With its breathtaking natural beauty and unlimited opportunities for outdoor recreation, a trip to Giant City State Park near Carbondale is sure to delight visitors of all ages. From camping and horseback riding to fishing and rappelling, its an outdoor lovers paradise. Visitors will marvel at the many wilderness trails. Especially popular is a hike on Giant City Nature Trail, home of the Giant City Streets huge bluffs of sandstone formed 12,000 years ago.
Nestled in the Shawnee National Forest, just minutes south of Carbondale, the Union / Jackson county park 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 fern, 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 1.2 million visitors annually.
Shelter bluffs, or rock shelters, worn into the sides of the cliffs have revealed evidence of human habitation in this region from as early as 10,000 years ago, and the blackened ceilings caused by their fires remain visible today. On an 80-foot sandstone cliff near the main entrance, one can see the remains of a Native American stone wall erected between A.D. 600-800.
The first European settlers moved into the area from Kentucky and Tennessee in the early 1800s, and by 1850, settlers were using the land to cultivate fruit trees. During the Civil War, many of the cliffs and canyons were used as havens by soldiers of both the Union and Confederate armies. By the early 1900s, many biologists, geologists and visitors had become intrigued with the region for study and relaxation.
In 1927, the state of Illinois acquired more than 1,100 acres of land in Union and Jackson counties and dedicated the area as Giant City State Park. In 1936, the Civilian Conservation Corps completed construction of a lodge and 12 overnight cabins on the highest point in the park. Today, the park has grown to encompass 4,000 acres of spectacular countryside plus the 110-acre Fern Rocks Nature Preserve.
An 82-foot, 100,000 gallon water tower was constructed in 1970 to feature a 50-foot observation deck that provides panoramic views of large expanses of the area. In 1999, a 4,725-square-foot Visitor Center was completed. The facility houses exhibits on the natural and cultural history of the park, as well as a gift shop, audio-visual room and a discovery corner for children.
The rustic beauty of the Giant City Lodge creates an atmosphere unparalleled in southern Illinois. Although the lodge has been expanded and remodeled, great care has been taken to preserve the multi-hued sandstone and white oak timbers used in the initial 1930s construction. Many original furnishings and decorations have been restored and are used throughout the lodge.
Three types of cabins are available to accommodate overnight guests. All offer forest views have unique features and have been fully restored. Twelve historic cabins are one-room units; 18 prairie cabins are two-room units; and four bluff cabins, the largest and most scenic, can conveniently house a family of six.
The Bald Knob dining room, with seating for 170, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily and has a reputation for excellent food at a reasonable price. It is especially well-known for its family-style, home-fried chicken.
The lodge also features a gift shop, cocktail lounge and bar, an outdoor swimming pool and a childrens pool.
For lodge reservations, call (618) 457-4921, or write Giant City Lodge, 460 Giant City Lodge Road, Makanda, IL 62958. The Giant City Lodge is closed each year from early December to early February.
The park is filled with excellent picnic facilities and shelters. Tables, water, fire grills and childrens playgrounds can be found throughout the facility.
Camping | Campground MAP
Giant City is a popular weekend retreat because of its varied and well-kept campground facilities. There are 85 campsites in the Class A Campground which provides water, electricity, showers and sanitary facilities for tent and trailer camping. The shower building in the Class A site is closed the day after the first shotgun deer season and re-opens April 1st. A separate Class A equestrian campground is located off the horse trail in the southwest corner of the park. Camping reservations may be made for Class A sites, visit the ReserveAmerica web site for reservations.
A Class C camping area at the south end of the family campground has 14 walk-in sites and is available for those who prefer a more primitive setting. Outdoor privies, fire rings and access to showers are provided. This campground is closed during shotgun deer season.
A Youth Group camping area is available on a first-come, first-serve basis for organized groups with adult supervision. This area is not reservable.
Exploration of the picturesque natural wonders of Giant City State Park can be enjoyed along the Post Oak, Devils Standtable, Giant City, Stonefort, Indian Creek, Trillium and Arrowwood trails. The Post Oak Trail has been designed for disabled visitors. The 12-mile Red Cedar Hiking Trail provides an invigorating challenge to the truly dedicated backpacker. Hiking Trails
Climbing and rappelling are permitted at the park in two locations. The areas of Devil's Standtable cliff and Shelter #1 bluff at the Makanda entrance are accessible to climbers, and ropes are permitted on these cliffs. Climbers should bring their own equipment and go directly to the bluff, no check-in is necessary. No permanent anchors allowed. All climbing activities at the park are conducted at your own risk. Cliffs are steep and sandstone can be slippery when wet. Venomous copperhead snakes, an Illinois protected species, are found on sunny ledges. Please use caution. Southern Illinois sandstone bluff plant comm unties are fragile, so tread lightly in these areas. Always carry out what you carry in!
Giant City Stables
For the equestrian, the park has two options. For those bringing their own horses on the south end of the park is a Class A Equestrian Campground and a 12-mile loop trail that are open from May 1 to October 31 each year. All 25 campsites have electricity, hitching posts, and access to water and showers. The fee is $20 per night per site. Use of the sewage dump station at the main campground is permitted. Follow the signs found throughout the park and site personnel will write a camping permit at the campsite. At the back of the campground is a free trailer parking area for day users. Trail maps and information are available at the Visitors Center from 8 A.M. - 4 P.M. daily.
For horse enthusiasts without horses, the park offers guided rides at Giant City Stables, located in the park. They have an abundance of daily trail rides, in addition to summer camps and lessons. Weather permitting, the stables are open annually from March 15 to October 31 except Tuesdays. Call (618) 529-4110 for more information about the stables.
Fishing and Boating
Ponds are located throughout the park for bank fishing. Little Grassy Lake, on the east side of the park and owned by Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, has a boat launching ramp and provides anglers with opportunities to land largemouth bass, bluegill and crappie. Boats are limited to 10 horsepower motors. The lake also is ideal for canoeing. For further information, contact the U.S. Fish & Wildlife, at (618) 997-3344.
Informational Fishing Flyer | Fishing Map | Topographical Fishing Map
Hunting for some wildlife species is allowed on a controlled basis. Contact the site superintendent for details on season times and area rules. Registration rules are strictly enforced.
Visitor Center | Event Schedule - 2015
A highlight of Giant City State Park is the Visitor Center. The center provides interpretive displays on the geology, plants, animals and history of the park. Enjoy a 10 minute film about the park In the audio-visual room. The visitor center also offers information about other tourist destinations in southern Illinois.
- Shawnee Hills Wine Trail
- Southern Illinois Wine Trail
- Midland Hills Golf Course in Makanda
- Stone Creek Golf Course in Makanda
- Root Beer Saloon (a unique restaurant) in Alto Pass
- Fishing Lakes - Crab Orchard, Devil's Kitchen, Little Grassy and Cedar Lake - owned by Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge, vehicle and boat stickers required by COWR.
- Bald Knob Cross in Alto Pass - 110 foot high cross.
From the north:
Take Interstate 57 South to the Route 13 exit (Carbondale - Exit #54B), head west (right) on Rt. 13 toward Carbondale, go approximately 15 miles. Look for Wal-Mart on your right. Turn left at this light (Giant City Road). Continue 12 miles to the south. Giant City Road will lead you into the park.
From the south:
Follow I-24 to I-57 North, or stay on I-57, to the Rt. 148 exit (Exit #45), head northwest on 148 for approximately 2 miles. Turn left on Grassy Road. There is a convenience store on this corner. Follow Grassy Road for 5-7 miles. Stay left when you come to a Y. Continue southwest on Grassy Road. Grassy Road will come to a T at Giant City Road. Turn south (left) on Giant City Road. Continue approximately 4 miles to the park.
From the east:
Head west on I-70 or, if you are further south, take I-64 to I-57 South. Continue approximately 50 miles south from I-64 to the Route 13 exit (Marion - Exit #54B), head west on Rt. 13 toward Carbondale, go approximately 15 miles. Look for Wal-Mart on your right. Turn left at this light (Giant City Road). Continue 12 miles to the south. Giant City Road will lead you into the park.
From the west:
Head east on I-64 approximately 50 miles from St. Louis. Take the Rt. 127 (Nashville) exit south. Continue south for approximately 50 miles to Murphysboro. At Murphysboro, go left or east for approximately 10 miles. You will pass through the town of Carbondale. Watch for the mall on your right. When you see Wal-Mart on your left, this is your light. Take a right here on Giant City Road heading south for 12 miles into the park.
- While groups of 25 or
more are welcome and encouraged to use the park's facilities, they are required
to register in advance with the site office to avoid crowding or scheduling
- At least one responsible
adult must accompany each group of 15 minors.
- Pets must be kept on
leashes at all times.
- Actions by nature can
result in closed roads and other facilities. Please call ahead to the park
office before you make your trip.
- We hope you enjoy your
stay. Remember, take only memories, leave only footprints.
- For more information
on tourism in Illinois, call the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community
Affairs' Bureau of Tourism at 1-800-2Connect.
- Telecommunication Device
for Deaf and Hearing Impaired Natural Resources Information (217) 782-9175
for TDD only Relay Number 800-526-0844.