Giant City State Park is one of the best state parks in all of Illinois. While there are many trails to explore at this popular park, the Giant City Nature Trail is a great choice for all ages. The trail is named for that fact that the towering rock walls look like a street made for giants. This one mile loop packs in the scenery as you walk the rugged streets of the giants.
Giant City Nature Trail
Distance: 1 mile loop with a short out and back at the start.
Difficulty: 3/4. A couple minor uphill spots and rugged sections.
Scenic Value: 5/5. This is a great trail with some stunning rock formations.
The trailhead is located just down the road from the Lodge. The main parking area is at Shelter #3, but you can also start the hike from Shelter #2. Both shelter areas have vault toilets and a path that leads to the main trail loop. There is a Interpretive brochure you can download or print before your hike.
Starting from Shelter #3, the trail crosses a wooden bridge and creek. The trail then begins to climb uphill on a wide gravel path. This is the steepest part of the hike.
Soon the path levels out at the start of the loop. The trail is signed to turn right and hike counter-clockwise.
Right away, the path passes by some interesting rock formations that my kids always want to climb.
Soon the trail reaches my favorite stretch, starting with a wooden boardwalk.
At the end of the boardwalk, you get your first glimpse of the streets of the giants. Early pioneers had not seen skyscrapers, so these towering rock bluffs appeared to be part of a city for giants.
Follow the trail to your right and then turn left to squeeze between the bluffs and then below a balanced rock.
The trail turns left to follow along the base of the bluffs and passes through another rock passageway. Look along the rock walls to see the names carved in the rock by explorers long ago. (Remember to leave no trace and don’t add to the rock graffiti!)
The path curves to the left again at a trail junction. Right connects to the River-to-River trail. Keep left to stay on the Nature Trail loop.
The path from here breaks away from the bluffs and heads in to the trees. You may see deer here. The trail climbs a short hill to a bench before descending back downhill again.
After descending the hill, the trail leads past a small shelter cave.
Another small cave can be found at the end of the loop behind the bench and rocks. Bring a flashlight to take a peek inside.
Complete the hike by taking the spur trail back down the hill and across the bridge to the parking area.
When you have finished the hike, don’t miss a stop at the park Visitor Center, Lodge, or explore a castle themed playground at nearby Boo Memorial Park.