A view of the Little Grand Canyon

A vantage point along the 3.6 mile trail.

A Grand Canyon...in Illinois?

The Little Grand Canyon is a "box canyon" located within Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois. The two-hour drive from St. Louis along the Mississippi River will take road trippers through several small, but quaint, river towns before reaching your destination just west of Carbondale.

Sunlight backlights a fallen tree trunk
A winding path
The hiking trail is teeming with a lush variety of wildflowers

The hiking trail is teeming with a lush variety of wildflowers.

The 3.6 mile loop offers hikers a wide range of topography and natural obstacles to navigate as you traverse beautifully carved sandstone canyons and ridges. Sturdy shoes are a must for this experience, and when hiking near periods of recent rainfall, hiking poles are also recommended to mitigate slick surfaces. Plan carefully for this hike and dress for a moderate to difficult experience teeming with scenic rewards for your efforts.

A pool of bluish-green water
A steep climb
A towering cliff of carved limestone

Box canyons are steep-walled depressions formed from erosion over vast periods of time. Visitors will encounter many climbs up and down slick, rocky surfaces throughout the trail.

A snake along the trail
Box canyon cliff
Scratch Brewing Company in Ava, Illinois

Scratch Brewing Company in Ava, Illinois

Scratch Brewing Company

After the challenging, yet rewarding hike through Shawnee National Forest, we visited nearby Scratch Brewing Company in Ava, Illinois. Known for their foraged concept, Scratch incorporates local and seasonal ingredients into their food and especially, their brews. With a rotating menu of wood-fired oven pizza and beers crafted from the foraged bounties of the land, visitors can expect a unique experience with each visit. Did I mention they have goats?