The United States Congress designated the Garden of the Gods Wilderness (map
) in 1990 and it now has a total of 3,955 acres
All of this wilderness is located in Illinois
and is managed by the Forest Service.
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.