian/hiking trails). Hikers are greeted by magnificent jutting walls of rock covered with emerald-green moss, and paths that meander through canyons under the forest canopy. Nestled between the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, the stunning Shawnee National Forest landscape features rolling hills, lakes, creeks and rugged bluffs. If you’re into climbing than a must-see is Jackson Falls, located near the town of Ozark in the Hidden Springs Ranger District in Shawnee National Forest. The climb takes place on 60 feet of sandstone cliffs and boulders that include numerous freestanding towers.
Giant City State Park
Spectacular woodlands and sheer sandstone walls create a challenge for rock climbing and rappelling, as well as hiking. Outdoor lovers will also find horseback riding, a lookout tower, cabins and a swimming pool. Dine at historic Giant City Lodge, known for its homemade fried chicken dinner. Two different locations in Giant City State Park near Carbondale give you climbing options. A trail behind the picnic shelter takes you to a set of steep bluffs known as Shelter #1 near the Makanda entrance; another climbing area of the park includes the steep sandstone cliffs in Devil's Standtable. Plan to bring all of your own equipment since no permanent anchors are allowed. Ropes are permitted in both areas. After rainstorms, the wet sandstone gets really slippery. Use caution when grabbing for ledges as copperhead snakes warm themselves on the rocks during sunny days.
Egyptian Hills Resort
Egyptian Hills Resort is your passport to the Ultimate outdoor family vacation. Whether you are into waterskiing, wakeboarding, tubing, sport fishing, or pleasure boating; the Lake of Egypt is a boater’s paradise. All within a stone’s throw of your cabin. Within minutes of your cabin, your family can enjoy guided expeditions such as; horseback riding, rock climbing, mountain biking, kayaking, geo-caching, wildlife photography and many other outdoor activities. Whether planning a single activity or multiple activities for your group, we at Egyptian Hills are your personal concierge in planning your ultimate outdoor family vacation. Whether onsite or through one of our partner guides, all activities are tailored for all ages and experience levels.
CITY: Creal Springs
Starved Rock State Park Visitors Center
The Starved Rock State Park Visitors Center has several interactive displays, free videos on the park, hiking maps, and more. Trailheads Concessions & Gifts, also located here, is a great place to buy gifts, souvenirs, and snacks (fresh fudge, too)! The Visitor Center and Trailheads are open year-round.
Located near the town of Ozark in the Shawnee National Forest, Jackson Falls offers arguably the best rock climbing in southern Illinois. There are roughly 60 climbing areas along the sandstone bluffs and freestanding boulders, each with multiple named routes on them. There are over 500 named routes in all. Most of the routes are 50-60 feet in height. The whole area sits in a very scenic glen. Most of the routes at Jackson Falls are sport routes, though there are a number of traditional routes, and a few areas suitable for setting up a top-rope. There are also many excellent bouldering opportunities here.
Mississippi Palisades State Park
The Mississippi Palisades State Park, located near the confluence of the Mississippi and Apple rivers in northwestern Illinois is known for its steep cliffs and interesting rock formations, as well as its beautiful trails that lead you to some of those awe-inspiring giant boulders. One such trail is the Sentinel, clocking at over 1.3 miles it’s the longest trail in the park and leads you smack dab into Sentinel Rock, where you can take a turn at trying to conquer this monolith.
Starved Rock State Park - Ice Climbing
While rock climbing is prohibited, there are up to five canyons in which ice climbing is permitted when conditions allow. All ice climbers must sign in at the ranger station (Park Office) and must have a partner. Call ahead to check ice and other park conditions.
River to River Trail
If you want to truly experience the Shawnee National Forest, and Southern Illinois, then the River-to-River Trail in Illinois is for you. The Trail spans 160 miles of Illinois from Battery Rock on the Ohio River to Devil’s Backbone Park in Grand Tower Illinois on the Mississippi River, and it can take up to 2-3 weeks to complete in its entirety. With a combination of plains, bayous, bluffs and upland forests, there’s something for everyone to feast their eyes on. And, with difficulty levels ranging from easy to hard there’s a path for everyone in your party to enjoy.
CITY: Karbers Ridge
Vertical Heartland Climbing School at Draper's Bluff
Vertical Heartland Climbing School offers you an amazing opportunity to see Illinois from new heights. Perfect for rock climbing novices and experienced enthusiasts, Vertical Heartland offers hand-on instruction that’s provided by experienced guides with climbs tailored to suit your needs. Climbing services are available year round, seven days a week. Personal and group outings are scheduled by reservation. Reservations are preferred at least two weeks in advance.
Sentinel & Sunset Trails
The highest pint in Illinois is 1,257 feet located in the northwest corner of the state. That’s where you’ll find Mississippi Palisades State Park and the Sentinel and Sunset Trails. The park has 2,500 acres of wooded ravines and canyons. The Palisades are a line of vertical cliffs that rise up from the shore of Buffalo Lake. Hiking to the top provides tremendous views and an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. The two trails are strenuous due to the elevation change, but at approximately 3.7 miles, shouldn’t take too long for you to experience the sense of adventure in nature or burning in your legs.
Libertyville Sports Complex
Libertyville's Sports Complex offers something for everyone in the family. A 360° climbing mountain for rock climbing, a 40 tee automated heated driving range for year round practice and a fitness center offering group exercise classes, life fitness with cardio and hammer strength equipment, personnel trainers, a free weight room, ¼ mile running/walking track and a kids club. It also offers an open gym for indoor soccer, basketball, youth sports and training sessions. There is also 3,503 sq. ft. of meeting rooms suited for events from small family gatherings to corporate events and trade shows.
Ferne Clyffe State Park
The lush vegetation of the 2,430-acre Ferne Clyffe State Park, located near the small town of Goreville, IL hides the fact that directly below the soil, a vast area of rock formations exists. The two main areas for rock climbing include Big Rocky Hollow and the Cedar Bluff areas. Cedar Bluff offers both traditional and sport climbing, including several short, but difficult, routes in the class 12 to 13 range that appeal to experienced climbers. Other routes include top-rope access and solid anchors that appeal to new climbers.
Upper Limits Rock Climbing Gym
Upper Limits has more than 20,000 square feet of climbing, including routes up to 110 feet tall. Other features include a wave-wall, bi-level cave, and a unique outdoor bouldering area. Upper Limits accommodates all ages and skill levels, offering introductory and advanced classes, parties, group rates, scout programs, and team building exercises. Come visit Upper Limits, one of the largest and tallest gyms in the world!