With the season for fall colors upon us, there’s never been a better time to plan a trip to scenic Starved Rock Country. The Illinois getaway destination lets you enjoy the eye-catching sights from walking and biking paths to horseback riding to autumn drives. Here’s a look at some of the region’s most picturesque parks.
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Starved Rock State Park, Utica: The famed park boasts over 13 miles of well-marked trails, nestled amid countless trees, sandstone bluffs and waterfalls. The Starved Rock Lodge and Conference Center inside the park hosts regular guided Fall Color Tours and Fall On The River boat trips throughout autumn.
Matthiessen State Park, Utica: Just a few miles down the road from the more widely known Starved Rock, Matthiessen State Park is an undeniable hidden gem that features more than 5 miles of trails that wind up, down and around a mile-long canyon.
Buffalo Rock State Park, Ottawa: Featured attractions are a wooded trail along the Illinois River and a hike through Effigy Tumuli, giant land sculptures made to resemble native animals and covered in prairie grasses and trees.
Gebhard Woods State Park, Morris: Near the historic I&M Canal, the beautiful tree-lined park features convenient access to walking and biking paths.
Goose Lake Prairie Park, Morris: Goose Lake is home to just over 7 miles of trails that wind through woods, tall prairie grasses and pastoral farmlands.
Illini State Park, Marseilles: Known for its wonderful camping facilities and river access, Illini State Park also offers large picnicking, public use and play areas for the whole family to soak in the fall scenery.
I&M Canal State Trail, various access points: With more than 60 miles of tree-lined trails, the historic Illinois and Michigan Canal is the perfect way to experience north central Illinois’ great natural diversity. It also crosses paths with four beautiful state parks.
Carlson Nature Preserve, Lowell: Well-hidden on the west side of the Vermilion River near Lowell, this preserve is a destination spot for rugged hiking and captivating views.
Catlin State Park, Ottawa: Fourteen trails of all lengths and sizes weave through this heavily wooded and scenic park, which is equipped for cookouts and group picnicking.
Allen Park, Ottawa: Room to walk (and play) is along the Illinois River near downtown Ottawa; plaques denote the different tree types you’ll see reflected against the water.
Dayton Bluffs, Ottawa: Featured are gorgeous wooded and prairie trails, running parallel to the Fox River. The lesser known park is conveniently located near I-80.
Warnecke Woods, Princeton: More than 30 acres, with a stunning mix of trees in a traditional floodplain forest, include black oaks, black maples and photo-worthy seasonal wild flowers.
Spring Lake Nature Park, Streator: The recently restored nature park features twin creeks, a natural waterfall, a 200-year-old cottonwood tree and your choice of a dozen scenic wooded trails.
Hopalong Cassidy River Trail, Streator: A short trail along the Vermilion River is surrounded by a multitude of diverse trees.
Lake Kakusha, Mendota: Shelters and trails surround the man-made lake in western Starved Rock Country, a true hidden gem just a short drive from Mendota’s historic downtown.
Snyder’s Grove, Mendota: The 104-acre preserve offers wooded trails, shelters and picnic areas.