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Summer Day Hike at Starved Rock State Park

Sunshine and Smiles, All Summer Long.

It’s the middle of summer and time for that trip to Starved Rock State Park! But time is limited and you’re determined to see as much as possible. Where should you go? Or which canyons may have a waterfall flowing? Here’s the perfect summer day hike guide for those seeking summer sunshine and good times.

Starved Rock

Starting your Hike at Starved Rock: Start your day by parking at the visitor center parking lot and begin your hike up to Starved Rock. Need a map of the park? Click here to download our new map!

There are 360 degree views of the landscape once at the top of Starved Rock. Make sure to spot the lodge on the backside of Starved Rock (nestled in the trees), and Lover’s Leap Overlook along the Illinois River (Right across from the rock). Please note that bald eagle sightings along the Illinois River are more common in the winter as they are challenged with finding food, however, they still can be seen in the summer.

From here, we recommend hiking to Eagle Cliff Overlook or Wildcat Canyon. If you’re unsure which to visit, take a look at our ‘Find a Hike’ feature on our website. Click here to view all the hikes at Starved Rock!

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If you choose the Eagle Cliff route you will end up at one of the best views overlooking the park and river, but you should be prepared if it’s a windy day. On a windy morning, the wind at the top of the cliff will be sure to wake you up! The majority of this trail is also on a boardwalk and involves 1 long staircase. Hence its name, bald eagles are common at this overlook as well as many other sights such as pelicans, ducks, herons, and more.

Wildcat Canyon

If you are looking to venture to a waterfall, then we recommend going straight to Wildcat Canyon after descending down from the rock. The hike to the top of Wildcat is only about 1 mile each way. Keep in mind that waterfalls are seasonal and are rainfall dependent. If you’re looking to see water flowing and it has not rained in a while, then we recommend trying St. Louis Canyon, LaSalle Canyon or the nearby Matthiessen State Park. These waterfalls are more likely to have some water flowing, possibly even on hot summer days. Once you have arrived at Wildcat, you can choose to continue along the bluff trail towards Sandstone Point Overlook, turn back, or descend down the stairs in Wildcat Canyon.

From Wildcat Canyon, we recommend returning to the visitor center area to take a break from the heat. Hikers can grab a bite to eat at Trailheads in the Visitor Center. For those looking for a sit down restaurant, we recommend trying out the veranda at the Starved Rock Lodge. Lunch is also served in the main dining room at the Lodge should you prefer to sit indoors. Alternatively, visitors can take a 5 minute drive into Utica, IL for lunch with the many options that the quaint small town offers.

Council Overhang
Kaskaskia Canyon

For those wanting to continue their hike after a lunch break, we recommend driving through the Starved Rock Curves to the East end of the park and parking in the Council Overhang parking lot along Route 71. 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 Canyon, which may be flowing after a rainfall. There is not much of an elevation change in the East end of the park, so we recommend saving this part for after you have completed the more challenging hikes.

Alternate Route:

If you are the thrill seeker who is yearning for a longer hike, then we recommend visiting LaSalle Canyon located in the middle of the park. Hikers can park in the Parkman’s Plain parking lot along Route 71, and the hike is about a mile from the lot to the canyon. Hikers can also access LaSalle Canyon from the river or bluff trail at Wildcat Canyon, but this would greatly increase the distance of hiking required. If you attempt this longer route, make sure you have plenty of water and a snack. You’ll thank us later!

Starved Rock Country Welcome Center

After Your Hike:

Once you’ve finished your hike, we recommend stopping at the Starved Rock Country Welcome Center, an Illinois Made Gift Shoppe. The shoppe features gifts from Illinois artisans, makers, and attractions from the region. The shoppe is located at 248 W. Canal Street, North Utica, IL. and is open seven days a week from 12:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Waterfall Flow Reporting

As a reminder, we are asking every person who hikes to a waterfall this summer to share their waterfall photos on our website at 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 your summer 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 trail!

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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.