a trip along the banks of the illinois

The area around Starved Rock is renowned for its natural beauty. But beyond the majestic rock formations and waterfalls, in the nearby small towns all the way to Peoria, the Illinois River area offers lots to explore. Historic homes, breweries and wineries, cozy cabins, they're all worth the hike after you hike.

Many places have reopened with limited capacity, new operating hours or other restrictions. Inquire ahead of time for up-to-date health and safety information.

  • Day 1-2: Ottawa

Offering an ideal terrain for the beginner hiker, Buffalo Rock State Park is where you’ll start your adventure. Mounds representing five earthen sculptures, known as Effigy Tumuli, invite visitors to walk around and explore. Also nearby is the Ottawa Scouting Museum, a unique stop to learn about the history of scouts and the Ottawa-area. For great food and refreshing brews, The Lone Buffalo has dinner covered.

Relax overnight at Heritage Harbor, a marina resort community offering vacation rentals.

  • Day 1-2: Oglesby/Utica

Starved Rock State Park is characterized by seasonal waterfalls, awe-inspiring bluffs and rugged canyons waiting to be explored! After a day of hiking, Starved Rock Lodge is the perfect spot to relax and rest-up before your next adventure. Satisfy your appetite in their rustic dining room before hitting the hay.

Just a few miles south is Matthiessen State Park, another great way to spend the day. Visitors can expect to see beautiful rock formations in addition to unusual and abundant vegetation and wildlife. When you’re ready to relax, August Hill Winery’s tasting room awaits.

  • Day 2: LaSalle

Enjoying the views but wanting to rest your feet? The I&M Canal National Heritage Area has mule-pulled boat rides, a perfect way to take in the sights. The Lock 16 Visitor Center serves delicious breakfast and lunch.

Onwards to Princeton, stop at The Red Covered Bridge, one of only five remaining in Illinois. For “fresh, friendly, foodie-approved” fare, head to Spoons Restaurant & Bar.

  • Day 3: Peoria/East Peoria

In Peoria, animal lovers have no shortage of activities with both the Peoria Zoo and Wildlife Prairie Park home to hundreds of furry (and not so furry) friends. The only multidisciplinary museum of its kind in the nation, time will fly by at a visit to the Peoria Riverfront Museum. If you’re looking for more majestic scenery, Grandview Drive offers incredible views of the Illinois River. Or spend the afternoon relaxing at Luthy Botanical Garden, home to a tropical conservatory and seasonal shows. For your evening’s entertainment, try your luck at Par-A-Dice Casino and enjoy house-smoked BBQ, craft beers, cocktails & whisky at The Blue Duck Barbecue Tavern.