Hiking with Shawn’s Trail Guide Series:
Giant City State Park
This guide concentrates on the entire hiking trail inventory of Giant City State Park. Giant City State Park is located south of Carbondale and resides in both Jackson and Union counties in the town of Makanda, Illinois. It is likely one of the most popular state parks in the southern region of Illinois. The park is known for its popular hiking trails, public events and of course the famous fried chicken at the Giant City Lodge. Giant City State Park holds a special place in my heart because I grew up going there many times as a kid be it on family reunions, bbq events or just general playing with the family. Giant City State Park is also one of my favorite places to road bike in because of all the hills and beautiful, scenic back-roads throughout the park.
There is truly something for everyone at Giant City State Park no matter if you are into overnight backpacking to day hiking, road biking or horseback riding, scenic driving or camping, hunting, fishing, eating and more. Visit Giant City State Park all year long and enjoy some of the best of what southern Illinois nature has to offer.
Check out this map to see the general area where the trails are. From Marion, Illinois Interstate 57 area, this link will give you Google Maps directions to the Visitor Center at Giant City State Park. The Visitor Center is the best place to start as the attendant there will be able to give you maps and information to the various hiking trails and other attractions within the park. Please wear a face covering when entering the Visitor Center to protect the workers inside of it and maintain a safe social distance from others. Please recreate responsibly and think of the safety of others when using our state parks. If you plan to camp along the Red Cedar Trail, you will need to check in and purchase a permit from the Visitor Center as well.
The small town of Makanda is roughly two miles from the Visitor Center located on this map. Be sure to check this town out to enjoy the shops offered along the boardwalk or Makanda Mall as some like to call it. We especially recommend the Rock Shop for a lot of cool different rocks, incense and interesting things.
About 10 miles north of the state park is the city of Carbondale where Southern Illinois University resides. Carbondale has many different retail stores and restaurants for you to choose from. Some of our personal favorites are Shawnee Trails Wilderness Outfitters for all of your hiking needs and Carbondale Cycle for all of your cycling needs. There are a lot of good places to eat in the same area of those two stores which is what we call, the strip. Please shop at the local stores as it really helps the region remain unique.
WHAT YOU’LL SEE!
There is a lot to see and do at Giant City State Parks including the many day hiking trails such as
- Trillium Trail – A 2 mile, moderately trafficked loop trail that is considered rugged. Enjoy a bottom side hike of wildflowers in different seasons, huge bluffs, scenic creeks and all sorts of birds. The upper part of the trail includes awesome views of the countryside below. This is a Nature Preserve trail so it is asked that you remain on the designated trail at all times.
- Nature Trail – A 1 mile, highly trafficked loop trail that is considered moderately. This trail features huge bluffs often called ‘Streets of Giant City’. There is also interesting balancing rocks and natural cave shelters as well.
- Devil’s Stand Table Trail – A ⅓ mile out and back trail that is considered moderately difficult. This trail is one of the official areas for bouldering and rock climbing. The mushroom rock or balancing rock is the main feature here which is called the Devil’s Stand Table. There are also waterfalls, natural shelters and other interesting rock formations present along the trail.
- Stonefort Trail – A ⅓ mile loop trail that is considered moderately rugged. The main feature of this trail is the ancient stone wall reconstructed by the CCC originally constructed by Native Americans. There is also a very nice scenic overlook and a waterfall when the area is wet.
- Indian Creek Trail – A ¾ mile loop trail that is considered moderately rugged. The main features of this trail are scenic creeks, waterfalls, natural shelters and areas once inhabited by Native Americans. A Sign explaining the history of this area is present. This area is closed to hikers during firearms hunting season.
- Post Oak Trail – An easy ⅓ of a mile hike (easy) that now has partial ADA compatibility for handicap users. More ADA accessible trail maintenance is planned for this trail in the future. This trail also features “Forest Bathing” interpretive signage as well. Features include scenic overlooks and nature settings.
- Arrow Wood Interpretive Trail – This small loop trail (easy) is situated next to the Visitor Center. This hike features signs identifying what plants and trees are planted along the trail. It is a very good trail for younger users who are interested in learning more about the native forests.
- Red Cedar Trail – The Red Cedar Trail is a 12 mile loop trail that would be considered moderately rugged. This trail features a primitive campground in the middle of the loop which requires a permit for those wishing to camp. This trail is closed to hikers during firearm hunting season. There is a lot to see on this trail. This is a popular overnight backpacking trail and features a more wilderness-like experience within the state park.
- River to River Trail – A Portion of the River to River Trail goes through Giant City State Park. The River to River Trails stretches from the Ohio to Mississippi rivers and is nearly 160 miles long. Most of the trail is moderately to very rugged.
- Horse Trail – A 12-mile horse trail does exist in the park and is widely used by horseback riders. Hikers are permitted to use the trail as well. Hikers MUST yield to horseback riders at all times. This trail is closed to users during firearm hunting season.
Aside from the hiking trails, Giant City State Park also features many other points of interest including:
- Giant City Lodge – An iconic structure built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the initial creation of the park which now serves as a seasonal restaurant and is famous for its country-styled fried chicken dinners. Cabins are also available for reservation as well.
- Giant City Campground – A Class-A campground featuring over 80 sites for tent and electrical camping. A popular place for campers and RVs. There is a secluded area for the tent camping which also happens to be the trailhead and parking area for Red Cedar Trail. This is a fee-based camping area.
- Other Activities – Other activities within the park including hunting, fishing, metal detecting, rock climbing, picnic shelters and more.
TIPS FOR THE TRAIL!
- Please watch for state-issued closures and notices concerning public health and abide by such notices and closures to help promote the safety of others. Wear a mask in all facilities or when social distancing outside cannot be maintained.
- Copperhead snakes (venomous) occur in this area. It is unlawful to harm or kill a snake at Giant City State Park.
- Many areas are closed during the colder season as well as during firearm hunting season.
- Please stay on designated trails only to help preserve the precious areas of the park.
- Make sure you always put safety first as there are dangerous areas within this park.
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.