Starved Rock State Park is a wonderful state park to see some fascinating geological features and some amazing waterfalls if you show up at the right time! I’ve posted about LaSalle Canyon Falls and Wildcat Canyon Falls already.
There are many parking areas in the park that can lead to different canyons. St. Louis Canyon is unique in that it’s somewhat on the edge of the park. There’s a designated parking area for St. Louis Canyon off of IL-178. Once you park, you hike west and you’ll come to St. Louis Canyon Falls. You can continue on the Bluff Trail to the main parking area, which then leads to an extensive trail system which parallels the Illinois River.
The important thing to make your visit worthwhile. Visit in spring or after a good rainfall. The waterfalls in these canyons disappear after it gets warmer and drier. The area is still amazing, but if you’re looking for waterfalls, timing is important.
There are different parking areas in Starved Rock State Park. To most quickly access St. Louis Canyon Falls, the parking are is found directly off of IL-178 south of North Utica. If you reach the Grand Bear Resort, you’ve gone too far. The parking area will be on the left if you’re headed south.
From the parking area, follow the trail into St. Louis Canyon.
Accessibility: 8/10 (easy/moderate) Height: 40′ Length of Hike: 0.8 miles round-trip
I’ve always been a pretty spontaneous person when it comes to travel. I may decide to go somewhere to see waterfalls without any significant amount of planning. For certain waterfall destinations, though, that can be problematic. Hocking Hill State Park in Ohio is one example, and Starved Rock State Park in Illinois is another. The issue is that there is often only a limited “viewing” period for the falls in those parks before they dry up for the summer. I haven’t visited Hocking Hills yet, but earlier this year, I decided to plan a visit to Starved Rock State Park in April, when I hoped there would be some remnants of waterfalls.
And I was partially lucky. While there were a few falls that had almost ceased to exist until the next intense rainfall or snow melt, a few others still hung around to make the trip worthwhile. LaSalle Canyon Falls might be one of the main highlights from my visit to Starved Rock State Park. Even at the falls, there wasn’t a massive amount of water flowing, but still some. And sometimes you just have to accept “some”! This particular falls is really a pleasure to photograph. You can walk very close to the falls to get one perspective, and then hide behind the surrounding cliffs to get another viewpoint. I believe the shot shown here was at the closer viewpoint.
Starved Rock State Park is not particularly difficult to visit. The park is only a few miles south of I-80 between Ottawa and LaSalle.
You can exit onto IL-178 (from I-80), and head south for something like 3 miles.
The entrance to the park will be on your left shortly after crossing the Illinois River.
From the main parking area, you can start along the hike to the various falls. In this case, you will be hiking to your east. (There are other starting points along IL-71, but I did not explore those other options.)
Initially, the options can seem overwhelming. If you just want to head toward this set of falls, veer left early, trekking with the river usually in view. It is at least a mile in, if not further.
In this case, a map does help with navigating the trails. If I remember correctly, there will be a sign directing you to LaSalle Canyon. (If you were originally heading east, this will be to your right.) A boardwalk will lead you to the falls.
Accessibility: 8/10 (easy/moderate)
Length of Hike: 4.0 miles round-trip (from visitor’s center)