Starved Rock State Park was my #1 must-see on the outdoor Illinois summer bucket list I created back in May. Guess what? After 21 years of living in the area, I finally made it! One Saturday my mom and I packed up the car with snacks and water bottles, dressed in workout clothes and tennis shoes and headed to Utica, IL to hike through the park.
We picked a hot day to go to the park. When we got back from our hike, the car said it was 96 degrees (probably because it was sitting in the sun, but I would still guess it was in the high 80s). Luckily, most of the paths are covered with trees. That helped keep us cool and protected from sunburn.
Before we left for our trip, we made sure to check the Starved Rock website to read up on all of the canyons and overlooks to see which ones we wanted to hit on our hike. My favorite stop was by far Wildcat Canyon pictured above. According to the website, the Wildcat Canyon is the largest drop in the park at 125 feet. When we visited, water was running steadily down the canyon. On such a hot day, there were a lot of tourists playing in the water to cool down.
Me being me, of course, I did the opposite and sat on a log I found in the hot sun. Just kidding. If I hadn’t wore my new tennis shoes, I would have jumped right in too. I didn’t plan that one out too well. Next time we make a trip to the park, I’m going to wear my old tennis shoes, so I don’t have to worry about walking through water in the canyons.
Also notice that I tried to sneakily hide my water bottle from the shot by putting it behind the rock in front. Needless to say, it didn’t work. Oops!
As a side-side note, I’ve realized I wear this workout outfit so much. In case you missed it, I wore it before in my post about Door County, WI. It’s all because of these Under Armour shorts. First of all, they match my Adidas tennies perfectly. They’re also loose and don’t have that frustrating insert in them, which is much needed in the summer heat. I want to go back and buy them in every color.
Anyway, side-note over. Back to Starved Rock… While walking on the outer trails, you get a good view of the water. I have to admit: after just getting back from Door County, the water didn’t seem like much to look at. It looked mucky, and an unattractive dam took up a lot of the view. I kept my eyes on the rock formations and trees most of the time. Those views made up for the water view.
The trails were also surprisingly well established. Some paths were dirt, others were man-made with wooden bridges and stairways and some were even cement like sidewalks. We saw families with several small children, families with dogs and expert hikers. There was a trail for everyone.
As we continued on the trails, we found that you can see Wildcat Canyon from a few different angles. Here, we got to look down on all of the tourists hanging out by the edge of the water. This picture is zoomed in, so you can’t really get a sense of how high up we were. But I was getting vertigo. It was high.
All in all, taking a day trip to the park was a fun experience- and I would definitely go again. We didn’t even see half of what the park had to offer. There are 13 miles of hiking trails!
If you’re coming from a bit farther out of town or want to stick around a while to take a trolley tour or boat cruise, there is a lodge right outside of the park. I’ve never stayed there before, but you can check out the reviews on TripAdvisor!
What is your favorite outdoor activity this summer? Have you ever been to Starved Rock State Park?