Garden of the Gods, Shawnee National Forest

The inspiration behind our short visit to Paducah, KY was to take a hike in the Garden of the Gods Wilderness, which along with six other wilderness areas, is part of Shawnee National Forest in S Illinois. Together, there are 3,300 acres of rolling hills. The 1964 Wilderness Act ensures that nature will be allowed to take its course without interference from humans. As this area is fairly isolated from any major cities, Paducah made a practical, albeit delightful, pit stop.

Of all the hikes we’ve taken this year (and there are many), this view is probably our favorite.

Here we are in front of Camel Rock. The unique sandstone rock formations and sweeping panoramic views are absolutely incredible!

The kids particularly enjoyed crawling through every nook and cranny. And testing boundaries.

On the opposite side, are bizarre bands. These are swirls and rings on the rocks that were formed when this sandstone (which was underwater at the time) was saturated with groundwater mixed with iron. Over time, chemical changes caused the iron to solidify as rust between the rock particles. As the sandstone weathers, the stronger raised dark bands are more pronounced.

As a storm moved in, it produced the most dramatic sky.

I know we didn’t even scratch the surface of things to see here. I would love to return again with the DH to explore more in depth.

Things to know:

The trails are fairly easy to navigate. There were other families out with kids as young as two. However, the climb up the rocks is rather strenuous. Further, you can very literally walk the edge to stare into the abyss below. Please keep this in mind if you plan to visit with littles.

The restrooms are nothing more that outhouses, with no hand washing facilities. The smell was so rancid, it burned our eyes and nostrils. Just skip this part.

Shawnee Treasures

On our way out of the forest, we visited Shawnee Treasures. It is a family-run gift-shop that repurposes fallen trees from the Garden of the Gods. There were all manner of souvenirs including star gazing chairs, cutting boards, and gift boxes. All of their items are handcrafted and make the most unique gifts.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this recap of our trip. I’m happy to answer any questions.

Paducah, KY / Belle Louise Historic Guest House / Garden of the Gods

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