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Backpacker Magazine – January 2014

Time-Scultpted Treks

Discover rock formations so unique you won’t even miss the mountains.

by: Kim Phillips

Photo by Laurence Parent
Photo by BP0114MW_Parent_EnchantedRock_bjk445x260.jpg
Photo by Laurence Parent

Starved Rock State Park, IL
Ottawa, Kaskaskia, and Illinois Canyons

As melting glaciers retreated from this region thousands of years ago, they left behind massive lakes that continually overflowed, scouring the exposed rocks into a hiker’s paradise of sandstone bluffs and canyons. “Starved Rock is one of those places that’s not too far from city life but still gives you that wilderness feel,” says Brian Thompson. Hike this 3.9-mile out-and-back in March or April to see the waterfalls in three of the park’s 18 canyons. From the lot at the east end of the park, descend north toward the Illinois River and turn right at .3 mile. Less than half a mile later, head right at the mouth of the first canyon and pass Council Overhang, a towering rock amphitheater. Next, tour inside neighboring Ottawa and Kaskaskia Canyons to see waterfalls trickling over 30-foot, moss-draped cliffs. Backtrack and turn right for the .8-mile round-trip into Illinois Canyon (after heavy rain, you’ll see up to six waterfalls along this stretch). Finish at Hennepin Canyon Overlook for views over the Illinois. 

Trailhead 41.306073, -88.952136; 90 miles southwest of Chicago on IL 71 Info (815) 667-4726; Website

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