Starved Rock Country is home to some of the best hiking, sightseeing and camping destinations in the Midwest! This is your guide to the area’s big three parks: Starved Rock, Buffalo Rock and Matthiessen. Packed with helpful tips, restaurant recommendations and links to nearby camping destinations, this is great place to start planning your outdoor trip to Starved Rock Country!
Starved Rock State Park
Address: 2668 E 875th Rd, Oglesby, IL 61348
As Illinois’ most popular State Park, and one of the best nature destinations in the Midwest, Starved Rock’s notoriety is well earned. Featuring 18 beautiful canyons, a massive selection of trails for all levels of experience, panorama views of the Illinois River and a historic lodge and dining hall.
Steeped in Native American history and jam-packed with botanical wonders, this is the perfect destination to take the whole family on an outdoor adventure. Consider planning a trip for fall when the trees leaves have turned brilliant shades of orange and red, or during the winter when ice climbers scale the frozen waterfalls.
During the spring and summer, the best waterfalls can be found in: St. Louis, French, Wildcat, Tonty, Ottawa and Kaskaskia canyons. Right now, serveral of these waterfalls are still trickling! Fourteen of Starved Rock’s 18 Canyons produces waterfalls throughout the year, so make sure to visit as many as you can during your trips.
Starved Rock State Park is just a few weeks into it’s re-opening, and is without it’s main parking lot due to flooding. To avoid the crowds and long lines, considering making a mid-week day trip out to the park! While you’re on the tarails, try to maintain social distance between yourself and fellow hikers.
SRC TIP: Take a peek under the welcome mat at the Starved Rock Lodge to see a hidden piece of the park’s history.
Nearby camping: Ample campsites around Starved Rock are available to reserve over at www.reserveamerica.com. If you’re looking for something less rustic, consider booking a room or cabin at the Starved Rock Lodge, conveniently located in the middle of the park!
Buffalo Rock State Park
Address: 1300 N 27th Rd, Ottawa, IL 61350
Located on the North banks of the Illinois River, Buffalo Rock State Park combines rustic prairie hiking with the best cliffside views in Starved Rock Country.
Buffalo Rock features two trails that offer wildly different park experiences: The River Bluff Trail snakes you along the Illinois River (featuring two observation decks with plenty of bird watching opportunities), while the Woodland Trail gives you an up-close look at trees, wildlife, and the “Effigy Tumuli” mounds (made by visionary “earthworks” artist Michael Heizer) that resemble an enormous animals.
SRC TIP: An early (8 a.m.) arrival rewards guests with an opportunity to see the Buffalo get fed and, occasionally, morning fog on the Illinois River.
Address: 2500 IL-178, Oglesby, IL 61348
Just to the South-West of Starved Rock State Park, you’ll find Matthiessen. This picturesque park takes you from wild flower lined prairie trails to the depths of Ice Age era dells, complete with rushing waterfalls and mossy canyon walls.
Matthiessen’s otherworldly trails include options for both novice and experienced hikers, allowing all park patrons to enjoy views of the grand Cascade Falls and the jaw dropping Giants Bathtub.
You’ll likely see more than just fellow hikers on these trails, Matthiessen also features some of the best horseback riding paths in the Starved Rock area.
After a year without sunflowers in 2019, Matthiessen’s trademark field of towering day-glo flowers are slated to return this year! Keep your eyes peeled.
SRC TIP: Head to the northern Dells Area entrance to Matthiessen off of Route 71. The entrance looks as if you’re driving into a subdivision, but it will park you just a few yards away from the famed Cascade Falls.
Nearby camping: Regarded as one of the premiere horseback riding destinations in Starved Rock Country, Matthiessen has an equestrian only campground near it’s northern entrance. Call 815-667-4726 to check conditions and to reserve your site.