I rave on an almost daily basis about my home sweet home, Chicago. Even though I love to travel around the world and currently reside in the sunny Spanish capital, there is always a small part of me that wishes to be back. For most people, myself included, there’s Chicago and then the rest of the cornfield covered, flat, and mostly boring state of Illinois – two different worlds if you ask me. While at home over the summer I discovered that there was indeed breathtaking natural beauty in Illinois aside from Chicago’s lakefront and canyons of glass and steel.
Every once in a while this city slicker needs to seek serenity away from the towering skyscrapers and busy city streets. Although most people wouldn’t peg me as the ‘outdoorsy’ type, I’ve climbed a mountain in New Mexico, canoed the Boundary Waters in Minnesota, and camped on an island in the Florida Keys. I know what it’s like to walk days on end with a 50-pound pack and catch my own dinner.
Growing up camping almost once a month all over the state, I was surprised that I had never set foot in Starved Rock State Park, which has been voted the #1 attraction in the State of Illinois. This ‘not so hidden’ gem is located about two hours southwest of Chicago in the town of Utica, Illinois on the Illinois River.
The Legend of Starved Rock
The Potawatomi and Fox Indian tribes wanted revenge on the Illinois Indians for killing their leader, Chief Pontiac. Seeking refuge atop Starved Rock, the Illinois tribe starved to death since they were unable to either find a route of escape or fight back. Although this history was not formally documented at the time of its occurrence, archeological findings support the fact that Native American tribes had occupied this land for over 11,000 years. Various artifacts such as weapons and skeletons have been discovered to support this tale.
Top Reasons to Visit
- The trails are very well marked, maintained, and accessible. Many of them are wooden-planked walkways with steps (For me it’s hard to call this ‘hiking’).
- The price for a campsite is under $20 per night depending on the season and it’s FREE to enter the park.
- If camping isn’t your thing, then there is a summer camp style lodge with all the amenities of home. You could also make it a day trip and you will be back in your own cozy bed by nightfall.
- The trails and sights are peppered with historical markers and key information to soak in some history along the way.
- You’ll witness some spectacular geography that is unique from the rolling plains such as multiple canyons with picturesque waterfalls and panoramic vistas of the Illinois River (I could only imagine the gorgeous foliage in the fall!)