Tuesday, May 25, 2021

2 Illinois State Parks

I'd love to say that we needed some more exploring in our life and chose these parks after doing lots of research. No, no, make no mistake. The only reason we stopped at Starved Rock State Park and Mattheissen State Park in Illinois is because we were going to and from Chicago and the dog needed walked.  

We left Des Moines early Saturday morning to spend time at Indiana Dunes National Park. Our black lab, Zeus, is an expert road tripper now, but he definitely has to get out for a good amount of exercise every 2 - 3 hours (which just so happens to be our limit as well). He does amazing at night, but I was exhausted last Friday after working all week. That meant we needed to find some good hikes to do along the way.

I had seen a cool picture in my hiking group on Facebook and saw that the state park it was taken in was right on our way! We were Starved Rock first timers and we were definitely taken aback by how BUSY it was when we pulled in. Luckily, we did a hike that was away from the main action, so it wasn't a huge issue.

We chose to do the LaSalle Canyon hike. Full disclosure: it was a lot of stairs and quite a bit of climbing in and and out of places, not to mention very muddy in certain sections of the trail, but when we got to the waterfall, it was so worth it! Parking for this trail was not by the visitors center or lodge. We had to drive through the park and on the highway to get to the trailhead. There was plenty of parking at the trail head, along with portable toilets. The hike was fairly shaded, but we lathered ourselves in bug spray (thank goodness!) and still received a few bites on the arms.

Getting to the waterfall was the biggest surprise. We were expecting a waterfall, but we weren't expecting to play in it! Sliding down waterfalls is one of our favorite things! The minis had a blast. We stayed longer than we anticipated at the falls because we were having so much fun.

Nothing beats hiking to a gorgeous, cool spot AND being able to swim and play! Everyone worked hard on that hike and burned a lot of energy, so we treated the minis to Portillo's for a late lunch. Those Cliff bars certainly weren't cutting it!

As we left Chicago late Sunday afternoon, I knew we were leaving at a time that could spell disaster later on for us. It was too early to deep sleep in the car. We'd have to get out at some point and burn some energy. So, we found ourselves back in the same area as Starved Rock at Mattheissen State Park. This was an unexpectedly muddy hike with A LOT of stairs, but it was worth it! There was an amazing cave system surrounding the waterfall. We explored as much as we could before we climbed back out of the canyon and drove the rest of the way home. 

We spent so much time in the canyon that we didn't finish the hiking trail (we only did about half). We went back the way we came, but still managed to walk/climb over a mile.

After spending the last part of our hike complaining about how many stairs they had to do to get to the top, we were greeted by a fort. What was the first thing the kids asked to do? Run up the stairs to the loft area in the fort! Oh the irony.

The funniest thing all weekend: on our way to Starved Rock on Saturday, our navigation system notified us that there was a police car on the highway. We noticed it upon on return to the area on Sunday. As we inspected in, we realized the town placed empty police vehicles along the highway, likely to reduce speeding! Clever and it worked!

I honestly wish both of these state parks were closer to home because I'd visit these over and over again! 

** Planning a trip to/near these parks? The town the parks are located in, Oglesby, IL, has numerous shops and restaurants. Ottawa, IL is around 20 minutes away and seemed like such a quaint, fun town with plenty of options for all your needs.