If you and your hound-dog hiker are looking for a pretty place to stretch your legs in the Utica, IL area, you’d be barking mad not to check out Starved Rock State Park! At just over 2,500 acres, the park might not be the largest in the area, but it’s famed far and wide for it’s striking, deep-cut canyons and gorgeous waterfalls. The park has 13 miles of trails for you and your pupper to sniff and explore, and there’s one for every age and ability, from the most athletic animals to committed couch pup-tatoes. You’ll find free parking at the Visitors Center just off Route 71. All the trails in Starved Rock can be easily hiked in an afternoon, but if you want to take your time or enjoy a night in the great outdoors, you and your buddy can pitch your tent at Starved Rock Campground. Starved Rock is pretty pawpular with locals and tourists alike, so it’s best to get there early if you’re looking to snatch some solitude.
The trail system at Starved Rock is both well-marked and interconnected -- look up a map before you go and you and your doggo should be able to plan a route all over. The unique rock canyons are the result of glacial melt after the last ice age, and pools and waterfalls form in different parts of the park depending on the weather. Most of the routes are lined by tall, mature trees, so you and your pooch can keep cool even in the summer! If you’re searching for a sedate stroll, check out the Saint Louis Canyon Trail, a mostly level route with scenery so calming that local yoga classes come here for meditation. Or if you’re up for a bit more of a challenge, consider trying the Starved Rock and Sandstone Point Overlook Trail, which runs for five miles and boasts wonderful views of the river valley and a lake. You might even spot some eagles!
While none of the trails in Starved Rock State Park are particularly taxing, they’re not entirely accessible, either. Even the flattest and shortest routes can incorporate a couple of steps that could cause problems for wheelchairs or strollers, and the terrain can be pretty uneven. In terms of facilities, you’ll find restrooms dotted throughout the park, and there are snack stands at some trailheads. Remember to bring waste bags and water for your four-pawed pal, and enjoy your walk!