City Escapes: Starved Rock State Park

Starved Rock Title (Blog size)

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.

Traffic with a view on Lake Shore Drive

Traffic with a view on Lake Shore Drive

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.

Hanging Light

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.

Starved Rock on the Illinois River

Starved Rock on the Illinois River

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!)
Enjoy the view perched on Eagle Cliff

Enjoy the view perched on top of Eagle Cliff


Looking up from within a canyon

Spot the Critter

Can you spot our woodland friend?

Me hiking!

Feeling on top of the world on Starved Rock


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18 Responses to City Escapes: Starved Rock State Park

  1. Els October 12, 2014 at 4:09 pm #

    Interesting history! And very nice view from the canyon! Good to see you managed to discover something else than Chicago in Illinois 🙂 BTW: I see you’re going to Athens too, so might be bumping into each other!

    • Ryan October 27, 2014 at 6:54 pm #

      Thanks Els. I’m glad you enjoyed that post and I hope you had an awesome time at TBEX. I know that I did.

  2. Chris October 12, 2014 at 4:18 pm #

    As a non-American I wasn’t aware that there was much more to Illinois than Chicago, but you have opened my eyes with this post. I guess it brings a nice change of pace if you have been in the city for a while.

    • Ryan October 27, 2014 at 6:55 pm #

      It really was a nice alternative form the hustle and bustle, but I can’t be away from the city too long though lol. It definitely calls for me.

  3. Jameela Deen October 13, 2014 at 3:16 am #

    When i read your profile i was expecting something different lol. I’m not a outdoor type either i just love the city but like you i am currently re discovering my natal country through mountain hikes and days out in the nature. Funny how the most simple things can grab you too. Will browse around for more posts…

    • Ryan October 27, 2014 at 6:52 pm #

      Absolutely! I love getting out into nature when I can. It’s a literal breath of fresh air =)

  4. Jenny | A Thing For Wor(l)ds October 13, 2014 at 5:54 am #

    Looks beautiful! Glad to see Illinois is not only cornfields 😉

    • Ryan October 27, 2014 at 6:42 pm #

      Me too!

  5. Chanel | Cultural Xplorer October 13, 2014 at 2:01 pm #

    Lovely park! I had actually never heard of it, but now I want to visit, especially after seeing your photos. I wonder if they have ‘glamping’ options? I have always wanted to try that!

    • Ryan October 27, 2014 at 6:43 pm #

      I’m not sure. I think that the lodge they offer might fit the bill?

  6. Christine October 13, 2014 at 8:20 pm #

    That state park looks beautiful! I’ve never been to Chicago but I’ve always wanted to go. It seems like such a fun city! I love the font you used in your first photo as well!

    • Ryan October 27, 2014 at 6:50 pm #

      Thanks Christine! Let me know if/when you visit Chicago, I’d love to share some of my favorite things to do.

  7. Veronika @ October 13, 2014 at 8:30 pm #

    I didn’t realise there was a national park just outside Chicago..! I had only a few days in the city but on the next occasion I’ll make sure to check out this park as well. It seems it mixes nicely comfortable hiking (with the steps as you say) and awesome views.. Sounds like a great escape from the city jungle!

    • Ryan October 27, 2014 at 6:49 pm #

      It’s not a national park, but a state park instead – still beautiful! Definitely a great escape and you should check it out on your next visit.

  8. Paul (@luxury__travel) October 14, 2014 at 3:38 am #

    Looks a lovely spot – I had no idea you had this on your doorstep. How far is it from Chicago?

    Also, just FYI, you have a small typo in the opening paragraph – “Chicago’s lakefront and canyons of glass and steal” (should be ‘steel’ obvously!).

    • Ryan October 27, 2014 at 6:48 pm #

      Thanks for the FYI Paul! I made the change a when I first saw your comment. Starved Rock is about 2hrs from the city.

  9. Francesca (@WorkMomTravels) October 14, 2014 at 8:16 am #

    Starved Rock certainly is a gem. I love that it’s close enough to Chicago for a day trip. I haven’t been there in years, though, and I never knew the history behind the name. Thanks for that! Wonderful photos, too!

    • Ryan October 27, 2014 at 6:41 pm #

      Thanks Fancesca! It’s a really interesting place and I’d love to visit in the fall. It must be gorgeous this time of year.

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