One of my hiking goals was to do all the trails in Babler. Babler State Park is very near where I live, and I go there often. However, I was tending to do the same trail over and over (looking at you, Hawthorn!). So I added completing every trail at Babler to my goals.
Babler Park is very close to St. Louis and is in the middle of suburbia, but it feels like a world away. I love hiking where I can’t hear the cars. You would think in Babler that would be difficult to find, but it is possible! I appreciate this oasis of natural beauty so close to where my life happens. I like to hit it up after school on a weekday or on a busy weekend when I don’t have time to go far away. But it’s also a great destination park, with an awesome campground and plenty of pavilions and green spaces for an event. There’s a lot of CCC structures in the park, which is beautiful and historic. They put on some cool programs as well. I take my kids to Babler Rocks! every year, and we are always picnicking in this giant field at the bottom of the hill where the Dogwood/Woodbine trail head is.
The Dogwood trail is my favorite in the park. Dogwood and Woodbine share a trail head and are often hiked together. These trails are notoriously muddy, so keep that in mind if you’re bringing the kids. Dogwood has lots of ups and downs. There’s an offshoot trail spur to see Babler Springs (beautiful!). We hiked this on Christmas day and had a beautiful time.
Virginia Day is another trail I love with my kids. Hawthorn is also super kid-friendly and offers pretty views, especially with the bare trees in the winter time.
Babler offers a lot for families, kids, and individuals. And it’s super convenient, which is one of the reasons it’s one of my faves!
Trails and Our Ratings:
Virginia Day Nature Trail
1.5 miles with an access spur connects to the paved bicycle trail
lots of ups and downs, but nothing extreme- gets your heart rate up
spur off right at the loop beginning to see a couple old CCC structures- my kids love this
A few weeks ago, my very sweet boyfriend whisked me away for a romantic weekend.
Where to? you may ask.
This may be confusing to you, but for me, it was a dream come true! I am always wanting to get down to the Shawnee National Forest in very southern Illinois, but it’s 2.5-3 hours away to many of the sites, and so it’s not always feasible. However, my very thoughtful boyfriend planned this little weekend for us, and I was so grateful.
We stayed at Giant City State Park, and it was just wonderful. We stayed in cabins there. They were not at all rustic. They were very nice.
We arrived in the evening, and immediately went to the Lodge to eat dinner. We ended up eating at the Lodge at Giant City several times over our stay, and it was honestly so good. The best food of our stay. The breakfast was some of the best breakfast I’ve had at a restaurant ever. They are well-known for their fried chicken, which I had the second night. The first night, everything was gussied up for Valentine’s Day.
The next morning, I got up before the sun and got out to chase the sunrise. I got into the woods on what I think ended up being an equestrian trail. It was a gorgeous, tranquil morning. I walked up to the observation tower as well which is located near the Lodge and cabins. It’s got a 50 foot high observation deck. Here’s a video of someone (not me) climbing it.
We breakfasted at the Lodge, as I already mentioned. Then we headed out to the Trillium Trail in the Fern Rock Nature Preserve. This is an area inside of Giant City. Trillium Trail is about a mile and a half. It was absolutely gorgeous. The trail is a loop, and it runs under a bluff and then you climb on top and walk the edge of the bluff. The day we went, it was sunny and the icicles were there but beginning to melt. It was gorgeous.
Even just the first few steps into the trail were otherworldly. All the moss and the high, tall bluffs are so unique. I would grade this trail as moderately difficult. Not easy, not hard. And it is rugged in places.
I did every trail in the park while we were there, except the 12 mile Cedar Trail. The trails are real short, with the Trillium Trail being the longest followed by the Giant City Nature Trail- more on that later. A few highlights of the shorter trails were the Stonefort Trail, a half mile trail that climbs a bluff next to a waterfall and gives you access to and views of an ancient stone fort. There are signs with information and history. The Devils Standtable was very special. We hit this at dusk and got to see the beautiful, unique mushroom-type of geologic rock formation as well as a giant cavern in the bluff. This would be a perfect area for kids to explore. Indian Creek Trail was super pretty too, very easy and winding through woods by a creek and some bluffs that Native Americans used as shelter. Very interesting geology and history.
The best trail of them all though was the Giant City Nature Trail. Often when I hear “nature trail,” I think of a small, paved, for kids trail. Nothing wrong with that! It’s just not always what I’m seeking. This was NOT that though. This is kid-friendly, and it’s only a bit over a mile, mile and a half. It was a workout in a couple spots, but not difficult at all. It was absolutely spectacular. The geology and the scenery left me breathless. We had a gorgeous day for it, too.
Giant City gets its name for these massive sandstone structures that have settled into “streets” and towering buildings. It’s truly marvelous. I have never seen anything like it. Every corner we turned, I would gasp with wonder. I was in awe. So was Kareem. He even told me he never thought he’d be a rocks and trees guy, but he is now. 🙂 I’m including lots of us in these photos just to give you some scale as to how massive it all was.
We also included a trip to Makanda, the nearest town. I had heard that Makanda was the “hippiest” town in Illinois, and I was not disappointed. It’s super small. Like, really small. There’s a little boardwalk with some shops. They sell handmade soaps and do tarot readings and stuff. It was super fun. I bought a handmade hat and we picked up some soaps and just generally enjoyed the vibe and the people watching.
We also visited the town of Anna briefly and ate pizza. I find this extreme portion of Southern Illinois super charming. Maybe because it reminds me of extreme Southeast Missouri or Western Kentucky, but I just adore it. It’s unlike the rest of the state, and I mean that in the best way. The hospitality and friendliness are two of my favorite things about the area, just like the Missouri Ozarks and the rest of this part of the country. The people are real special, and the history is so intriguing.
Giant City State Park is just south of Carbondale. We drove to Giant City through Carbondale and we came home through our old stomping ground of Cape Girardeau. We visited some friends and ate some food at an old place downtown we both loved in college. It was a fun trip down memory lane as a cherry on top of a spectacular weekend.
I highly recommend a trip to Giant City and the Lodge there. We cannot wait to bring our kids! There’s a campground as well as the cabins and stables with horses, a pool, playgrounds, and most of the trails are not long- perfect for our kids. Not to mention the fact that it was unique and absolutely stunning. Hopefully we’ll be adding a blog entry about Giant City with kids this summer! Grand shoutout and big ups to my ever so thoughtful and romantic boyfriend for planning this little getaway. Well done!
We had a gorgeous Sunday, so of course, we had to spend it outside. We had a leisurely big family brunch- one of my favorite things to do on the weekend- followed by a hike at Babler and then a visit with my parents, who live near Wildwood.
Wildwood Community Park is located near 109 and 100. It’s kind of hidden off the road just west of 100. It’s on the right if you are coming westbound on 100. It’s fairly new, and it’s really nice. It has a gorgeous Pavillon and nice bathrooms. It’s all accessible too, even the tallest tower and slide. It always warms my heart to see my dad playing with my kids, but it was very special to see my dad be able to access all the places the kids wanted to go.
The playground has a ton of activities for all kids big and small. We had four kids from a newly turned three year old up to a ten year old, and nobody ran short of things to do. The playground is nature themed and it’s surrounded by woods, which I love. A creek runs by it as well, and this is easily accessible- no climbing, sliding, or scrambling necessary to get down there.
The playground has a tall structure with climbing apparatus and two tube slides. There is a ramp to get to the top, so this is accessible for all as well. There is a typical climbing structure with steps also and metal slides on both ends. It has tipi shaped structures connected by a metal bridge. There’s a roller slide, an obstacle course type climbing structure with monkey bars, a few swings, a unique round swing, a merry go round with climbing structure, a web-like rope climbing structure, two climbing walls connected with rope net, some log-type climbing structures, a ball that spins and sways- so much! It’s aesthetically beautiful and very fun and functional.
It is pretty large and so I was glad to have a man-on-man D for our trip. :). There were lots of families there and it was pretty crowded because it was such a nice day. But as dinner time approached and the sun started to get low, it emptied out and eventually, it was just us.
I’ve been here a couple times and we will definitely be back!