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 wanted to visit Starved Rock State Park for some time. It is one of the few places in Illinois where there are waterfalls, and there are a “significant” number of them in a small space. One issue with the waterfalls, though, is that they seem to have a very short lifespan. Choose the time of your visit carefully…
Visiting in March or April seems to be the best bet for seeing at least a few of the falls. They are definitely fed by snow melt, which there is clearly less of compared to places further north. When I visited in mid-April, it was obvious that some falls were already dry. Wildcat Canyon Falls was one that had a small amount of flow. The other two in the park had more water, but this was the first that I saw along the hike.
As for the hike, it’s pretty enjoyable, and if the correct path is chosen, it’s relatively simple. The signage can get a little bit confusing though. Essentially, you want to follow the River Trail (or head in that general direction whenever you get the chance). The River Trail allows for the easiest access to each of the falls up close. Walking a few hundred feet into the canyon leads you to a relatively up-close view. This falls can also be viewed from above on the Gorge Rim trail.
There are different parking areas in Starved Rock State Park. To most quickly access Wildcat Canyon Falls, go into the entrance leading to the visitor’s center. This is found off of IL-178 south of North Utica.
From the parking area, head toward the visitor’s center, and then follow the trail. Try to head downhill if you have the chance to best maximize the likelihood of finding the River Trail.
Head “upstream” to get to Wildcat Canyon Falls at the appropriate sign.
Accessibility: 7/10 (easy/moderate)
Length of Hike: 2 miles round-trip (from visitor’s center)