Illinois: Explore Giant City State Park

Hiker at Giant City State Park, Illinois; Photograph by Jason Lindsey, Alamy
Hiker at Giant City State Park, Illinois; Photograph by Jason Lindsey, Alamy

Climb and hike in one of Illinois’ most pristine places.

What Is It? Combining climbing and hiking is the preeminent way to explore this hilly, 4,055-acre oasis hidden amidst the largely flat Corn Belt. Rock climbers can score great sandstone, top-roped routes ranging from 5.6 to 5.13 at Shelter 1 Bluff and the Devil’s Standtable Area. Boulders of varying difficulty also abound, providing an option for those preferring to leave ropes at home. The park’s Red Cedar Trail, a 12-mile path that leads past more remote rock formations, provides a rare wilderness escape for Midwestern backpackers.

Why Do It? Dappled with oak and hickory forests and peppered with sandstone bluffs up to a hundred feet high, Giant City offers a playground for rock climbers and hikers alike. It’s rarely crowded, making it an ideal secluded escape from the city.

Make It Happen: Check out Giant City State Park’s website for information on camping and permits for hiking the Red Cedar Trail. If you’re heading to the crag, pick up Eric Ulner’s Vertical Heartland: A Rock Climber’s Guide to Southern Illinois.

What’s your favorite summer weekend adventure in Illinois?

See all the summer weekend adventures.

More: See America’s 100 Best Adventures and Long Weekends Like a Local

50 Best Summer Weekend Adventures: Great adventures are all around us—and summer is the ideal time to seek them. To give you some ideas and inspiration, every weekday we will be sharing a different U.S. summer weekend adventure, state-by-state from A to Z. We invite you to share your favorite summer weekend adventures in the comments section below when your favorite state is featured. Report back after the weekend to tell us about the outdoor adventures you had.




  1. Brian Niedbalski
    Jackson, MO
    July 24, 2014, 10:07 am

    My kids favorite place to explore!

  2. […] Southern Illinois is very interesting from a natural history point of view, both geologically and biologically. The southern part of the state narrows to a point where the Mississippi and Ohio rivers join. A bit north of their confluence you find a set of hills crossing the state from west to east, called the Shawnee Hills or “Illinois Ozarks“. Illinois is otherwise exceedingly flat (in Wisconsin, Illinoians are know as “flatlanders”, and considering how flat Wisconsin is, that’s saying something), so the Hills are a distinctive landscape feature. Composed of Carboniferous sandstones and limestones from the mid-Paleozoic epicontinental sea that covered what is now the middle of the U.S., differential erosion has created many interesting land forms, including Camel Rock and Giant City. […]