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Fall Colors Day Hike at Starved Rock State Park

For the adventurer who wants to see it all.

Leaves are starting to fall, and you’re excited to take a roadtrip to Starved Rock to experience Fall in full force.

Starved Rock Curves on Rt. 71

However, you only have 1 day to explore the park and you don’t want to miss out on the best fall spots. Should you visit a canyon? Or mae go for an overlook? Are some better than others? We’ve put together the perfect day hike for those visiting the park in the Fall, with plenty to see along the way!

 
Before You Drive to the Park

Before you visit, make sure to check the current status of the Fall colors at the park by visiting our park dashboard. As of October 7th 2023, the region is in the 'patchy’ color phase! We are starting to see trees begin the process of turning colors. Different species of trees will change color sooner along with other factors such as location and stresses on the trees.

 
Starting Your Hike

Start your day by parking at the Visitor Center parking lot and begin your hike up to Starved Rock. There are 360 degree views of the Fall colors once to the top of Starved Rock. Make sure to spot the lodge on the backside of Starved Rock (nestled in the fall trees!), and Lover’s Leap Overlook along the Illinois River (Right across from the rock).


Eagle Cliff Overlook

From here, we recommend hiking to Eagle Cliff Overlook. If you have extra time you can stop at Lover’s Leap Overlook along the way, but if you’re in a hurry then we recommend skipping Lover’s Leap. Once you arrive at Eagle Cliff, you can see fall colors as far as the eye can see! This overlook also boasts some of the best views of the Illinois River. The sun rises directly above the Illinois River, so this overlook is especially magical during sunrise. The majority of this trail is also on a boardwalk and involves 1 long staircase. Hence its name, bald eagles are quite common at this overlook as well as many other sights such as pelicans, ducks, herons, and more.


Hennepin Canyon Bluff Trail

Those looking for a long day hike can descend to the river trail and keep hiking East towards LaSalle Canyon. While it is common to see leaves falling in the canyon during Fall, it likely won’t be flowing that good unless there has been a good amount of rainfall prior to the hike. Hikers can continue East along the trail into Hennepin Canyon, which is one of our favorite Fall hikes. This less popular river trail can be one of the most scenic when leaves are falling. This is one of the most remote areas of the entire park, where you can often hear (and see) the leaves falling from trees to the ground. The trail is roughly 3 miles from the visitors center and can also be accessed via a gravel parking lot along Route 71, which makes for a much shorter hike. Hikers trek through woodlands and along the Illinois River with even a few lookouts along the way!


Council Overhang

For those wanting to continue their hike, we recommend continuing East and crossing the road towards the Council Overhang area. Council Overhang is the enormous cave inside of the park, where you’ll sure to feel tiny compared to nature. Hikers can continue along this trail and will come across Ottawa and Kaskaskia Canyons.

 
Alternate Route
Ottawa Canyon

For those still wanting to visit Council Overhang but not wanting to hike the 4 mile trail from the Visitor Center, the Council Overhang area can be accessed via a parking lot off Route 71. Once parked, it’s less than a half mile to Council Overhang and can be completed by most fairly quickly. Hikers can also access Ottawa and Kaskaskia canyons along this trail. Illinois Canyon is also easily accessible from this parking lot, or hikers can jump in a car and park in the Illinois Canyon designated lot just down the road. No matter the route, you’re sure to enjoy the views along the way!


 

As a reminder, we are asking every person who hikes to a waterfall to submit a waterfall flow rate report on our website at starvedrockhikers.com/waterfall-report. This takes less than 60 seconds and can be completed for all the major waterfalls within Starved Rock State Park. You can also attach photos/video clips of the waterfall.


Don’t forget to tag us and use the hashtag #starvedrockhikers when sharing all of your Fall hiking adventures! We’ll also do our best to keep hikers informed via our Hikers group on Facebook. Click here to join for free!


See you on the trails.



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Every time you purchase a product from Starved Rock Hikers, you are also helping the park. A portion of our annual proceeds are donated to the Starved Rock Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports Starved Rock & Matthiessen through educational programs, guided hikes, exhibit updates, and more.

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