Visitors Guide to the
Giant City State Park
235 Giant City Road
Makanda, Illinois

Accessible Parking Accessible Picnic Facilities Accessible Interpretive Exhibits Accessible Illinois Historic Site Accessible Hiking Trails Accessible Scenic View Accessible Wildlife Viewing Accessible Information Center
Horseback Riding Trails Fishing Opportunities Boat Ramp Canoeing Accessible Camping Facilities Accessible Cabins Accessible Food Services Accessible Gift Shop Accessible Restrooms


Giant City State Park gets its name from unique Makanda sandstone features that have been cut by water for centuries to create narrow “streets” between stone “buildings” giving rise to the sense that the area is a city populated by giants. Other features at the park include hiking, picnicking, hunting and fishing, rock climbing and rappelling, horseback riding, camping, and lodging and dining.

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 are still visible today. On a sandstone cliff near the main entrance, one can see the remains of a Native American stone wall that was erected between 600 to 800 B.C.E. The first European settlers moved into the area from Kentucky and Tennessee in the early 1800s and began using the land to cultivate fruit trees. 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. Today, the park has grown to encompass over 4,000 acres of spectacular countryside and the 110-acre Fern Rocks Nature Preserve. An 82-foot water tower was constructed in 1970 that also features a 50-foot observation deck that provides panoramic views of large expanses of Shawnee National Forest region.

In 1936, the Civilian Conservation Corps completed construction of a lodge and 12 overnight cabins on the highest point in the park. The rustic beauty of the Giant City Lodge creates an atmosphere that is unparalleled in southern Illinois. Although the lodge has been expanded and remodeled, great care has been taken to preserve the multi-hued sandstone and the white oak timber used in the initial construction in the 1930s. Many original furnishings and decorations have been restored and are still in use throughout the lodge. Although the lodge serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, it is best known for its fried chicken served family style. A highlight of Giant City State Park is the 4,725-square-foot Visitor Center completed in 1999. The Center contains an exhibit hall with displays of the natural, cultural, geological features of the park, and a discovery corner for children. An audio-visual room with a running 10 minute film about the park guides visitors through the interesting features. The Visitor Center also provides information about other local tourist attractions in Southern Illinois.

Hiking is one of the most popular activities in the park. It is along the trails that visitors can discover the “streets,” “buildings,” and other picturesque natural wonders of Giant City State Park. There are eight trails throughout the park that vary in length and degree of difficulty. The Post Oak Nature Trail is a 1/3 mile wheelchair and stroller accessible paved trail with beautiful bluff top overlooks and the Arrowwood Tree Identification Trail is a 1/3 mile easy tree identification trail through a young forest. The park is also served by the River to River Trail. Climbing and rappelling are permitted at the park in two locations. Climbers should bring their own equipment and all climbing activities at the park are conducted at your own risk. Visit the park’s official website for complete information. Giant City State Park has a Class A Equestrian Campground and a 12-mile loop trail as well as a stable where visitors without their own horses can take guided rides. The campground and stables are open during only during warmer months.

Ponds are located throughout the park for bank fishing. Little Grassy Lake on the east side of the park is owned by the Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge and 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 Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge, U.S. Fish & Wildlife, at (618) 997-3344. Hunting for some wildlife species is allowed at Giant City on a controlled basis. Contact the site superintendent for details on season times and area rules. Proper registration rules are strictly enforced.

Giant City State Park is filled with excellent picnic facilities and shelters. Tables, water, fire grills and children’s playgrounds can be found throughout the park. Giant City has 85 campsites in its Class A Campground which provides water, electricity, showers and sanitary facilities for tent and trailer camping. A Class C camping area with 14 walk-in sites at the south end of the family campground is available for those who prefer a more primitive setting. A Youth Group camping area is available on a first come, first served basis for organized groups with adult supervision.

Giant City State Park’s location in the Shawnee National Forest, its unique massive sandstone structures, varied outdoor activities has made it a renowned retreat that attracts more than 1.5 million visitors annually.

  Visiting Giant City State Park
          Dawn - Dusk

There is no charge to visit the Giant City State Park.
Directions: Visit the website listed below for directions from various locations.
  GPS Coordinates
37° 36.091'
W 89° 11.324'
  Learn more about the Jackson County area.  
  Giant City State Park
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