A Little Time and a Keyboard: Hiking Among Nature's Giants at Giant City State Park in Southern Illinois

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Hiking Among Nature's Giants at Giant City State Park in Southern Illinois

 

Walking Among the Giants Through Natural Rocky Streets in Giant City State Park

Before the lofty 12,000-year-old sandstone formations emerged before us, we heard the utter glee and delight of children exploring a nature crafted wonderland at Giant City State Park in Shawnee National First. As we wound around the Giant City Nature Trail, a short time would find us awestruck at chunky and distinctly carved rock formations all around.

Chunky, sculpted rock formations emerge right before you on the trail at Giant City State Park.
Chunky, sculpted rock formations emerge right before you on the trail.

Admiring Nature's Honeycomb Patterns in Rock

As we wound through the garden of sandstone formations, we marveled at how their uniqueness. They are also being constantly molded and adorned by natural elements - so no two visits would be the same. Honeycomb patterns etched by weathering amazed me throughout. I think my husband was worried that I would walk into something as I gazed up to catch some intricate designs! I have since learned that these structures are called tafoni. I certainly would love to see more on future hikes!

A honeycomb in the rocks of Giant City State Park fascinates.
A honeycomb in the rocks of Giant City State Park fascinates.

We visited in early spring and the ferns and wildflowers had just started to pop. However, the green mosses highlighted the rocky structures in interesting ways. The angles of light bending through cavernous sections also added a novel element.

Faulting and folding piece together an otherworldly landscape featuring rocks at different angle and positions at Giant City State Park
Faulting and folding piece together an otherworldly landscape featuring rocks at different angle and positions.

Rocks at interesting angles, some forming almost sharp edges provided a contrast to flatter rock walls. Geological folding and faulting piece together an otherworldly landscape in spots. Layering came in all sorts of forms displaying interesting puzzles upon the rock formations. The decaying forest floor in some ways formed a comfortable blanket around. 

How Is This Possible?


Balancing acts throughout the preserve brought forth exclamations of "How is this possible?"

Rock escarpments on either side create an alley to a cave at Giant City State Park.
Rock escarpments on either side create an alley to a cave.

At one point, we hiked through a stone alley into a bit of cave only to come out the other side below a balancing rock! We were walking through the city streets of this Giant City! We visited Giant City on an unseasonably warm day for spring. I can tell you that the stone alley was pretty cool in temperature in addition to being pretty neat structure.

Balanced Rock forms an interesting exit from the Giant City streets.
Balanced Rock forms an interesting exit from the Giant City streets.

Seriously neat balancing act by nature! Can you believe we came out of the stone alley trail right under this teetering boulder weighing tons! Pretty fun!

Slow drips through rocks of banded colors added zen to our visit.
Slow drips through rocks of banded colors added zen to our visit.

Throughout our adventure, we paused in areas where water dripped through the rocks further etching them and encouraging moss growth. Pausing at the drip rocks provided moments of nature tranquility and zen. 

Devil's Standtable

After completing the Giant City Nature Trail, we headed to Devil's Standtable. the trail at Devil's Standtable is quite short but affords an incredible view of what some call the "mushroom rock" which is a free standing pillar within the sandstone bluff landscape. To others, this "mushroom rock" appears as the pulpit the devil would use.

Devil's Standtable rises among the bluffs at Giant City State Park.
Devil's Standtable rises among the bluffs.

Also at this site is a bit of a rock overhang over a creek which is another fun spot to explore. Devil's Standtable is one of two spots for rock climbing within the preserve.

Giant City has a variety of additional trails, so we just scratched the surface inside this 4,000 acre preserve. Shawnee National Forest includes so many spectacular nature experiences including those that can be discovered at Giant City State Park! A visit is definitely worth a wander among giants!

Other Activities Available at Giant City State Park:

  • Camping
  • Horseback Riding
  • Archery Range
  • Rock Climbing
  • Fishing and Boating
  • Giant City Lodge
  • Visitor Center
Hiking Among Nature's Giants at Giant City State Park in Southern Illinois


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