Over 300 million years ago, water began to form a carved out section in the earth forming one of the most unique geological rock formations in the Mid-Western states of America – now standing as the Shawnee National Forest “Garden of the Gods”.
We didn’t have a lot of time to explore the entire Shawnee Forest, but there is certainly enough to do around the 290,000-acre forest, and with enough miles of trails, and spots for camping to keep families busy all summer! The best part? It’s rural and remote enough in some parts to remain socially distant in activities. It’s nature at its finest! It looks like a scene taken closer to the Rockies, but the land is wedged between the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers – and the remaining results of millions of years of erosion have left its mark.
You can find the Garden of the Gods near the eastern part of the forest and a few hours east of St. Louis and northeast of Paducah, Kentucky. It’s a hidden gem.
Finding Fun Road-Side Attractions Along Your Way!
BIG JOHN & BIGFOOT
There is plenty to do in Shawnee Forest – but a side note – there is this fun little website called (www.roadsideamerica.com) that lists fun little uniquely odd tourist attractions along your trip! You can check it out and look for things by state and area. Well…two of the uniquely odd tourist attractions happened to be right on our route to Shawnee.
Big John – we found by accident stopping for gas in Eldorado, Illinois. Right before getting to the entrance of the forest we stopped at “Hucks” and I noticed this huge giant statue holding groceries outside this store “Big Johns” and I looked it up on the website and SURE ENOUGH!! Boom! Roadside America Tourist Attraction! The thing about this statue is that apparently, they’re rare! So, if you find one, get a pic!
The next one – BIGFOOT – was found right across the road from a trading post settled next to the entrance/exit to the Garden of the Gods. We stopped to get ice cream and rootbeer floats, and a local asked if I was going to get my picture with Sassy the sasquatch across the road? When you are asked such a normal question, you must abide! So I followed the painted bigfoot prints on the road and took my picture with the sasquatch statue! Another one on roadsideamerica’s list!
These are all fun things that you can do as a family, but the highlight of the stop was certainly…
The Garden of the Gods
This is where we met the short trail to a large rock formation known as “Camel Rock” and hiked part of the trail and climbed rocks. It’s mostly paved stones for a path. HOWEVER, it would be difficult for those in a wheelchair or cane. The paths are uneven with lots of different cracks and exposed roots. It would be easy to trip and fall, so be careful while hiking the trail. Also (even though I saw several strollers on the trail with children, just be aware that it would be work along the rough part of the path.
It’s a climbing exploring kind of adventure!
More to come with a video of this amazing place to be posted later…..stay tuned!