52 Hike Challenge – Hike 16 – Starved Rock State Park

For Hike 16 of my 52 Hike Challenge, I headed to a state park close to home, yet one I’ve sadly neglected: Starved Rock State Park. The park borders the Illinois River and contains 18 canyons formed by glacial melt. Legend says the park’s name comes from members of the Illinois tribe who starved to death while hiding from members of the Ottawa tribe.

My friend and I hiked two of these trails: the Starved Rock Trail that overlooks the Illinois River and French Canyon so we could see some of the park’s famous waterfalls. Both hikes were easy, but there were quite a few stairs involved.

We hiked the Starved Rock Trail first, which opened up to a great overlook. This trail is right next to the Lodge and food, which makes it a great end point to your day – get in some views, then sit back with a snack and relax. However, we had a jam-packed day and couldn’t stay to eat at the park, so we hiked it first. We couldn’t go to Starved Rock and not hike the namesake trail!

Next, we hiked French Canyon. Turns out we went a little too far and wound up in Wildcat Canyon, but doing a little extra walking never hurt. This trail was through some pretty heavy canopy which meant it was shady, but extremely humid and buggy. Definitely need bug spray in the canyons!

Both trails were absolutely packed. It’s great to see so many people enjoying the outdoors, but there were definitely some trail etiquette issues. It was a beautiful Memorial Day weekend and I suspect that brought out a lot of novice/casual hikers. However, I think this park is always popular. A few weeks after our hike the park had to close temporarily because there was no parking. All this to say, hiking short, popular trails here probably isn’t for you if you like a more secluded/solitary experience.

Overall we had a great time, and it was nice to be able to quickly knock out a couple different trails. I would love to return in winter when the falls (and crowds) are frozen.

Have you been to Starved Rock or another favorite state park? Tell me about it in the comments!


  1. Our Walkers Club hikes Starved Rock & Mattheissen Park trails every Thursday at 9am. Not crowded during the week (and we usually carry trash bags to clean up after those who come for the beauty and then trash the place). Love both of these parks especially after a good rain when all the waterfalls are running!

    • normaltonomad

      Joan I LOVE that you guys are doing some stewardship on your hikes! It’s so important to take care of our public spaces so we can all continue to enjoy them. This had to be a quick visit but I’d love to do some of the longer hikes and see some of the bigger falls. I hear they sometimes freeze in the winter which I imagine is pretty spectacular. If I ever make it back out on a Thursday I’ll try and join the Walkers Club for a hike!

Leave a Reply