With heavenly rock formations, canyons, bluffs, and ridges carved over eons by wind and water, it's no secret why Garden of the Gods is the state's most visited landmark. Once home to indigenous peoples, today the area attracts many rock climbers, photographers, and bird-watchers hoping to spy one of the resident raptors. To the north, west, and south the Wilderness bounds the Garden of the Gods Recreation Area. The two areas are connected by interconnecting trails. The Illinois River-to-River Trail, part of the American Discovery Trail, passes through this Wilderness. Views from the summits of massive sandstone formations overlook a thick forest, an especially pleasing sight in fall when the leaves weave a bright tapestry of color. The hiking below the bluffs is easy and quiet through the hardwood trees dotted with moss-covered, sculpted sandstone. Of the many canyons of the Wilderness, Rock Branch Hollow, which runs from the northern boundary south to the middle of the area, probably rates as the most beautiful. Overnight parking is available in the recreation area. Permits are not required for trail use or camping. Non-system trails exist, therefore map and compass use is recommended.
Leave No Trace
How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Garden of the Gods Wilderness.
Digital and paper maps are critical tools for wilderness visitors. Online maps can help you plan and prepare for your visit ahead of time. You can also carry digital maps with you on your GPS unit or other handheld GPS device. Having a paper map with you in the backcountry, as well as solid orienteering skills, however, ensures that you can still route-find in the event that your electronic device fails.
Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited in all wilderness areas.
This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.