Overlooking the Illinois River, Starved Rock is home to 18 water-carved sandstone canyons; 14 waterfalls, including some that freeze into glittering walls in winter; abundant wildlife and birds, notably a big wintering population of bald eagles; Belle of the Rock paddlewheel boat excursions; and guided hikes, special events and interpretive programs. Though visitors number in the millions, the atmosphere remains friendly and surprisingly uncrowded on the 13 miles of well-marked trails, where Starved Rock's true beauty really shines through. (Most trailheads start at the visitors center, and all hikers must be off the trails by dark.)
At treetop level, a network of steps and ramps lead from one stunning overlook to the next The canyon bottoms provide unique views of the falls and rock formations. Strollers and wheelchairs are limited to the trails around the visitors center, but even these are lovely. Good trail signage tells you not only where you are, but also stories that lend enriching context.
Starved Rock offers lodging at the 133-site campground, historic lodge and Pioneer Cabins. The lodge, built by the CCC in the 1930s, has an indoor swimming pool, Wi-Fi, conference rooms, a white-napkin restaurant (the atmosphere is romantic in a rustic way, but the overpriced food is just OK), massage therapists on staff and The Backdoor Patio lounge with live entertainment.