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Chicago, IL: Matthiessen State Park

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Star Star Star Star Star

Distance: 5.8 miles


A lush, green garden of waterfalls and giant pools awaits on the dells of Matthiessen State Park; this route tacks on a bluff-top viewpoint for 5.8-miles of prime Illinois day-hiking.
  • Falls
  • Falls
  • Giant's Bathtub
  • Bridge
  • Vermilion River

The highlight of 1,938-acre Matthiessen State Park is a narrow, mile-long canyon carved in sandstone by moving water. This moderately strenuous 5.8-mile hike begins by following the edge of the Upper Dell briefly and then dips toward the shady canyon floor. Admire both the top-down and bottom-up views of Lake Falls and be sure to stop for a photo of the aptly-named Giant’s Bathtub. The canyon’s moist, water-carved habitat is perfect for mosses, liverworts, and a several amphibian species—also look for cliff swallows and rock doves in the pock-marked canyon walls. Toward the canyon’s southern end, this route tucks into the Lower Dell for a peek at Cascade Fall’s impressive 40-foot drop before turning toward the park’s southern half.

Though you could spend lots of time exploring the forested bluffs and canyon floor, this route’s mileage comes from a more traditional 3.7-mile out-and-back extension that climbs to an open prairie, and follows a horse trail to several developed picnic areas. The payoff is a bluff-top overlook 150 feet above the Vermilion River.

-Mapped by Ted Villaire

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