Gar­den of the Gods, Illi­nois

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Glaciers started the work on this ge­o­log­i­cal play­ground dur­ing the last Ice Age, but the sculpt­ing con­tin­ues to­day. Each win­ter, cold tem­per­a­tures dec­o­rate the swirling rock with dag­ger ici­cles, frost crys­tals, and an oc­ca­sional blan­ket of snow. Ad­mire the work on the Ob­ser­va­tion Trail, which wends atop 70-foot cliffs among sand­stone for­ma­tions. After the loop, take trail 152B and re­turn via 001A for a 3-mile round-trip that takes ad­van­tage of the bare trees to net far-reach­ing views over the land­scape. “You’re right where the Ice Age glaciers stopped,” says Rick Reeve, owner of Shawnee Trails Wilder­ness Out­fit­ters. “They scrubbed ev­ery­thing flat to the north, and left the south like it was.”

TRAIL­HEAD 37.604974, -88.384717; 150 miles south­east of St. Louis, MO, on Pic­nic Rd. PER­MIT None CON­TACT fs.usda.gov/shawnee

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