A quarter mile of spectacular rock formations overlooking a beautiful forested valley. My teen boys and I loved climbing and scrambling over, under, and through these fascinating formations


  • Certainly some of the most stunning and extraordinary rock formations within a 3-hour drive of St. Louis. Or really, anywhere.
  • Lots of fun can be had scrambling over, under, and through the rock formations. No climbing gear needed.
  • Great people watching spot. One lady brought 3 snakes in a modified baby-stroller when we were there.


  • You’re gonna want to keep a close eye on your kids.
  • It can get very crowded on the main observation path. If you’re seeking solitude on a warm 3-day weekend, the observation path is not going to be your best option.

Getting There

Garden of the Gods Recreational Area is in Shawnee National Forest of South Eastern Illinois. It is about 2 hours, 45 minutes from central St. Louis. It is mostly an easy, flat drive, through the farms of Illinois. It isn't until you get close that the mountains that form the base of Garden of the Gods begin to spring forth out of the flat farm lands.



Formed more than 320 million years ago, the wind and rain have sculpted these sandstone formations into some of the most stunning and extraordinary rock formations known to man. The formations have so much personality that we constantly found ourselves pointing out their animal-like characteristics… monkeys, camels, elephants, and bears, Oh my!

Located in the Shawnee National Forest of Southern Illinois, the Garden of the Gods Wilderness has a variety of hiking and backpacking options. The most popular spot by far is the 1/4 mile Observation Trail that takes you through the rock formations pictured below. We spent 2 hours scrambling around, on top of, under, and through the fascinating rocks and enjoying the spectacular vistas.

Definitely a place to add to your bucket list.