Trail Spotlight: Garden of the Gods and Little Grand Canyon

It’s no secret that Egyptian Hills Resort, nestled in the heart of Shawnee National Forest, is surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery the world has to offer. Did you know that there are dozens of trails around the Resort that you can hike, and each one offers differing spectacular views? We’re going to spotlight two of the incredible trails you can visit when you stay at the Resort: Garden of the Gods and Little Grand Canyon.

Garden of the Gods

Millions of years ago, Illinois was part of the ocean floor. The sandstone left behind has since been chiseled away by the elements to create some of the most amazing natural sculptures in the world. A quarter-mile long observation trail takes you up high to view these tall rock columns, called hoodoos, from a fantastic vantage point. 

Camel Rock in Garden of the Gods by Atala Toy, via

For more seasoned or adventurous hikers, a series of interconnecting trails down below the observation trail take you up close and personal to these unique rock formations. Many of them, like Anvil Rock and Mushroom Rock, have the illusion of huge boulders balancing precariously on top of smaller rocks. Others, like Camel Rock, bear strong resemblance to animals. (Camel Rock’s shape became so famous that its image was used on the back of Illinois’s state quarter issued by the U.S. Mint.) And don’t miss one particularly famous hoodoo, nicknamed Devil’s Smokestack.

Rocks are far from the only thing you’ll see in Garden of the Gods, however. Majestic waterfalls, refreshing creeks, and millions of beautiful wildflowers dot the landscape. In the fall, the trees turn all varieties of breathtaking colors, making the observation trail even more exciting. Garden of the Gods is truly well named, as its beauty seems almost otherworldly.


Little Grand Canyon

Picture the Grand Canyon in Arizona—then make it a little smaller and add a whole lot of green. That’s what you’ll get when you visit Illinois’s Little Grand Canyon. (Who said Illinois was all flat?) This hidden gem of a trail has 300-foot-tall bluffs covered in lush wildlife, and a 365-foot

Little Grand Canyon by J. Richard Abbott.

climb from the bottom of the canyon up to a high, panoramic view of the Missouri floodplain. Little Grand Canyon is a box canyon, meaning there are 3 sides of bluffs and easy access to the mouth of the canyon on the fourth side.

The trail through the Little Grand Canyon was carved by the Big Muddy River, so you’ll naturally see some beautiful waterfalls along the way. The rich greenery all around provides a cool, pleasing atmosphere as you hike the somewhat difficult 3-mile trail. Besides all the natural history, Little Grand Canyon contains some American history, too. The steps chiseled into the stone at one part of the trail were carved by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. These steps run along a natural staircase adjacent to the river, so when the river floods, they’re a great aid in helping you hike the trail. This trail is definitely not for beginners, but it’s well worth the effort to hike the loop through this beautiful natural canyon.

Plan Your Hike

The best part about returning from a hike is resting and sharing pictures and memories you took from the hike with your loved ones. At Egyptian Hills Resort, we’ll provide a home away from home for you to prepare before your hike and to relax in when you get back. If you want to see Garden of the Gods, Little Grand Canyon, or any other trails the beautiful Shawnee National Forest has to offer, be sure to book your stay with us for an experience you’ll always remember.