5 Kid Friendly

Shawnee National Forest

Day Hiking Trails

Giant City Nature Trail

© Hiking with Shawn, LLC

Kid Friendly Shawnee National Forest Day Hiking Trails exist within the forest. The Shawnee National Forest is a great forest for people of all ages and hiking levels. There are many kid friendly Shawnee National Forest day hiking trails to help you make the most of the forest with the whole family.

Kid Friendly

Shawnee National Forest

Day Hiking Trails #1:

Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods is a very Kid Friendly Shawnee National Forest day hiking trail because of its diverse trail system for different age groups and hiking fitness levels. There are two great trails for younger visitors in this area and they include the Observation Trail and Indian Point.

Garden of the Gods Observation Trail

Garden of the Gods Observation Trail makes the Kid Friendly Shawnee National Forest day hiking trails list because of all the many features the area has to offer to visitors. This is said to be the most Instagramed area of the Shawnee National Forest and its rock formations have even made it on a United States National Parks & Forest quarter. Garden of the Gods Observation Trail features a mainly paved, decorated rock and wooden bridge walkway to various rock formations featuring clever names, signage explaining the formations and plenty of natural windows, arches, waterfalls, bluffs, formations and overlooks. This trail is very kid friendly because it will give the youngsters of all ages plenty of sights to enjoy. This area is often mildly to heavily populated by tourists throughout the year, is a day-use only site (parking is day-use only) and has trashcans and restrooms on site. There is a fee-based campground right next to the trail as well as several access trails to the Garden of the Gods Wilderness area and the River to River Trail also crosses this specific area of the forest. Overnight parking is free and allowed within the Backpackers Parking Lot for the Indian Point Trailhead.

The Observation Trail is about a 1/2 mile in length and is a loop trail.

Trail Safety

  • High bluffs and cliffs are in this area. There are no protective fencing around these areas. Serious injuries and fall fatalities have occurred in this area. Please be careful and watch children to ensure their safety.
  • When snow, ice or rain is present – areas on the trail become very slick. Please avoid this area during wintry weather and rain to ensure safety of yourself and others.
  • Emergency medical response to the area could take several hours and cell phone coverage is not always available. Please practice safe outdoor recreation steps to avoid injury.
  • Venomous snakes may be present in this area during warmer days and months. Please avoid snakes if you see them.
  • Poison ivy may be present in this area. Remember, if you see leaves of three – let them be.
  • This trail has narrow passageways and steps and is therefore not suitable for most handicap patrons.

Trail Rules

  1. As a day-use site, there is no overnight parking allowed within the Observation Trail parking lot.
  2. Disposable drink and food containers are not allowed on the trail. This area is often victim of severe garbage dumping – please help us keep our forests clean by packing out what you pack in.
  3. Pets are welcome as long as they are kept on a leash.
  4. This area is open to the public from dawn to dusk. This area is closed after dusk has settled in.
  5. Harassing wildlife, collections, harvesting and harming natural features in this area is against the law.

directions

Driving Directions:

Local Amenities

LODGING: Check out Rim Rock’s Dogwood Cabins, a short 5-10 minute drive away from Garden of the Gods featuring pet-friendly affordable cabin rentals. This resort also has friendly llamas, goats and donkeys which are perfect for the little ones to see. Cabins include adjustable heating and air, full kitchens, satellite TV and high speed WiFi internet. Check out my Video Review of this cabin rental outfitter.

SUPPLIES: Check out Garden of the Gods Outpost, on the corner of Karbers Ridge Road and Garden of the Gods Road. Get outdoor supplies, Shawnee National Forest merchandise, local area books, hot soup and chili, just about any type of ice cream you’d want and much more at affordable prices. There is also a real and working phone booth in front of the store.

 

Kid Friendly

Shawnee National Forest

Day Hiking Trails #2:

Bell Smith Springs

Bell Smith Springs is a very kid friendly Shawnee National Forest day hiking trail because of its diverse options of trails for all types of hiking levels, an area popular for warmer season swimming, interest and unique rock formations, educational signage and former C.C.C. craftsmanship!

Bell Smith Springs Recreational Area

Bell Smith Springs Recreational Area was chosen to be included on the Kid Friendly Shawnee National Forest day hiking trails list because of all its family-fun features. Bell Smith Springs really shows the craftsmanship of the Civilian Conservation Corps, a Depression-era organization that built most parks and National Forest throughout the United States. The stairs and other man-made features were all hand carved and created by these young men during the 1930s and 1940s. Bell Smith Springs offers visitors of all hiking levels 4 different trail systems ranging from out and back trails to loop trails. The area features many rock formations including the largest Natural Arch in the Shawnee, Devil’s Backbone and various other bluffs, creeks and sights. The area is also popular in the warmer months for swimming as it has a spring that visitors like to jump into from a nearby cliff. There is a nearby fee-based campground, trash receptacles and restrooms as well as plenty of parking spots.

There are 8 miles of interconnected hiking trails with various loops and out and back features.

Trail Safety

  • High bluffs and cliffs are in this area. There are no protective fencing around these areas. Serious injuries and fall fatalities have occurred in this area. Please be careful and watch children to ensure their safety.
  • When snow, ice or rain is present – areas on the trail become very slick. Please avoid this area during wintry weather and rain to ensure safety of yourself and others.
  • Emergency medical response to the area could take several hours and cell phone coverage is not always available. Please practice safe outdoor recreation steps to avoid injury.
  • Venomous snakes may be present in this area during warmer days and months. Please avoid snakes if you see them.
  • Poison ivy may be present in this area. Remember, if you see leaves of three – let them be.
  • This trail has narrow passageways and steps and is therefore not suitable for most handicap patrons.

Trail Rules

  1. As a day-use site, there is no overnight parking allowed within the Recreational Area parking lot.
  2. Disposable drink and food containers are not allowed on the trail. This area is often victim of severe garbage dumping – please help us keep our forests clean by packing out what you pack in.
  3. Pets are welcome as long as they are kept on a leash.
  4. This area is open to the public from dawn to dusk. This area is closed after dusk has settled in.
  5. Harassing wildlife, collections, harvesting and harming natural features in this area is against the law.

directions

Driving Directions:

Local Amenities

DINING: Check out Murphy’s Pit BBQ off of Ozark Road minutes away from Bell Smith Springs for a quick bite to eat. Just take a little drive down Ozark blacktop and keep a look out for the little red shack on the right side of the road!

Want your local business listed here? Get a hold of me!

 

Kid Friendly

Shawnee National Forest

Day Hiking Trails #3:

Millstone Bluff

Millstone Bluff makes an excellent appearance to Kid Friendly Shawnee National Forest trail list because of the educational opportunities that are included. Millstone Bluff is a shorter loop trail that shows its visitors a time when Native Americans once rules the State of Illinois as their homeland.

Millstone Bluff Archaeological Area

Millstone Bluff Archaeological Area offers a short-loop trail that can easily be added to the top 5 Kid Friendly Shawnee National Forest day hikes because it is a trail that will not only keep the youngsters interested but it will also teach them a needed history lesson about the people who inhabited the area long before European Settlers claimed the nation as their own. This area is widely known to be a Native American inhabited community. It is said that in 1350-1550 AD, the Mississippian People (Native Americans) thrived on this part of the forest as their homeland. There are visible Native American Rock Art areas, a real stone-fort, graves from the previous natives of this area and depressions throughout the hike showing where dwellings once were. This entire hike is signed with various educational informational signs explain to the visitors what they are seeing. Over the years, the graves have been robbed and the Rock Art is increasingly fading. You are asked to respect this area by staying on trail and not tampering with the archaeological areas provided on this trail – doing so is prohibited by federal law, a law that is strictly enforced. If you’d like to show the entire family one of the closest ways to show how life was once, long before we came here, then Millstone Bluff is the place to go.

This trail is a loop trail of about 3/4-mile in length. The beginning of the trail is uphill but benches are provided throughout the trail loop system.

Trail Safety

  • High bluffs and cliffs are in this area. There are no protective fencing around these areas. Serious injuries and fall fatalities have occurred in this area. Please be careful and watch children to ensure their safety.
  • When snow, ice or rain is present – areas on the trail become very slick. Please avoid this area during wintry weather and rain to ensure safety of yourself and others.
  • Emergency medical response to the area could take several hours and cell phone coverage is not always available. Please practice safe outdoor recreation steps to avoid injury.
  • Venomous snakes may be present in this area during warmer days and months. Please avoid snakes if you see them.
  • Poison ivy may be present in this area. Remember, if you see leaves of three – let them be.
  • This trail has narrow passageways and steps and is therefore not suitable for most handicap patrons.

Trail Rules

  1. As a day-use site, there is no overnight parking allowed within the Observation Trail parking lot.
  2. Disposable drink and food containers are not allowed on the trail. This area is often victim of severe garbage dumping – please help us keep our forests clean by packing out what you pack in.
  3. Pets are welcome as long as they are kept on a leash.
  4. This area is open to the public from dawn to dusk. This area is closed after dusk has settled in.
  5. Harassing wildlife, collections, harvesting and harming natural features in this area is against the law.

directions

Driving Directions:

Local Amenities

CHOCOLATE: Check out The Chocolate Factory which is about 8 miles south of Millstone Bluff. If you like everything chocolate, then this is the place you might consider stopping at. It is right across the road from Dixon Springs State Park as well, a park with many hiking trails, playground equipment, BBQ and picnic areas and even a public swimming pool (seasonal, outdoor).

Your business here, contact us to get listed!

 

Kid Friendly

Shawnee National Forest

Day Hiking Trails #4:

Rim Rock & Pounds Hollow

For a longer but safer hike for the family and a Kid Friendly Shawnee National Forest hike, you might consider a trip to Rim Rock and Pounds Hollow for a full day of fun family activities. Rim rock offers some great hiking but be sure to bring a bathing suit for the Pounds Hollow Beach!

Rim Rock and Pounds Hollow Beach

Rim Rock and Pounds Hollow are two area right besides one and other that make for an excellent collaboration when it comes to Kid Friendly Shawnee National Forest day hiking adventures. To make the hike a little long, start at Rim Rock, an area helped created by the Youth Conservation Corp where you can see an actual stone-fort, awesome bluffs and even a cave shelter once inhabited by Native American and settlers there after. There are numerous educational informational signs explaining more about the history of the area and the trailhead (on both sides) have plenty of parking availability, rest rooms, BBQ and picnic areas. There is no trash services at Rim Rock, so please, pack out what you pack in. After enjoying a nice hike on the Rim Rock trail, instead of heading back on the loop past the Cave Shelter, head on over to Pounds Hollow to enjoy the awesome public beach with shelters and restrooms available. There is also a campground here. Both the beach and campground areas are seasonal and closed/gated during the winter months. This place is truly a winner when it comes to Kid Friendly Shawnee National Forest activities.

Parking is available at both the Rim Rock area as well as Pounds Hollow Beach.

Trail Safety

  • High bluffs and cliffs are in this area. There are no protective fencing around these areas. Serious injuries and fall fatalities have occurred in this area. Please be careful and watch children to ensure their safety.
  • When snow, ice or rain is present – areas on the trail become very slick. Please avoid this area during wintry weather and rain to ensure safety of yourself and others.
  • Emergency medical response to the area could take several hours and cell phone coverage is not always available. Please practice safe outdoor recreation steps to avoid injury.
  • Venomous snakes may be present in this area during warmer days and months. Please avoid snakes if you see them.
  • Poison ivy may be present in this area. Remember, if you see leaves of three – let them be.
  • This trail has narrow passageways and steps and is therefore not suitable for most handicap patrons.

Trail Rules

  1. As a day-use site, there is no overnight parking allowed within the Observation Trail parking lot.
  2. Disposable drink and food containers are not allowed on the trail. This area is often victim of severe garbage dumping – please help us keep our forests clean by packing out what you pack in.
  3. Pets are welcome as long as they are kept on a leash.
  4. This area is open to the public from dawn to dusk. This area is closed after dusk has settled in.
  5. Harassing wildlife, collections, harvesting and harming natural features in this area is against the law.

directions

Driving Directions:

Local Amenities

LODGING: Check out Rim Rock’s Dogwood Cabins, a short 5-10 minute drive away from Garden of the Gods featuring pet-friendly affordable cabin rentals. This resort also has friendly llamas, goats and donkeys which are perfect for the little ones to see. Cabins include adjustable heating and air, full kitchens, satellite TV and high speed WiFi internet. Check out my Video Review of this cabin rental outfitter.

SUPPLIES: Check out Garden of the Gods Outpost, on the corner of Karbers Ridge Road and Garden of the Gods Road. Get outdoor supplies, Shawnee National Forest merchandise, local area books, hot soup and chili, just about any type of ice cream you’d want and much more at affordable prices. There is also a real and working phone booth in front of the store.

 

Kid Friendly

Shawnee National Forest

Day Hiking Trails #5:

Giant City State Park

While not a US Forest Service area, Giant City State Park, surrounded by Shawnee Forest County proudly earns a spot on the Kid Friendly Shawnee National Forest day hiking trails lists because of all its kid friendly trails, annual activities and fun for the entire family to make a day out of.

Giant City State Park

Giant City State Park is one of the locations in southern Illinois that truly shows its pride in the craftsmanship behind the works of the Civilian Conservation Corps, the brave young men who we owe to society of making most of America’s National Forest and Parks that we know today. Giant City State Park has it all, from numerous hiking trails to a lodge that serves some of the best Fried Chicken in the area, cabin rentals and even a water tower that you can easily climb to the top of. This park has tons of waterfalls during the wet season. It has a 12 mile loop trail for overnight backpacking. It has a campground. It is a great place to go for a road bike ride and it even offers many horseback riding activities. The park coordinator is very active in programming all sorts of fun activities throughout the entire year that are very kid friendly. Be sure to stop by the welcome center for more information and please tell them that Hiking with Shawn sent you because it would mean a lot to me as I grew up visiting the state park – it holds a very special place in my heart.

There are numerous hiking trails at this state park including a reconstructed stone-fort, interesting rock formations and various activities for the whole family to enjoy.

Trail Safety

  • High bluffs and cliffs are in this area. There are no protective fencing around these areas. Serious injuries and fall fatalities have occurred in this area. Please be careful and watch children to ensure their safety.
  • When snow, ice or rain is present – areas on the trail become very slick. Please avoid this area during wintry weather and rain to ensure safety of yourself and others.
  • Emergency medical response to the area could take several hours and cell phone coverage is not always available. Please practice safe outdoor recreation steps to avoid injury.
  • Venomous snakes may be present in this area during warmer days and months. Please avoid snakes if you see them.
  • Poison ivy may be present in this area. Remember, if you see leaves of three – let them be.
  • This trail has narrow passageways and steps and is therefore not suitable for most handicap patrons.

Trail Rules

  1. As a day-use site, there is no overnight parking allowed within the Observation Trail parking lot.
  2. Disposable drink and food containers are not allowed on the trail. This area is often victim of severe garbage dumping – please help us keep our forests clean by packing out what you pack in.
  3. Pets are welcome as long as they are kept on a leash.
  4. This area is open to the public from dawn to dusk. This area is closed after dusk has settled in.
  5. Harassing wildlife, collections, harvesting and harming natural features in this area is against the law.

directions

Driving Directions:

Local Amenities

DINING: Check out the Giant City Lodge in Giant City State Park located by the Water Tower and cabins for some of the best Fried Chicken this side of the country has to offer. This lodge was created by the C.C.C. and offers visitors a very historic look on the craftsmanship of that Corps during that time. After a long hike, enjoy the home cooking that Giant City State Park Lodge has to offer. This lodge is open seasonally.

SUPPLIES: Check out Grassy General Store located about 11 1/2 miles from Giant City State Park. The Grassy General Store offers everything you’d need to stock up on from adult favorites to food, outdoor supplies and even fishing gears. There are many things that you might need during your visit to Giant City State Park and Grassy General Store will probably have it.

 

Thanks For Reading!

Shawn Gossman

Founder & Host

Hiking with Shawn

I’d like to thank you for taking the time to read my article about 5 Kid Friendly Shawnee National Forest day hiking trails. I wanted to focus more of my effort on appeasing to all forest visitors including families with young kids. The Shawnee National Forest is an awesome forest and our local state parks make it even better. Just please, for the sake you and your youngsters, ALWAYS practice SAFETY FIRST when visiting this area. Leave with great memories, not bad injuries – and stay #ShawneeProud! 

Want to hear more about good trail for children as well as great trails for adults, too? Check out this article which I am also featured in!

Please support my efforts of writing this article by sharing it with your friends, especially on your favorite social media platforms. It will really motivate me to keep writing more articles like this one. You can also support me by subscribing to my YouTube Channel where I upload 2-3 videos a week about hiking in the Shawnee National Forest and our local state parks. If you’re on social media, you can like my page on Facebook, follow my page on Twitter and follow my page on Instagram as well. If you want to support more even further, please consider becoming a paid support on my Patreon Page or purchasing some official Hiking with Shawn Merch from my Online Merch Shop. Lastly, be sure to comment on this article telling me and the readers more places that are kid friendly in the Shawnee National Forest and beyond!

Shawn J. Gossman

Shawn J. Gossman

Host

Shawn is the founder and host of the YouTube Channel, Hiking with Shawn as well as Hiking with Shawn LLC. Shawn hikes, backpacks and visits various forested areas in the Shawnee National Forest, local state parks and other areas promoting outdoor recreational activities to obtain video to show to locals and non-locals alike. Please support Shawn’s efforts by sharing this post and leaving a comment below.

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