If you are planning to hike…Starved Rock State Park is the place to be! With 13 miles of well marked hiking trails, you can plan your hiking based on your skill levels. Let’s get started.
Guided Hikes We now offer guided hikes year ’round! This is the best and safest way to see the park. You’ll hike to LaSalle & Tonti Canyons and see the incredible views from Lover’s Leap and Eagle Cliff. Our “Take a Hike & Lunch” runs from April-November. From December through March, guided hike include a coupon for hot cocoa or coffee in our Cafe.
Half Day Hikes with the Walker’s Club Would you like someone to hike with you? Don’t know where to hike? The Walker’s Club meets on Thursdays at 9:00 am in the lobby of Starved Rock Lodge for pre-planned group hikes. These hikes take a few hours and usually end around noon. Ask for a full schedule at the Front Desk or call the Lodge for more information at 800-868-7625.
Although you can (technically) see waterfalls in 14 of the 18 canyons, some of the most scenic waterfalls are found in St. Louis, French, Wildcat, Tonty, Ottawa and Kaskaskia canyons. The best times to see waterfalls are in the spring when the snow and ice melt or after a heavy rainfall. Come back in the winter to see an icefall – they are spectacular!
We highly recommend you to come back to Starved Rock during different seasons of the year. The entire park, including the canyons and trails, look completely different in the fall and winter than in the spring and summer.
The park has five miles of well-marked, well-surfaced hiking trails for a relaxing walk or a vigorous hike. Large trail maps are located at all major trail intersections so visitors can choose a variety of routes. The upper area and bluff tops are easy hiking paths for the novice, but the trails into the interiors of the two dells may be difficult to negotiate, particularly during spring and early summer. Hikers must stay on marked trails, as steep cliffs and deep canyons can be dangerous. Hikers will marvel at the plant and animal life along the trails, and have an unparalleled view of geological wonders as they travel through the park. Alcohol is prohibited on all trails.
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 rental is located 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.
PLEASE NOTE! It is a state offense to remove any archaeological or Native American material from any Illinois state park.
The River Bluff Trail offers a walk high above the Illinois River with two observation decks with spectacular views of the Illinois River. The Woodland Trail provides an opportunity for a closer view of the trees, plants and wildlife prospering in the park.
Natural Features -Titled “Effigy Tumuli” in tribute to the Native American burial grounds that inspired it, this unique “earth art” depicts five sculptures native to the Illinois River. The Effigy Tumuli was the vision of artist Michael Heizer who created the sculptures of a snake, turtle, catfish, frog and a water strider. To better appreciate the sculptures, it is best to look first from a distance and then walk around on top of them to better understand the effigies. This attraction is closed as of right now.
Just across the road from Buffalo Rock State Park is the Illinois & Michigan Canal State Trail Buffalo Rock Access area. This multi-purpose trail has been developed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Currently 61 miles in length, this trail offers visitors scenic hiking, bicycling and snowmobiling opportunities. This area provides parking for approximately seven vehicles. Water and restroom facilities are not available at this site.
WINTER HOURS Monday AND Friday: 11 am to 4 pm CLOSED: Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday Saturday AND Sunday: 10 am to 4 pm
Start your Starved Rock adventure out at Trailheads Snacks & Souvenirs. Located in the Visitor Center, Trailheads offers sandwiches, hot dogs, pizza, ice cream, pretzels and nachos, plus gifts and souvenirs. We have walking sticks, rain gear, water bottles and more! Browse our assortment of jewelry, souvenirs, clothing, books and keepsake items.Want a great souvenir at a great price? Don’t forget to make your own Starved Rock souvenir at the Penny-Smasher machine! For just 51 cents (2 quarters and one penny) you can be creative, have fun and take more than a memory of the Rock home with you! Trailheads Gifts and Concessions is located in the Starved Rock Visitor Center.
Start with short hikes and work your way up from there. Use these hikes to familiarize yourself with the trail map and markers. Keep track of how much time you need to hike. This will help you plan hikes in the future.
Hike along trails that are further from the Visitor Center and Lodge, such as the interior canyon trails of Tonty and LaSalle for a more natural, rugged, hiking experience.
Stop every once in a while to look at your surroundings: you never know what you might miss if you don’t. As you are leaving a canyon, look back.
Let your body gradually adjust to the unique demands of hiking by warming up before you hike and taking care not to overexert yourself.
Make long hikes shorter by driving out to parking lots that are closer to your destination. Keep an eye out for road closures; some parking lots may not be accessible.
Tools of the Trade
Reusable Water Bottle *Highly Recommended* – Having water available when you need it can make or break your hiking experience. You can find reusable water bottles at Trailheads, located in the Visitor Center or at the Starved Rock Lodge Gift Shop.
Medicine *Highly Recommended* – Medical conditions, such as asthma or diabetes can quickly become medical emergencies. When you’re out on a trail a mile from the Visitor Center, help isn’t always nearby, and your cell phone might not get any reception, so please bring your medicine.
Insect Repellent *Highly Recommended* – You’re on the trails to have a good hike, not to give mosquitoes a free meal. Apply the repellent and leave the bottle behind.
Small Backpack – Carrying a small backpack sure beats storing everything you own in your pockets or purses. You can also help keep the park clean by using your backpack (and maybe a bag as well) to store your garbage until you return.
Camera – Make your time at Starved Rock memorable and snap a few photos along the trails.
Trail Map – Useful for planning hikes and finding your way around Starved Rock State Park. Find these at the information desk at either the Visitor Center or the Lodge.
Walking Stick – Helps you hike across streams and difficult terrain with ease.
Hiking Shoes – Good for trails with dirt paths and difficult footing (especially after rainfall)
Small Towel/Bandana – Helps reduce heat exhaustion; simply pour some water on it and wear.