Become One with Nature at Starved Rock State Park
Starved Rock State Park located in LaSalle County in Illinois is a wonderful place to explore and become one with nature.
Starved Rock State Park has over 13 miles of trails that wind through lush woods and sandstone bluffs. Throughout the park, you will see spectacular views of the Illinois River and around each corner, you will find yourself immersed in one of the parks 18 canyons.
While at Starved Rock State Park there are several things to do.
Fishing, kayaking, picnicking, camping, and hiking are the most popular.
If you enjoy boating, there are rentals available from May to October. There are specific places in which you can boat due to the Starved Rock Lock and Dam. Boating near any dam can be extremely dangerous, so be sure to follow all rules and safety guidelines.
There is an abundance of different fish to catch in the Illinois River. There are catfish, bullhead, white bass, sauger, walleye, carp, and crappie. Bring your pole, some bait, and find your lucky fishing hole.
You can picnic pretty much anywhere in the park as long as you make sure to pick up and carry out your trash. The park has limited pavilions that are located by the Visitor Center but are available on a first-come-first-serve basis and fill up quickly and early. Our preference is to find a great place on a trail to pull off and enjoy your surroundings and enjoy a snack or lunch.
If you are a camper, the park does have 133 campsites that you can reserve, click here if you are looking to make a reservation.
Starved Rock State Park is best known for the hiking! Most of the hikes are moderate to easy so it makes for an enjoyable time.
Here are our favorite trails at the park:
Starved Rock: .6 miles RT from Visitor’s Center
When in Rome, right… you have to take the trail in which the park was named after! This is a short hike from the visitor’s center. The tough part of this trail is the stairs, but once you reach the top it is well worth it. Here is where we spotted our first bald eagle of the day, so keep your eyes peeled.
Sandstone Point: 2.6 miles RT from Visitor’s Center
This trail offers some cool views of the Sandstone cliffs. You become amazed by the geology of the surroundings as you look up in awe at every turn.
Wildcat Canyon: 2.0 Miles RT from Visitor’s Center
This canyon is by far my favorite in the park. It is the deepest canyon and when in season, has the tallest waterfall in the park. You can get different views of the canyon from above which is really neat, yet a bit scary since it is quite a drop.
Eagle Cliff Overlook: 1.6 miles RT from Visitor’s Center
Eagle Cliff Overlook as it is a great place to sit, rest, and take in the natural beauty of the Illinois River. It is hard to say whether Eagle Cliff or Starved Rock is a better place to spot the bald eagles. I am more inclined to say Eagle Cliff as the views are less obstructed, plus the benches make it easy to sit back and relax.
Ottawa and Kaskaskia Canyon: Approximately 1.5 miles RT from the parking lot on Route 71
These are two separate trials but can and should be done together. This was our introduction to the park, and it did not disappoint! This was probably the most rugged trails the park has to offer. Both canyons are impressive and a sight to see.
Hint: There is parking at the trailheads, so if you do not want to hike the 4 miles one-way from the visitors center you don’t have to.
Tips While in the Park:
- Before you go be sure to check out the park’s website to see if any trails are closed. This will help you map out your route.
- Parking can be hard, so get to the park early to make sure you have a spot.
- There are Guided Tours of the Park. If you would like to learn more about the history, geology, and plant life make sure to register with the Park early to secure your spot.
- If you are looking for Waterfalls, Starved Rock has them, but keep in mind that they are seasonal. The best time to see them is between March and May when the snow is melting or there is heavy rain. You can catch a waterfall at one of these 7 canyons: French, Wildcat, LaSalle, Ottawa, Kaskaskia, Aurora, and St. Louis.
- Bald Eagles start to migrate to the area in December and stay until March. You can be lucky enough to spot them all year long, but the best opportunity is in the winter months. They come to feed on the fish near the dam as it never freezes.
If you are still looking for things to do while in the area, here are some suggestions:
Matthiessen State Park
If you just haven’t hiked and enjoyed the outdoors enough you should check out Matthiessen. It also offers some spectacular trails and beautiful rock formations.
Shop Downtown Utica
There is an array of different types of stores from antiques to clothing to gift shops so there is something for everyone.
Check out the LaSalle County Historical Museum and learn about the history of LaSalle County.
PLACES TO EAT
Nonies Bakery is a great place to enjoy a home-cooked breakfast or lunch. Be sure not to miss their cinnamon rolls or one to the delicious pastries.
Joy and Ed’s Supper Club: Located in the Historic Downtown Utica serving America food for Lunch and Dinner. The food is good, the waitstaff is friendly, and the prices are reasonable.
Twisty Freeze is by far my favorite place for a sweet treat. It is a bit off the beaten path but the 10-minute drive is worth it. They serve homemade ice cream and yogurt from old-fashioned to out of the box deliciousness. If the picture above doesn’t make your mouth water then I can’t convenience you anymore!
Roxies Sweet Confections: Homemade delicious fudge, brownies, and the milkshakes are to die for. They have an array of other sweets too. Roxie’s is definitely a great place to stop and indulge.
Starved Rock Lodge is located within the park. It is naturally the most convenient. Being smack dab in the middle of the park comes with its benefits. They do have a large indoor pool to enjoy after a long day of exploring the park.
Grand Bear Resort is only a ½ mile from the park. If you have kids in tow, this would be my suggestion. I would say it is a 3-star resort, but it does have a lot of extra amenities for the family. It has an indoor waterpark, miniature golf, and a cool overlook bar.
There is so much to see and do in and around Starved Rock State Park. You can easily fill a day of your time hiking and exploring and enjoying nature. I recommend at least a weekend, it is a lot easier to explore at a leisurely pace instead of rushing and time checking.
If you enjoyed this article, you can also see Cernys’ Journeys post on the Indiana Dunes National Park.
Stay tuned as we are writing articles on Clifty Falls State Park in Indiana, as well as Brown County Indiana!
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