Starved Rock State Park is located just south of Utica, IL and is home to some of the most traveled hiking trails in Illinois. Starved Rock is home to numerous canyons that are popular destinations for hikers. The views from the canyons of Starved Rock are one of a kind and hold a unique history, however, with 18 different canyons to choose from it is hard to decide which trail you want to take. As an Illinois native that lives minutes away from this park, I have created a list of the best canyons for visiting hikers to see to get the most out of Starved Rock State Park.
The hike to Illinois Canyon is just under 5 miles from the visitors center, and is one of the few trails at Starved Rock that has no artificial paths or stairs. This hike is best for experienced or long-winded hikers due to the distance, however, it is one of the most beautiful spots in the park. Most of the trail is surrounded by rock formations on both sides allowing visitors to appreciate the spectacular rock formations that Starved Rock has to offer. After a heavy rainfall, not only will you get to see the main waterfall, but also multiple smaller waterfalls along the way. It is important to remember that after a heavy rainfall you will most likely get wet walking through a creek several times to get to the main waterfall, so if you are wearing your brand new shoes you should probably avoid this trail for the day. I feel that this hike is one of the most beautiful and unique that Starved Rock has to offer.
The waterfall at Wildcat Canyon is around 120 ft, making it the largest drop in the park. This canyon is a fairly easy walk as it is only about a mile from the visitors center, however, if you start at the visitors center there are quite a few steps to descend and climb. You can get to Wildcat Canyon from the trails by the Lodge with far less stairs.
Another great thing about Wildcat Canyon is that you can view it from the top on the east or west side, or you can descend some stairs and view it from inside the canyon. One of the best times to visit Wildcat Canyon is after a heavy rainfall to ensure that you get to see the waterfall. Another great time to hike this trail is during the winter months as this waterfall is known for its spectacular ice formations.
LaSalle Canyon is a popular spot for many tourists and photographers because of its beautiful falls and rock formations. This canyon is about a 2 mile walk from the visitors center but it is well worth the hike. The waterfall at LaSalle Canyon is not as large as some of the others at the park, however, it is made up of smaller cascading falls and is one of the waterfalls that does not require lots of heavy rainfall to flow well. Unless it has been a very dry in the area, this fall is flowing most of the summer. This is another waterfall that offers beautiful views of ice formations in the winter. This trail also offers hikers the experience of walking behind the waterfall. This is a must-see for visitors to Starved Rock
St Louis Canyon
St. Louis Canyon is around a mile and a half from the visitors center, however, there is a parking lot right off of 178 that is only about a 10-15 minute hike from the canyon. This canyon is great to photograph on overcast days. St. Louis Canyon does have a waterfall, however, it only runs during or right after it rains. This hike offers great views of rocky overhangs and caverns. Another great thing about St. Louis is that it is generally less busy than some of the other more popular canyons. If you park in the lot off of 178, the hike has only a few sets of stairs so it is ideal for new hikers or those who do not want to climb hundreds of stairs. This is my favorite spot to go in the winter to see the beautiful ice formations it has to offer.
These are my personal favorite canyons to hike to at Starved Rock State Park. While there are many trails and overlooks to visit as well, the canyons are some of the most beautiful views that this park has to offer. All of these destinations offer beautiful photos so be sure to bring your camera!