Hiking & Adventure

Ferne Clyffe State Park

Ferne Clyffe State Park has been known as an outstanding natural scenic spot for a century. An abundance of ferns, unique geological features and unusual plant communities create an atmosphere that enhances the many recreational facilities offered at the park. Trails wind through picturesque woods, allowing visitors to view fascinating rock formations and inspiring vistas. Ferne Clyffe also offers camping, picnicking, hiking, hunting and fishing.

Located on Illinois Route 37, just one mile south of Goreville and 12 miles south of Marion, the 2,430-acre Johnson County park is easily accessible from both I-57 and I-24.

Garden of the Gods

One of the most photographed locations in the state, Garden of the Gods’ scenic beauty is extraordinary. In the recreation area you can hike, camp, nature watch or picnic.

The Observation Trail features unique sandstone rock formations and panoramic views of the surrounding Garden of the God Wilderness. Interpretive signs explain the geological history. The 1/4-mile trail is made of natural sandstone and takes about an hour to walk. It contains short, steep grades and steps; benches are located along the trail and as a whole the trail is not tiring. Caution should be used due to the high cliffs in the area.

Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour Zipline

Zip through 83 acres of Southern Illinois’ Shawnee National Forest.

A canopy tour is an exciting way to experience the flora, fauna, geology and history of the outdoors by safely traversing an established route of ziplines and
aerial bridges between platforms built in the trees. A canopy tour’s purposeful utilization of the natural terrain coupled with an intentional low environmental
impact delivers an adrenaline-filled adventure and educational experience!

The Mission:
SBCT will provide an eco-friendly, easily accessible, exciting and educational new way to expose people of all ages and experience levels to the beauty of the Southern Illinois outdoors.

Description of the Course:
What an awesome combination- some of the most gorgeous terrain in the U.S. teamed up with Geronimo Construction, a premier builder of world class zip lines and canopy tours. Geronimo Construction has carved an adrenaline filled ecological experience out of 83 acres of private land, surrounded by the Shawnee National Forest.  Unlike most, Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour is a 100% tree based “true” canopy tour.  No man-made towers or cement will be found on this course. SBCT consists of 8 zip lines, three aerial bridges and two short ground hikes. You will cross a valley over a bouldered creek four times, the last on an 1100 foot zip approaching 40 miles per hour.  The course ends when you walk over a 180 foot aerial bridge back to the forest floor to head home and plan your next trip to this awe-inspiring piece of nature.

635 Robinson Hill Road
Makanda, IL 62958

Phone: 855-386-9477
Website: www.shawneezip.com

Tour Pricing:
$90/Person for a 3 Hour Canopy Tour
Tips for Tour Guide is Customary

Experiences - Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour Zipline - Adventure - Makanda, IL
Experiences - Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour Zipline - Adventure - Makanda, IL

Giant City Stables Horseback Riding

Giant City Stables is located just inside Giant City State Park, nestled in the Shawnee National Forest, just minutes south of Carbondale. The area was named for the unique impressions made by its massive sandstone structures. The natural splendor of Giant City has made it a renowned retreat that attracts more than 1.2 million visitors annually. Visitors to the park enjoy many amenities, including camping, hiking, and playgrounds.

The State Park is 4000 acres of spectacular countryside with a 12 mile horse trail around the park. The River to River Trail is part of the 12 mile loop.

The Stable maintains approximately 30 horses of different types and breeds for your enjoyment. We have horses of all different levels and will match you with a horse that meets your needs. Our trail rides are guided by experienced wranglers, who lead you through 3 plus miles of private trails in the heart of Giant City State Park. We also have two riding arenas for lessons, camps and therapeutic riding.

722 Giant City Road
Makanda, Illinois 62958

Phone: 618-529-4110
Website: www.giantcitystables.com

It is recommend you visit their trail ride information page available here prior to scheduling your horseback riding tour. They offer information and the required liability waiver on their site to download before you get there.

Tour Pricing:
$50/Person for a 1 Hour Guided Tour

Tour Times:
Weekdays: 10:30am, 12:30pm, 2:00pm
Weekends: 9:00am, 10:30am, 12:30pm, 2:00pm

Additional tour times may be available for reservation, so if you do not see a time that works for you, give them a call and they may be able to do a special tour time!

Giant City State Park & Lodge

Camping, picnicking, hunting & fishing, rock climbing & rappelling, horseback riding, and lodging & dining are all offered at Giant City State Park. Visitors will marvel at the many hiking trails. A sure adventure awaits anyone hiking the Giant City Nature Trail, home of the “Giant City Streets”, formed 12,000 years ago by huge bluffs of sandstone.

Found in the Shawnee National Forest, the area was named for the unique impressions made by its massive sandstone structures. Eons of geological faulting and folding have molded a landscape like none other, which is now clothed in lush garments of ferns, moss, large flowering mints, hundreds of species of wild flowers, and 75-plus varieties of towering trees. The natural splendor of Giant City has made it a renowned retreat that attracts more than 1.5 million visitors annually.

Giant City State Park Visitors Center

Giant City State Park Visitor’s Center contains an exhibit hall with displays of the natural, cultural, and geological features of the park. A 10 minute film about the park can be viewed in the audio/visual room. There is a Discovery Corner for children to explore. Also, brochure racks contain information about other parks in the area, as well as a variety of local tourist attractions. The Visitor’s Center is open daily from 8 AM until 3:30 PM.

Giant City Lodge

Found in the heart of Giant City Park is Giant City Lodge. Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, it is in perfect keeping with the spirit of the park. Multi-hued sandstone and white oak timber were two of the native building materials used.

Once inside the spacious Lodge, one can see its rustic beauty creates an atmosphere found nowhere else in Southern Illinois.

Experiences - Giant City State Park & Lodge - exhibit hall. museum - Makanda, IL
Experiences - Giant City State Park & Lodge common area - Makanda, IL

Mermet Springs

“One of the must dives in the Midwest”
Mermet Springs is located on US 45 between Vienna and Metropolis, IL. As you enter the site, you’ll be amazed at the picturesque wooded backdrop and sheer cliff rising across from the cool-blue water. From the main diving dock, you’ll see schools of large bluegill, giant albino channel catfish and, further down, spoonbills! These prehistoric throw-backs have huge mouths and are known to grow larger than five-foot in length. Seeing these “paddle fish” up close will raise your pulse a bit, but don’t worry…they are filter feeders and eat microscopic critters that feed on the algae. All these fish are very friendly, almost tame. Fishing is strictly prohibited at Mermet Springs. But feeding the fish is welcome, just watch your fingers with those big cats.

Over the years, Mermet Springs has continued to update the site with training pavilions and numerous underwater attractions. All revenue generated by Mermet Springs is immediately reinvested into the facility. By doing this, Glen has created a scuba diving facility that offers divers an extraordinary opportunity not found anywhere in the Midwest. With crystal-clear water, 100-foot deep underwater cliffs, sunken wrecks and schools of colored, pre-historic looking fish, Mermet Springs is not just another lake in Southern Illinois…it is a “First-Class Diving” site.

"Boo" Castle Park

After the death of a young role-playing enthusiast, the Jeremy Rochman Memorial Park devoted itself to creating a fantasy landscape complete with wizards, orcs, warriors, castles, and even a massive sleeping dragon.

A vocal fan of the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons, Jeremy “Boo” Rochman was tragically killed in a car accident at the young age of 19. To honor his memory, his father bought a parcel of land across the street from their home in order to build a memorial park. His late son’s passion was for the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons, so his father decided to turn the park into a fantasy land that his son would have been proud of.

Enlisting artists and students from the community, the elder Rochman created a park full of the kind of fantasy wonders that his son might have dreamt of in his games. The crown jewel (pun intended) of the park is the wood and steel castle in the center, which features fearsome orcs, hidden wizards, and brave knights adorning every nook and crevice of the fortress. In the surrounding park there are statues of dueling wizards, and the faces of nymphs peek out from tree trunks. The other major feature is the huge sleeping dragon that can be clambered over or imaginarily vanquished.

Many other smaller and more innocuous features can be found hiding in Boo’s park, but possibly the finest aspect is the celebration of imagination.

Tunnel Hill State Trail

At one time, the rumble of freight cars reverberated through the narrow tunnel. Wooden trestles, with their system of slanted supports and horizontal cross pieces, spanned numerous bluffs and creeks. Passengers in Pullman cars clocked the miles with these and other landmarks as they traveled one of southern Illinois’ most scenic routes.

Tunnel Hill State Trail stretches for 45 miles from Harrisburg to Karnak. The trail continues on a trails spur for 2.5 miles from Karnak to Cache River State Natural Area – Henry Barkhausen Wetlands Center on the old Chicago and Eastern Illinois railroad bed.

The 9.3-mile section between Tunnel Hill and Vienna crosses trails already known to outdoor recreationists: the River-to-River Trails, which extends from the Mississippi to the Ohio River; the unmarked American Discovery Trails, which in southern Illinois follows back roads and some of the River-to-River Trail; the U.S. 76 Bicycle Route, a part of the TransAmerica Bike Route; and the Trail of Tears, the primary route the Cherokee Indian tribe took in the winter of 1838-39 during their forced move from the Great Smokies to Oklahoma.