Location: 2668 E 875th Rd, Oglesby, IL 61348
Level of Difficulty: Easy
Information: (815) 667-4726 Stared Rock State Park website
Hours: Open 24 hours. Hiking after dark not recommended.
“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 different 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 from one of the 69 rooms or 21 cabins at the beautiful 1930s-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. While the park’s 5 miles of well-marked, well paved trails are safe for families, visitors who have trouble walking long distances should note that there aren’t many places to sit and rest. Waterproof boots and hiking shoes are recommended as the paths frequently cross streams via stepping stones. 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 rentals are available 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 Canal Port Bar & Grill and Skoog’s Pub & Grill, known for their amazing chicken wings. Mix’s Trading Post offers an eclectic (bordering on bizarre) collection of goods, including a great selection of biker gear. Two Girls and a Cupcake, Flutterby Junction and the Country Cupboard are the cure for anyone’s sweet tooth. Two excellent wine tasting opportunities present themselves in Utica, August Hill Winery and Illinois River Winery.
The 9-room Willows Hotel in Utica has a delightful restaurant on property. Other lodging options close by include the beautiful Kishauwau Country Cabins located in Tonica, 10 minutes away. Offering hotel or cabin accommodations, 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.