Reviewed by Terry Warren on September 2, 2015
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With over 13 miles of trails, complete with awe-inspiring vistas, Starved Rock State Park offers much for both the novice and the experienced trail walker and is a popular spot for people who wish to escape nearby Chicago. I advise hiking the less-visited Illinois, Ottawa & Kaskaskia Canyon trails at the eastern end of the park during the summer holiday weekends, when the parking lots near the Lodge & Visitors' Center are bursting at the seams, as there are several different trail access points (and parking lots) along Rte. 71 east of the main park entrance. A color-coded trail marking system and maps strategically located at trail junctures and points of interest alleviate the risk of becoming lost on the trails.
Waterfalls in the park are seasonal, with spring and early summer offering the most spectacular flow. Waterfall lovers and hiking enthusiasts should check out nearby Matthiessen State Park as well. Other nearby hiking opportunities present themselves at Buffalo Rock and Illini State Parks.
While the hiking trails themselves are not wheelchair accessible, there are many areas in and around both the Lodge and the Visitors' Center that will allow limited opportunity to commune with nature.
Guided hikes are available through the activities department. Better yet, meet in the Lodge lobby any Thursday morning at 9 AM to accompany the Starved Rock Walkers' Club on its weekly hike. Different areas of the park, as well as other nearby parks and nature preserves, are targeted for the weekly two to two-and-a-half hour hike. Joining this club is the very best thing I have done since I retired and I can honestly state that we willingly encourage anyone to hike with us and many people who stay at the Lodge do just that. We hike year-round, although participation severely drops off in the winter, especially when accompanied with sub-zero (Fahrenheit) temperatures. The amazing icefall formations make it worthwhile, however! Winter hikes at Starved Rock necessitate the use of appropriate footwear, such as YakTrax (sold at the Lodge gift shop) or (my choice) Kahtoola MicroSpikes.
No, I don't work in the PR dept. of Starved Rock State Park! I'm just someone who lives in the region, enjoys being on the trails, and has led a couple of guided hikes there.
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