|Distance||2 miles roundtrip|
|Best Seasons||Spring, Summer, Fall|
- Beautiful sandstone cliffs
- Three waterfalls
- Hiking by a creek
Just down the road from Starved Rock State Park, you'll find the slightly less popular but equally scenic Matthiessen State Park and one of the prettiest hikes near Chicago. Because the parking lots here are much smaller than at Starved Rock State Park, fewer people will disrupt your experience in nature even when the lots are packed. This hike along the Bluff Trail takes you through the dramatic sandstone dells this part of Illinois is famous for and passes three majestic waterfalls.
Adjacent to the trailhead stands a historic stockade -- take a look inside before starting your hike. The trail begins by descending the hill to a bridge crossing the dells. Beneath the bridge, you can glimpse a waterfall that you'll see later in the hike. Turn right on the trail just before the bridge to enter the dells; on the official map linked at the bottom of the page, this is labeled as an "interior trail". The trail follows the creek, and you'll enjoy views of sandstone walls surrounding you, as pictured below.
Though the trail isn't particularly long, it's packed with scenic content. The rock formations may not be as impressive as in Starved Rock State Park, but I think the waterfalls here are better. Visit both and decide for yourself! Connect with me using the social media links below and share your adventures!
Dogs are allowed on leash. This is a great hike for kids with its beautiful sights and many opportunities to play in the creek. You can hike this trail in the three warmer seasons, but I would avoid it in the winter because the stairs will be dangerously icy. While not as popular as nearby Starved Rock State Park, this park is usually busy and you should expect to see many people on your hike.
From Chicago, take Interstate 55 south to Interstate 80 west. After about an hour and a half of driving, take the exit for Illinois Highway 178, then turn left. Continue straight through North Utica and over the bridge. Look for a sign for Matthiessen State Park, then turn right and park in the lot at the end of the road.
Google Maps Directions
Parking, Fees, and Facilities
Parking is free! There are flush toilets, water fountains, a historic fort, and a picnic area near the parking lot.
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