Stunning waterfalls, rushing rivers, and cliffs overlooking rivers. None of this seems like Illinois, yet Starved Rock State Park, only a few hours from Chicago, has them all, as well as incredible natural beauty. Continue to read these Starved Rock hiking tips and you will figure out how to get the most out of your hiking adventure.
Visiting the Starved Rock for a hike
When we don’t have time to go out of state, a trip to Starved Rock State Park is one of our favorite family experiences. It’s not a lengthy journey but wandering along the paths that take you through towering woods to beautiful waterfalls or the banks of the Illinois River seems like a world away. This fast video of our trek along the St. Lawrence, Kickapoo, Sac, and Aurora Canyons shows how magnificent Starved Rock State Park is.
Normally, the waterfalls are only active in the spring, but this year’s significant rain has kept them looking great far into the summer. We’re not hardcore hikers, so we enjoy that the paths at Starved Rock are well-marked and strenuous enough that we feel like we’ve had a good workout without being overwhelmed. Keep in mind that there are several stairwells to negotiate.
Here is some useful hiking advice for Starved Rock State Park in Illinois.
1. Put on a decent pair of shoes.
I may have laughed a bit too hard at the man who yelled at his companions to “come on. Bro, you’re wearing sandals. “My toes!” However, there were a startling number of individuals battling in flip flops or sandals. Closed-toed, well-fitting shoes are essential for enjoying your time on the trails.
2. Get some water.
There are 13 miles of trails and an unexpected number of stairs, making the 13 miles seem much longer. You’ll get thirsty and grateful for anything to keep you hydrated. Bring a reusable water bottle to help the environment you’re enjoying.
3. Take precautions against the sun and insects.
Although there is a dense canopy of trees that gives some shade, you might still get sunburned. Bring your sunscreen, as well as some bug repellent. Although it may not be the first thing that springs to mind when thinking about going outdoors in the Midwest in the summer, consider wearing light, long-sleeved clothes. Not only will it shield you from the heat, but it will also keep you safe from poison ivy and mosquitoes hunting for a free meal.
4. Consider packing an extra set of clothing.
At Starved Rock, visitors enjoy playing in the waterfalls and pools underneath them. It’s entertaining. If you decide to participate, you’ll need dry clothes and socks after you’re done. Hiking with damp trousers is not a pleasant experience.
5. Plan out the routes you’d want to walk.
Starved Rock is enormous, and there’s a lot to see and do in a single day, particularly if you’re traveling with children. ( That is to say, it isn’t something you want to accomplish all at once. Break it up into smaller, more manageable chunks for a more pleasurable walk. Guided hikes are also available at Starved Rock; the schedule may be seen here.
When you head out, have a strategy in mind – choose a few paths that appeal to you. Before you travel, go over this map to see where you should park depending on which trails are calling your name on any particular day. The most picturesque waterfalls at Starved Rock may be found in the St. Louis, French, Wildcat, Tonty, Ottawa, and Kaskaskia canyons.
6. Make it an overnight project.
If you wish to extend your journey, there is a lodge, as well as cottages and campsites.
7. Don’t forget about Matthiessen State Park, which is just a few miles away.
When water rendered Starved Rock impassible in June, we headed to Matthiessen State Park, which was just a few miles beyond Starved Rock but very different. Unlike Starved Rock, there is no resort or shop, and the trails are shorter, with just 5 kilometers. It’s a beautiful location to hike.
8. Slow down and take a few deep breaths.
Take your time. There is so much beauty to explore and appreciate and rushing ahead may cause you to miss something intriguing or even stunning. It’s quite OK to choose a smaller path and take your time. It’s quite OK to take a few deep breaths and allow your senses take in your surroundings.
9. Be careful about the path
I recall paying a visit to a high school acquaintance in the hospital after she had a serious tumble over a cliff in an Ohio park with steep bluffs comparable to those at Starved Rock. Her stepmother told me that it took ours a long time to pick all the debris out of her beautiful, golden hair, and she wasn’t sure whether the daughter would be alright. It was terrifying.
Every year, news stories surface of children suffering serious injuries after venturing off the Starved Rock route. I realize this isn’t new information, but it makes me believe it’s worth reiterating. Stick to the guidelines. Keep to the paths. If you use your common sense, you’ll have a safe and enjoyable day taking in Mother Nature’s beautiful display.
10. Arrive early to avoid disappointment.
It’s no secret that Starved Rock is a popular tourist site, and it often draws enormous crowds, especially on beautiful days. If at all possible, arrive early. It’s also cooler in the morning, making it a win-win situation for beating both the heat and the throng. Because crowds and weather might create parking challenges, check the park’s Facebook page for updates before leaving and while traveling.
11. Get rid of the stroller.
When it comes to stairs, the sheer number of them makes maneuvering a stroller quite difficult. Instead, consider using a carrier.
There are two junior ranger programs, one for children aged 5-7 and one for children aged 8 and older. The Visitor Center opens at 9 a.m., and you may pick up a package there. There are additional chances for scout badges. The Visitor Center is now closed; however, you may print copies of the brochure from the website. Badges aren’t available right now.
12. You can take your dog
Dogs are allowed if they are kept on a leash. However, make sure the weather is suitable for them and carry water for your dog. When the weather is very hot, leave them at home. If you’re planning on staying the night, there are pet-friendly cottages available.
Is Starved Rock open for business?
Starved Rock is open all year, even the winter. The park is open from 6:30 a.m. until sundown. Each time you visit the park, it will be different; we discuss what to anticipate in each season in the “Best Travel Time” section.
When is the best time to go to Starved Rock National Park?
The visitor center at Starved Rock is open all year. You should consider the activities you intend to conduct while organizing your stay. Here’s what to expect at the park throughout the year.
Spring is a fantastic time to visit the park. This is due to the magnificent waterfalls that can be seen throughout the park. Because just a few of them are source fed, you have the greatest chance of seeing them all soon after heavy rains or during the melt season in early spring.
Fishing is available all year and is particularly popular in the spring and summer. Seasonally, the types of fish that may be caught change. You can see what anglers have been capturing by looking at the reports. A fishing license is necessary, and the amount of fish that may be caught is limited. Watersports usually pick up around the conclusion of the spring season.
Although no one will prohibit you from launching your kayak in March, most people prefer to wait until the water has warmed up a little. Rentals of kayaks and canoes begin at the end of April.
Summer is the busiest time at Starved Rock State Park. During this time of year, the park will sometimes shut due to overcrowding. If that occurs, you may take a detour to Matthiessen State Park, which is less well-known but well worth a visit.
Matthiessen, it should be said, does not get the affection it deserves. Most people consider it a backup plan nowadays, despite the fact that both parks are extremely similar, with Matthiessen being somewhat smaller.
The water will have warmed up a bit by the time summer arrives. Many people will come to the river to kayak, and rafting is also quite popular in the summer.
In October, the fall colors transform hungry rock into a breathtakingly gorgeous sight. This season, they’re the outstanding crowd-pleaser. It is still feasible to engage in water-based activities. Kayak rentals are normally available until late October.
Autumn is less humid, but the temperature drops quickly as the season progresses. In October, average daily temperatures are still about 65°F, but by November, they are below 50°F, and by December, they are only 35°F. When traveling in the fall, you should dress in layers since the temperatures drop swiftly after the sun sets. Temperatures in the evenings may drop considerably below freezing.
The month of January is the coldest in the park and the finest for snowshoeing. Temperatures are expected to remain below freezing throughout the day. The ideal months to see bald eagles that come to winter in the region are January and February. At the end of January, the state park rangers host an annual eagle watch weekend.
Winter is also a terrific time to see the frozen falls, and experienced climbers may attempt to scale these icefalls. Cross-country skiing is not feasible at Starved Rock, but it is possible in Matthiessen State Park, which is close by. The whole winter is very cold, with temperatures rising above zero only in mid-February. Even though the days are colder in the winter, it nearly never rains, making it a nice time to visit the park.
These are the best Starved Rock hiking tips that we can provide to you. Regardless of the hiking trail you select, you need to adhere to these tips. Before going out for the day, go through the family rules as well as the park laws, emphasizing the need of keeping on recognized pathways. At Starved Rock, there have been stories of children seriously harming themselves because they deviated off the route. Stick to the guidelines. If you follow these steps, your family will have a safe and enjoyable experience taking in Mother Nature’s beautiful display.