Skip to main content
Shedd Aquarium
A couple walking beside a massive rock

The Illinois River Runs Through It

Outdoors & Regional

3 Days 100 Miles


East Peoria, LaSalle, Oglesby, Ottawa, Peoria, Utica

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.

Make sure to check with attractions ahead of time for up-to-date operating hours, travel policies and health and safety information.

Day 1:

Ottawa, Oglesby/Utica

  • Two people kayaking on river along a large rock land
  • Burger, chips, and a beer on a table
  • A marina with boats

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.

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.

Day 2:

Oglesby/Utica, LaSalle

  • Two people climbing on rocks in front of a rock waterfall
  • Wine glasses and bottles on a table
  • Three people staring up at a waterfall

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.

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:

Day 3: Peoria/East Peoria

  • A pathway through a garden of plants and flowers
  • A female lion lying on a rock while it is snowing
  • A building at night with a lit up sign

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.


Back to Road Trip Itineraries

More recommendations

Where to next?

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Get inspired by top travel stories, gain access to exclusive promotions and contests, and discover even more reasons to #EnjoyIllinois.