Thousands of years ago the Wisconsin Glacial Episode set off a rapid series of climatic events known as the Kankakee Torrent; hard charging flood waters that stripped and scoured the earth exposing the St. Petersburg Sandstone layer. It is this event and sandstone which makes up the unique topography of Starved Rock today. Surrounded by flatlands and moraines you will find an abundance of waterfalls, 18 dark cool canyons, scenic bluff overlooks and the Illinois River teeming with wildlife. This is one of the mid-west's most awe-inspiring destinations.
Starved Rock is a 2600 acre State Park situated along the southern banks of the Illinois River. Whether you’re strolling some of the parks 13 miles of hiking trails, camping, paddling, fishing the river or learning about the areas rich history it's easy to see why this is Illinois busiest State Park. Starved Rock hosts over 2 million annually visitors.
What makes this camp great for bike camping?
Whether you’re riding out to Starved Rock from Chicago for a simple overnighter (approximately 100 miles southwest of the city) or making this a stop on your week long Grand Illinois Trail tour, the park has everything you need to make it work. If your daily mileage goals aren't quite that ambitious pick up the Metra from downtown and start riding in Joliet where the I&M Canal Trail begins and the train ends, how convenient! The trail is mostly gravel but if that doesn't work for your carbon race bike you can easily link up quiet country roads all the way to the park (approximately 50 miles).
Starved Rock State Park Trail Map
I&M Canal Trail [pdf]- East Section | West Section
Grand Illinois Trail Guide [pdf]
Campsites & Lodging
There are 133 sites all with electricity and bathhouse access. The sites are generally grassy, spacious, and open with a handful of sites in the surrounding forest. Fees range from $25-35 per night plus a $5 fee if you make a reservation. Also situated within the park is the Starved Rock Lodge which was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The lodge offers 69 rooms as well as 21 cabins that are scattered throughout the woods surrounding the lodge. *Note: Weekend lodge and cabins require a 2 night stay, even during the off season.
Reservations are recommended early & can be had at:
State Park Lodge and Cabins: http://www.starvedrocklodge.com/
Tent Camping: http://www.reserveamerica.com/
Things to Do in the Park...
At Starved rock you are rewarded for braving the frigid Midwest winters. This season brings the American bald eagles to the park in abundance. Illinois has the largest wintering bald eagle population outside of Alaska! You will consistently see them high in the trees that sit atop the islands just below the dam. As well as soaring overhead as you hike the canyons or cycle the areas roads. Winter also does wonders for the park’s numerous waterfalls freezing them in time. Wildcat, St. Louis and Illinois Canyons are my personal winter favorites.
There is a small camp store/shack on site which sells firewood, ice and marshmallows. (May-Oct) Or grab some beer, wine, and food from the Backdoor Lounge, located an easy 2 miles away at the Starved Rock Lodge. Grocery is available in the nearby towns of Utica and Ottawa. *Note: You will have to leave alcohol beverages in town or at the backdoor lounge because alcohol is PROHIBITED in the State Park campground.
Nearby Train Stations
The Rock Island Metra Train stops at:
Chicago, 35th St., Gresham, 95th St., 103rd St., Brainerd, 91st St., 95th St., 99th St., 103rd St., 107th St., 111th St., 115th St. - Morgan Park, 119th St., 123rd St., Prairie St., Blue Island, Robbins, Midlothian, Oak Forest, Tinley Park, Tinley Park - 80th Ave., Mokena - Hickory Creek, Mokena - Front St., New Lenox, and JOLIET
Matthiessen State Park (9 miles of awesome single track bike trails and some sweet hiking),
LaSalle County Historical Society Museum
(Fantastic look into local history),
Vermillion River Rafting
(Some of Illinois premiere white water paddling)
Duffy’s Tavern (Cool Townie spot with great food).
Upon your visit
Be aware of your surroundings! Do not go past marked barriers or attempt to climb the rock walls. Off trail hiking is not allowed. Every year visitors are badly injured due to carelessness around the steep cliffs and eroding sandstone. With that being said, the park is truly spectacular and Iike nothing else you will see in the state. Don't miss the eastern/quiet end of the park. Council overhang and Illinois canyon are not to be missed and certain to impress.
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