Hiking with Shawn’s Trail Guide Series:
Garden of the Gods Wilderness (Hitching Post)
When most people think about Garden of the Gods, they think about the Observation Trail or Indian Point. No one ever really thinks about the other hiking opportunities around the area, such as the vast wilderness area around it. There are several different ways to get into the Garden of the Gods Wilderness Area. In this trail guide, we cover the Hitching Post/Eagle Creek trailhead access point which is located at Herod, Illinois. The trail will take you from the trailhead all the way to the main recreational area if you wanted to get to it, via-the River to River Trail. This section is often called Christmas Star Overlook by some hikers and equestrians.
In this section of the wilderness, there may not be many signature rock formations like those in the nearby recreational area but there is still a lot to see. I highly recommend exploring this part of the Garden of the Gods Wilderness area for a more rugged experience.
Check out this map to see the general area where the trailhead is. The trailhead is listed on Google Maps. Turn northeast from Highway 34 in Herod by the Post Office onto Gape Hollow Road and the trailhead is about a mile or so on your left. This trailhead is often used by equestrians so please be respectful of how you park so that trucks with horse trailers can get into the area. Be careful not to park near where jeeps and ATVs are accessing the forest – to avoid any negative encounters. Accessing the forest by motor vehicle is illegal. The trail from Hitching Post going west toward Dennison Hollow is extremely damaged and trashed by off-road vehicle trail users. It is quite sad to see that people are that disrespectful and filthy. If you see illegal off road activities, you are encouraged to call and report it to the US Forest Service Law Enforcement.
Once you park, cross the road and take the trail into the Wilderness Area. Stay on the trail when it forks by staying straight and not turning right. Turning right will take you back to Gape Hollow Road. This trail is rugged with muddy conditions when wet, rolling hills and rocks/roots in portions of the trail. This out and back trail can consist of how many miles you choose to go. It will be 4-6 to the scenic overlooks depending on how many of them you wish to see. If you go off trail, it will become way more rugged and a lot harder just for your information.
WHAT YOU’LL SEE!
There is a lot of bluffage to see and some of the best scenic overlooks in the whole wilderness area especially where Christmas Star Overlook is. This overlook has its name from a giant Christmas Star decoration attached to a cedar tree right by the main overlook area. From this overlook, you can see Indian Point where the bluffs are at as well as the entire wilderness area, homes, farms and more. It is probably one of my top 3 scenic overlook areas. Because this area is remote and rugged, it is very rare to see a lot of people present though popularity was reported to increase during warmer months due to people getting away from cities because of COVID-19.
TIPS FOR THE TRAIL!
- Poison ivy, venomous copperhead and venomous timber rattlesnakes occur in this area.
- Dangerous heights exist in this area and nearby falls have resulted in death.
- This area is rugged and remote, getting off trail will increase your chances of getting lost.
- Never hike alone, stay on the trail at all times and always watch your step.
- This trail is often used by horse and mule riders. Please yield to pack animals and talk calmly to the rider so that the animals know that you are human and mean no harm.
- Pack plenty to drink and snack on for this trail as it rugged with gut busting hills as you will need it for fuel.
- This would be a very difficult and tiring trail for young children.
Watch the videos for this trail!
Below is a recent video that we filmed while enjoying this area.
One last thing!
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Shawn J. Gossman
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.