If you want to get off your computer and use that smartphone to take photos instead of tweeting, look no farther than Starved Rock State Park, Illinois. A vacation filled with sights that will build lifelong memories as you take in the expansive, tranquil beauty of a park that was voted the #1 Attraction in Illinois.

This haven is so much more than one would expect from such an oddly yearning name. With options like kayaking, touring wineries and breweries, hiking beautiful trails, viewing breathtaking canyons and waterfalls, or taking in fun educational programs for the kids, there is something for the whole family to enjoy. Boasting panoramic views, great park amenities, gorgeous park cabins and the Starved Rock Lodge, this location is closer than you hoped and will make the kind of memories you want your family to have.

Starved Rock Park Cabins and Lodges

The only hotel located right smack dab in the middle of Starved Rock in Utica, Illinois, the rustic Starved Rock has lodging solutions for everyone. From pet-friendly cabins to rooms in the comfortable lodge, there is a “right room” for everyone. If you are looking for a hotel room, a two-room cottage or a cozy cabin with a fireplace, this is the place for you.

With resort-style amenities like an indoor pool, hot tub and sauna, and craft beer on site, you can’t go wrong. The year-round trolley tours and guided hikes make getting to and seeing the spectacular seasonal waterfalls and canyons.

For lodge reservations, call 1-800-868-ROCK (800-868-7625) or 815-667-4211, or visit the lodge website.

There are other hotels in the area too, some giving those who love the outdoors but prefer a nicer, less pastoral atmosphere better options for them.

Don’t forget to ask about pet-friendly lodging at the Rock and take your best friend on the trail with you.

Things to See in Starved Rock

Each of the trails mentioned in this article are linked to a trail map from Starved Rock State Park. Formatted as PDFs, they provide a little information and a photo or two. SInce these photos are often too small to convey the beauty of this special place, we’ve scoured the internet to find you pictures of each attraction when we could. Enjoy the views:

11 Absolutely Stunning Hiking Trails

1. St. Louis Canyon: The Park Service lists ten gorgeous hiking trails and maps on their website, each absolutely memorable in its own right. Starved Rock is the stuff of movie sets and fantasy landscapes, like St. Louis Canyon below.

2. Aurora Canyon: On the West side of the Park, Aurora Canyon is one of the shortest hikes you can find, only about 15 minutes from the parking lot, this petite but powerfully beautiful canyon is a crowd pleaser.

After heavy rains, you will find the waterfall here “really active,” according to the Park.

3. Illinois Canyon: Pristine. One of the only “untouched” trails, Illinois Canyon is au natural. You won’t find man-made stairs and walkways leading you to this Hike to one of the ONLY untouched trails in the park. There are no man-made walkways, or stairs leading you past the 5 smaller waterfalls in the idyllic setting on the way to the final beauty.

Flanked by majestic and beautiful rock formations for about three-quarters of your hike, this is the closest you will come to nature as she was before we came to change her.

#illinoiscanyon #waterfall #starvedrock

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4. Kaskaskia CanyonTwisting sandstone bluffs, carved out by melting glacial waters during another age are the exposed bones of the Park. The St. Peter’s sandstone underlies most of the park, and where the wind, rains and violent epochal changes shaping rock and earth have been able to touch that stone, it is shaped by them. Centuries of erosion lead up to the formation of these beautiful stone bluffs.

Kaskaskia Canyon Falls, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois Hiking Trails

Kaskaskia Canyon Falls, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois Hiking Trails

5. LaSalle Canyon: LaSalle Canyon has some of the most stunning views in the park, year-round as the winter brings water sculpture frozen waterfalls.

6. Lover’s Leap OverlookLover’s leap has a rich history, as one would expect from such a name. The story is like Romeo and Juliet, only older and less Shakesperian. A young Indian brave fell head over heels in love with a maiden from a rival tribe. Due to the taboos against marrying into other tribes, the lovers were forbidden by their Chiefs from joining together. In lieu of a lifetime apart, the madly-in-love youths chose to die together, in each other’s arms. They hurled themselves into the churning waters of the Illinois River where both perished. Rather than live out their lives apart, the distraught lovers chose to die in each others’ arms.

Starved Rock #hiking #getoutside #familytime

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This striking historical vista is a little over a half mile from the visitor center and is an ideal bird watching location. It is a lot of steps, but worth it for the high vantage point that gives you a “top-down” view of the Park.

7. Ottawa Canyon: Another great location to see the post-modern, flowing stone-wave art of father time and mother nature, Ottawa Canyon is a prime example of what Starved Rock is best known for; fascinating rock formations.

8. St. Louis Canyon: You will quickly understand why this trail is one of the most popular in the Starved rock. About 35 minutes from the Visitor Center or Lodge this is a must-see location in the winter, with unforgettable ice-falls best seen between January and early March.

“WILDLIFE: Birdwatching, squirrel, rabbit, whitetail deer, reptiles, amphibians.”

9. Starved Rock: The namesake of this Park takes its title from the same tribe that would also give its name to the state of Illinois. Legend has it that after a huge falling out, rival bands the Illini and Ottowa Native Americans. The Illini, or “Illinois of the Rock,” as the trappers called them, ended up taking refuge on the rock.

The result was a siege which lasted three weeks, it took the lives of many of the tribe members, most from hunger. That legend gave the rock its name, and brings a nostalgia to hiking the trail which can’t be duplicated.

starved rock state park

Starved Rock image via Wikimedia Commons

10. Tonty CanyonConsidered one of the most beautiful in the State Park, Tonty has a double waterfall after heavy rains.  After heavy rains – Tonty Canyon has a double waterfall.

11. Wildcat Canyon: Featuring the longes Drop in the State of Illinois Park, the 125 foot drop into Wildcat Canyon worth your time. You can choose to take this sight in from three separate viewing locations, not to mention taking the stairs on down.

This is another view you don’t want to see only once, as each season has a specific beauty.

Eagle Watching, Wildlife, Birds and More

Wildflowers & Plants are among the chief draws to the wild allure of the state park. The wildlife is varied and it depends on which part of the park you visit what you may see there, from White Tail deer to our National bird.

When Stephen Colbert asked that people “share their brush with American greatness,” it is no surprise one of those images was of a Bald Eagle soaring over the Illinois River at Starved Rock State.

This Illinois State Park Is Stunning … And Open for Business Year Round

Is there really anything better than getting your kids out of their headphones and off their devices? The Rock can offer you that opportunity, year-round. 

Spring into beauty:

A refreshing Summer dip in your trip:

Autumn leaves are a thing you won’t want to miss:

A State Park With Plenty To Do For The Whole Family

The Park offers a great online event calendar so you can plan your trip around the events and activities that matter most to your family. Any time of year is a popular time of year to visit this park, as all four seasons bring a changing pallette that is impossible to grow weary of.

Tours, walking clubs, music, luncheons and brunches; there is always something going on. Check out the updated calendar on the link above.

Starved Rock Lodge Activities and Amenities

The Starved Rock Lodge feels peaceful and rustic, but it also offers many amenities you’d expect at a Park, and some you may not. From beer and wine to gift baskets, they cover the needs of the most discerning of guests. Oh, and did we mention the therapeutic massage? Swedish, aromatherapy, hot stone, and even couples massages are available, at $75-$85 for a full hour massage the prices aren’t exorbitant.

Forget your walking stick? Need a cheese tray? This lodge offers what you require.

Weddings and Other Special Events.

Why not consider the breathtaking views and unforgettable majesty of the Starved Rock park for your wedding? You can’t go wrong with this backdrop for those precious photos.

Your wedding guests will always remember the ceremony and majesty of the park.

Camping and Picnics

If you want to rough it, yet still have access to all the other perks of the Park, Camping is available. With “133 Class-A premium sites complete with electricity a bathhouse with flush toilets that doubles as a severe weather shelter if needed, getting close to nature has never been easier.

“Most camping slots are outfitted with standard 20-amp plugins, plus a 30-amp camper hookup,” but if you need to power your home away from home, “A limited number have 50-amp hookups for big travel trailers.”

You are going to need to get a move on to reserve your spot, especially if you plan on staying on a weekend. Visit, www.reserveamerica.com to book a great campsite today. Weekday sites are almost always available.

Rates: The Illinois DNR lists these campsites at the very affordable $25 dollars a night, with holidays at the rate of $35. “Reservations for regular campsites and youth group sites require a $5.00 non-refundable reservation fee and payment of the full camping and utility fees at the time the reservation is made.”

If you just want to stop by the park for a picnic lunch, they have you covered with nice locations and restrooms. The park does not provide grills and alcohol is always a big time no-no on the trail, don’t do it.

Wineries, Breweries, and Dining

There is a good variety of local food, beverage and adult beverage available both in the park and nearby. You can start by grabbing a tasty lunch or dinner at the 9th St. Pub.

Or you can stop by Elements at the Starved Rock Lodge for brunch. We hear their eggs benedict and bloody marys are sublime.

You can also go wine tasting at the August Hill Winery, located at Starved Rock Marketplace, where you can also pick up some souvenirs and some delicious fudge.


Historical and Cultural Activities

According to the Illinois Department of Natural resources, Starved Rock State Park’s cultural history can be traced to 8000 B.C. There are records from both Native American and European explorers “documenting villages and encampments near the park along the banks of the Illinois River.”  The park’s colorful name is derived from a legend of a band of Illiniwek Native Americans who died of starvation atop the 125-foot sandstone butte.



If these are your pastimes, you need to check out Starved Rock!

Registration for "Kayaking 101" is now OPEN! Learn to kayak on the quiet water off Lone Point Shelter within Starved…

Posted by Starved Rock Visitor's Center on Thursday, May 26, 2016


If hunting and fishing is your thing, they have you covered. Just feel like plinking? They have that too:


Love to explore the countryside from the back of your steed, that can be managed as well. Cedar Creek Ranch is located in Cedar Point, Illinois about 15 minutes from Starved Rock. Starved Rock features a package that includes the ride you need to make this trip perfect.

A Tuesday tidbit: Cedar Point is home to the Cedar Creek Ranch horesback riding stables and Gunsmoke Grill, and new this…

Posted by Starved Rock Connections on Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Visit a Civil War era cemetery on-site and trail ride across the hills and valleys. Call (815) 481-3337 or visit their website to make reservations. Or Click here to learn more about an all in one package from the Illinois State Park.

Your family will thank you for visiting this Park

Year round, and packing so many quality activities into such a beautiful example of the beauty of the United States. Illinois State Parks are not given enough credit, and Starved Rock is among the best of them. Any way you slice it and any age rage you are trying to please, this gem on the Illinois River is certain to be a hit with your friends and family.

With sunsets like these, you know you can’t go wrong with a family trip to Starved Rock State Park in Illinois.

Featured image by Tom Shockey, Starved Rock State Park

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