Scenic overlook at Starved Rock State Park in Illinois

Starved Rock State Park is frequently rated the top attraction in Illinois. The park is very popular with over 2 million visits a year. Known for its’ beautiful canyons and waterfalls, Starved Rock is one of the most popular escapes from the hustle and bustle of Chicago.

The legend of the name

The park gets its’ name from an old legend. Supposedly, two Native American tribes were fighting with one tribe taking over. The Illinois tribe (who were losing) took refuge at the top of a butte, where they eventually starved, hence, the origin of the name Starved Rock. Read more about the history of Starved Rock.

Exploring a canyon at Starved Rock State Park

Canyons & Seasonal Waterfalls

This 2630 acre park features 18 canyons. We were excited to explore & photograph the amazing waterfalls, however, because of the lack of rainfall we missed out on our chance. April is the best month if you are looking forward to the waterfalls.

Spring is the best time as the combination of heavy rainfall and melting snow leads to more powerful waterfalls. If you are planning a spring trip, make sure to put the following canyons on your list: French, St. Louis, Tonty, Wildcat, and Ottawa. They are reported to have the best waterfalls.

Beautiful canyon at Starved Rock State Park

The park was much more crowded than we expected. It was difficult to hike with the enormous crowds. I recommend visiting on a weekday morning, especially if you are hoping for good photo opps and/or peace and quiet! Be prepared for tons of staircases! Some are pretty steep, however, the great views are worth the climb.

One of the many staircase at Starved Rock State Park

We hiked about 4 miles, exploring some of the canyons. The views are beautiful, even without the waterfalls.

Looking down into a canyon at Starved Rock State Park
Walking through a canyon at Starved Rock State Park

Scenic vistas of the Illinois River

There are numerous overlooks with great views of the Illinois River. With the crowds, it was hard to get as many photos as we would have liked, however, we still walked away with a handful of nice photos. We would love to come back in the spring for some waterfall photography.

Illinois Rivers views from an overlook at Starved Rock State Park
Scenic views of the Illinois River from Starved Rock
Looking out at the Illinois River at Starved Rock State Park
Pretty views of the Illinois River - from a Starved Rock observation deck

Additional recreational opportunities

Other activities available within Starved Rock State Park include: camping, boating, fishing, picnicking, kayaking, horseback riding, and cross country skiing during the winter months. The themed trolley tours would be a fantastic opportunity, especially during the October fall colors tour. Check out the full list of Starved Rock trolley tours.

In the visitor’s center, you will find a small free museum, a gift shop, and food stands. You can also take this opportunity to watch videos and learn more about the history of the park. Employees are on hand to answer any questions. Make sure to pick up a hiking map on your visit.

If traveling more than a few hours, you may want to consider booking a night at the Starved Rock Lodge, which is conveniently located inside the park. Both lodge rooms and cabins are available. Visit the Starved Rock Website for information on booking a room.

Address: 2668 E. 875th Rd. Oglesby, IL 61348

Entrance is free.