Full disclosure: some of my photos are from a previous hike because the waterfalls were much fuller than the hike we did recently.
If you live in Illinois, you have probably heard of Starved Rock State Park. Matthiessen State Park is just south of Starved Rock. It is a smaller park with a shorter hike, but it is one of my favorites because of the waterfalls. For the best possible waterfalls, I would recommend taking this hike between April and June.
Matthiessen State Park is located in Oglesby, IL. For me, living in the western suburbs, it was a little over an hour’s drive. If your drive is longer, there are plenty of options for camping as well as lodging (if camping is not your thing). Camping is never my thing, just saying.
The hiking in Matthiessen is split into two levels: and Upper Dell and a Lower Dell. The Upper Dells has gravel surfaced hiking trails that look down into the canyons.
The hike in the Lower Dells is well-marked but a bit more rustic. If you head down into the lower dells, and I highly recommend you do, be prepared for the stairways. There are various sections of the lower dells and you will get a workout taking each of those steps.
Once you get down into the lower dells, the views are incredible. Beautiful rock formations, bluffs, and deep canyons.
You will find, along your hike, carvings into the sandstone. Mostly names. While I do not agree with defacing nature in such a way, I do have to chuckle a little when I see something like this:
One of my favorite things to look for when I hike are exposed root systems. I don’t know why but I find this creepy and cool at the same time. It looks like a den of snakes (creepy) but I am amazed at the beauty of nature itself. Seriously, how is this tree still standing with all of its roots above ground?
The main attraction at this state park are the waterfalls. Catching them at their peak in the spring (or after multiple days of rainfall) will also require you to wear shoes that you don’t mind getting wet and/or muddy.
I would imagine this hike would also be really pretty in late September through October to see the changing colors on the trees. While you are down there, check out the restaurants and brew pubs in downtown Utica. A beer tastes really good after a long hike!