Starved Rock State Park – Illinois

Starved Rock State Park near Utica, Illinois was the state park that started my love for hiking. I honestly had really never been “hiking” before and after I saw the beauty of Starved Rock and Matthissen State Park, my love for hiking and exploring really took off.

It had been several years since I had last been here and I had been wanting to come back. We started our hike from the main parking lot near the lodge and first hiked the Campanula Trail which is primarily a wooden boardwalk to Wildcat Canyon. Wildcat Canyon is pretty cool since you can view it from high above and then hike down to the bottom of the waterfall. Be sure to go down to the bottom!

Once we got to the bottom of Wildcat Canyon, we followed the River Trail along the Illinois River past Basswood Canyon and Lonetree Canyon. We hiked the huge set of stairs up to the Bluff Trail back towards Wildcat Canyon.

From here we made our way back down to the River Trail and up to Eagle Cliff Overlook and Lover’s Leap Overlook. The view is amazing from up here and you get a great look of the dam as well.

Later in the day, we parked along Route 178 at the trailhead for St. Louis Canyon. We opted for the shorter hike, but you can also hike to St. Louis Canyon from the lodge which takes you past Auror, Sac and Kickapoo Canyon.

This canyon has a bit of a haunted past, but it is beautiful nonetheless.

While the trails near the lodge are beautiful, I prefer the lower canyon trails. Along Route 71 are several more parking lots. We first hiked to LaSalle Canyon which is a really neat canyon with an upper waterfall and then a small lower waterfall. Tonti Canyon is right next to Lasalle Canyon, however Tonti was closed while we were there and appears it has been closed for some time.

We continued further east along Route 71 and stopped at the trailhead for Ottawa and Kaskaskia Canyons. This is probably one of my favorite hikes since there are two waterfalls within a short distance and Council Overhang is also on this trail.

We first stopped at Council Overhang which was huge!

We then made our way to Ottawa Canyon which might be my favorite. I love how you can walk behind the falls.

And then we made our way to Kaskaskia Canyon. This canyon feels “moody” to me LOL!

Our final hike at Starved Rock State Park was to Illinois Canyon. This is the first time I have hiked this trail and I loved it! This trail is a bit longer, but it is beautiful. You cross a creek several times so be prepared to get your feet wet a bit! Ellie loved walking in the creek.

If you are looking for a place to stay near Starved Rock, we highly recommend Kishauwau Cabins. They have several dog friendly cabins and we also enjoyed how you were able to disconnect here. We loved walking up to the office to rent a movie for the night and Dexter & Ellie loved running across the big lawn. Bring a large blanket and relax on the lawn!

Starved Rock State Park also has a lodge, visitors center, restaurant and bar & grill. Be sure to check out all this park has to offer!

This park has changed a lot of over the years since the first time I visited. Just remember to take care of our natural resources and pack out what you pack in. Leave it better for the next person ❤

Categories: Starved Rock State ParkTags: , , , , , , , ,


  1. I love Starved Rock and have been going for decades. Kaskaskia Canyon is my favorite! Your pictures were lovely- you were there at the right time, with plenty of water for the waterfalls and no crowds.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Visited that park as a child. I always liked that park. Haven’t visited in years and would probably appreciate it more as an adult than when a kid. Jerry


  3. Never been there but the photos are stunning!

    Liked by 1 person

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