This beautiful state park is almost right in my backyard, less than 2 hours away, and I cannot imagine why I've never been here until a few days ago. It's a nature lover's dream, especially if you live in an urban area like I do. It's one of the prettiest parks in Illinois. Keep in mind, we not have the scenic views or "wonders" in our flat Prairie State so we take what we can get.
Most of the trails are nice and well kept.
There are sandstone canyons, bluffs, pretty rock formations, waterfalls and hiking trails throughout. The area was hit by several nasty storms in June so when we were there many of the trails were closed due to dangerous conditions - downed trees and damaged walkways and stairways - but there were still plenty of trails and canyons open. We also went to see the canyons and trails at Matthiessen State Park - just as pretty but lesser known and a few miles south of Starved Rock.
The canyons are beautiful and it's so cool and quiet and peaceful when you get down there.
The only problem with going down into the canyons is that, yes, you have to climb back up eventually : (
The other bad part was that on our first trip out on the trails we did not get there early enough in the morning and the crowds were horrible. Too many noisy people and screaming babies. So, if you go, go early. One guy was actually walking along playing loud music on his phone if you can believe it. A kid screamed: "I want to go home! I know why they call this 'Starving' Rock - there's NO food here!!" I guess he expected a hot dog stand and ice cream vendor along the way, LOL. We lagged behind for a bit and let the obnoxious guys get ahead and then we sneaked off onto a side trail that was less populated and much quieter. Despite the heat and humidity it was mostly cool in the canyons. The next day we set out much earlier and were able to hike by ourselves.
Tip for my sister: Some of the streams have bridges you can cross over, but not all . . . . You're going to get wet at some point.
The park provides stairways to get down into some of the deeper canyons.
While up on a bridge looking down into a canyon we spotted some teenagers attempting to climb DOWN this slippery waterfall if you can believe it.
I can't help but act like a Mom to all kids I meet. I thought of my own and yelled at them and asked if they thought they should be doing that. It was pretty deserted up where we were on the bridge - we just happened to be there at the same time they were and I'm sure they were surprised to see us. Later, after we had walked down into the canyon ourselves by way of the stairs, we ran into them again. The girl looked at me shyly and said "We decided to take the safe route down after all." Whew! I told her her mom could thank me later. I'm pretty sure the park rangers see injuries or fatalities every year involving stupid kids doing stupid, reckless things like that.
If you live near Chicago or are visiting this summer, think about planning a trip here. It is worth seeing and we will definitely go back in the fall for the colors. Hopefully, the other trails will be accessible by then. I hear the waterfalls are also much larger and prettier in the spring after a rain so we'll have to return for those as well.