Location: 2668 E 875th Rd, Oglesby, IL 61348
Level of Difficulty: Easy
Information: (815) 667-4726 Starved Rock State Park Website
Hours: Open 24 hours, hiking after dark is not advised.
“Lodging, dining, shopping and more” may not be what you normally envision when you think of a State Park. But then, Starved Rock is no ordinary State Park. The 2,600 acres of dramatic sandstone canyons, campgrounds along the Illinois River, hiking trails and a rustic lodge make Starved Rock State Park a premier Illinois destination. Named for the prominent rocky outcrop rising up over the river, Starved Rock was once home to several native peoples who hunted bison here. It later served as a French Fort.
Canoe rentals are available at the visitor center, and hiking/fishing opportunities are plentiful. As for where to spend the night? Starved Rock offers dozens of camping spots, or choose one of the 69 rooms or 21 cabins at the beautiful 1930’s era Starved Rock Lodge.
Just south of Starved Rock is the 1,938 acre Matthiessen State Park, a breathtaking collection of rivers, streams and valleys winding through sandstone canyons. 5 miles of well marked, well paved trails abound, and while the trails are safe for families, visitors who have trouble walking long distances should note that there aren’t many places to sit and rest. Water-proof boots and hiking shoes are recommended as the paths cross streams via stepping stones frequently. Alcohol is prohibited in the park, and hikers must stay on marked trails, as steep cliffs and deep canyons can be dangerous.
On the north side of the Dells Area entrance is a parking lot with a hitching post, which marks the access to nine miles of horseback riding trails. Horse rental is located on Route 71 a half mile west of Route 178. It is open weekends in April and November and Wednesday through Sunday from May through October. There are also six miles of cross-country ski trails with ski rental available weekends from December through March.
Parking at Matthiessen is plentiful, and is located in the Dells Area next to a restored fort, representative of the fortifications the French built in the Midwest during the 1600s and early 1700s.
Downtown Utica is small but beautiful, and is home to antique stores like Clark’s Run Antique Shop, restaurants like Canalport Grill and Skoog’s Bar & Grill, known for their amazing chicken wings. Mix’s Trading Post offers an eclectic (bordering on bizzare) collection of goods, including a great selection of biker gear. Two Girls and a Cupcake, Flutterby Junction & the County Cupboard are the fix for anyone’s sweet tooth. Two wine tasting opportunities present themselves in Utica, August Hill Winery & Illinois River Winery.
The 9-room Willows Hotel in nearby Utica has a delightful restaurant on property. Other lodging options include the beautiful Kishauwau Country Cabins located in Tonica, 10 minutes away. Offering hotel or cabin accomodations, Grizzly Jack’s Grand Bear Lodge and water resort is directly outside Starved Rock State Park.
If you plan on fishing, be sure to stop by Cajun Bait & Tackle in Utica.
Camping is available at Hickory Hills Camping and LaSalle KOA