Giant City


Ferne Clyffe:

Which State Park is Better?

Giant City versus Ferne Clyffe – which State Park do you think is better than the other?

First, I didn’t make this article to point out what’s wrong with either park. That’s not what I do, and that’s not what this article focuses on. So if you’re looking for negative reviews, pros, cons, or stuff like that – this isn’t your article.

You should visit Giant City, and Ferne Clyffe are epic Illinois State Parks.

The reasoning for this Giant City versus Ferne Clyffe article is mainly to help you plan your itinerary of what sort of stuff you want to do. In addition, it’s meant to help you make the best choice for what park to visit for your needs.

It’s also meant to be fun and point out what makes each state park such an excellent place in southern Illinois and the Shawnee National Forest.

Giant City versus Ferne Clyffe: Giant City State Park

Giant City State Park is a 4,000-acre state park located in Jackson and Union Counties in Southern Illinois. The state park would be considered a part of the Village of Makanda, but the closest incorporated city would be the City of Carbondale. The park was established in the 1920s. In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) build drainage systems, shelters, trails, roads, and the lodge that is still used today.


Giant City State Park Recreational Opportunities

Giant City State Park has multiple recreational opportunities. These opportunities include:

  • Over 25 miles of hiking, backpacking, and horseback riding trails (including interpretive trails and an ADA-certified trail)
  • Paved roads throughout the park are great for running, walking, and road biking (hilly)
  • Multiple picnic shelters available for events with adequate parking, restrooms, playgrounds, and potable water
  • Two designated rock climbing areas
  • Historical landmarks from Native American Culture, earlier pioneers, Civil War, and the CCC heritage
  • An active Visitor Center with park merchandise sales (sales help Friends of Giant City State Park)
  • Numerous events scheduled all year round
  • Campgrounds (Primitive, Tent, and Electric) with a shower house
  • Rentable cabins
  • A lookout platform attached to a water tower (you can even see Bald Knob Cross)
  • Fishing ponds
  • An equestrian stable and campground
  • A seasonal lodge that serves what is said to be the best-fried chicken in Southern Illinois
  • Scenic creeks, bluffs, and forests that can be viewed on foot or by car

For the features that the park does not have, visitors can easily find them nearby, including:

  • Cedar Lake in Pomona
  • Crab Orchard, Little Grassy, and Devil’s Kitchen lakes in the Crab Orchard Refuge
  • Mountain bike trails at the nearby Touch of Nature Environmental Center
  • Zip-lining through the Shawnee Forest Country
  • Numerous trails and a designated wilderness in the Shawnee National Forest

When it comes to Giant City versus Ferne Clyffe, it’s a hard choice if you’re into the type of recreation this state park and surrounding area offer.


Giant City State Park Tourism Opportunities

There are many tourism opportunities around Giant City State Park aside from the recreational and program opportunities listed above.

Some of these tourism opportunities include:

  • Visiting the Village of Makanda for locally made gifts and snacks and a chance to see the Hippiest town in Southern Illinois (and they’re proud of it!)
  • The City of Carbondale has numerous lodging options. There are also many kinds of shops, clubs, and dining with foods from around the world.
  • Carbondale is also home to Southern Illinois University, which offers a great school with a lot of nearby outdoor recreational opportunities for students and their families
  • The Shawnee Hills Wine Trail is nearby to Giant City State Park, allowing tourists to try many locally-made wines and craft beers
  • Visit nearby Murphysboro to the feast of the best BBQ in the State of Illinois, as they were named the state capital for BBQ
  • Enjoy the many communities around Giant City that have vineyards, orchards, and small-town fun

Whether you want outdoor recreation or tourism opportunities (or both), Giant City State Park is likely the winner of the Giant City versus Ferne Clyffe debate.

Giant City versus Ferne Clyffe

Giant City versus Ferne Clyffe: Ferne Clyffe State Park

Ferne Clyffe State Park is a 2,400-acre state park located in Goreville, Johnson County, in Southern Illinois. The park was established in the 1940s after the state acquired it by a local educator named Emma Rebman. Ms. Rebman was noted to have preserved most of the park to its natural habitat and invited guests to hike it long before it became public land. The park also controls a few remote tracts of land around the nearby region, including Bork Falls and Cedar Bluff.


Ferne Clyffe State Park Recreational Opportunities

Ferne Clyffe State Park has numerous outdoor recreation opportunities within the park’s main and remote properties. These outdoor recreation opportunities include:

  • There are over 30 miles of hiking, backpacking, and equestrian trails
  • There is a campground for backpackers, tents, electric, and equestrian
  • There is a lake for fishing
  • There are two designated rock climbing areas within the main and remote sections of the park
  • Picnic areas with shelters, parking, restrooms, playgrounds, and grills

Where Ferne Clyffe State Park lacks many features that Giant City has, such as a Visitor Center and Lodge, the park still has unique things that Giant City doesn’t necessarily have an abundance of, including:

Around the area of Ferne Clyffe State Park, there are other outdoor recreation opportunities, including:

  • Tunnel Hill State Trail for cycling and running
  • Numerous lakes, trails, and wilderness areas in the Shawnee National Forest

If you’re debating the Giant City versus Ferne Clyffe topic, while it seems like Ferne Clyffe has less than Giant City, when it comes to special features like large waterfalls and scenic overlooks, this state park would be the winner.


Ferne Clyffe State Park Tourism Opportunities

There are plenty of nearby tourism opportunities close to Ferne Clyffe State Park. Some of these opportunities include:

  • Visit Goreville for dining and unique shopping opportunities
  • Visit nearby Vienna for even more dining, shopping, and lodging features
  • Marion is also very close to Ferne Clyffe and offers a substantial amount of economic benefits for tourists

Ferne Clyffe is definitely worth a visit. You could spend a weekend at both state parks. However, you need a full day to experience what both parks offer fully.


Giant City versus Ferne Clyffe Final Thoughts

My final thoughts are simple regarding the Giant City versus Ferne Clyffe debate.

They’re both fantastic state parks that help make Southern Illinois an excellent place to live and visit.

If you’re visiting, dedicate 1 or 2 days to each of these state parks. You’ll get a whole experience of the two. You will want to see it again and again after you experience each of these state parks.

As for which state is better? It’s like choosing a favorite kid – I can’t do it.


I hope you enjoyed my Giant City versus Ferne Clyffe article. The purpose of this article was to give you the great information above to help you plan your visit to these wonderful Illinois State Parks. If you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with others who might also find it helpful. For more tips on visiting Southern Illinois State Parks and the Shawnee National Forest, subscribe to my free monthly newsletter today.

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Thanks again for checking out another one of my articles and until next time, I’ll see you on the trail!

Shawn Gossman

Shawn Gossman

Founder, Hiking with Shawn

Howdy folks! My name is Shawn Gossman and I founded Hiking with Shawn. I’m an avid hiker, cyclist and outdoorsman here in the Shawnee National Forest. I was born and raised in Southern Illinois and never want to leave. Click here to learn more about Shawn Gossman

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