Matthiessen State Park
Canyons, streams, prairie and forest combine to delight visitors at Matthiessen State Park. Located in central LaSalle County, approximately 4 miles south of Utica and 3 miles east of Oglesby, Matthiessen is a paradise for those interested in geology as well as recreation. Visitors can expect to see beautiful rock formations in addition to unusual and abundant vegetation and wildlife. All of this, along with park and picnic facilities, make Matthiessen State Park a popular choice for a special outing.
This place was amazing. Bring shoe that can get wet or water proof shoes. You can hike up canyons. They have some stepping stones to cross rivers but not enough. The water falls at the end of the canyons were beautiful. Plenty of stairs to get down into the canyon. Then keep walking and you can find another set of stairs to get out. Definitely with doing.
If you're considering Starved Rock and haven't been here, go here. Make sure you hit both the waterfall AND the southern end. My preferred path is taking the UPPER counter clockwise trail...across the waterfall. Then descend into the valley and hang out at the waterfall. Then head south through the valley. Then go to the southern end. If you still have time then go to Starved Rock SP. Start at St Louis canyon since it is right there on IL-178. Otherwise go as far east as you can on IL-71 as you can: Kaskaskia Canyon, Illinois Canyon, Horseshoe Canyon, etc.
Nice relaxing hike with nice waterfall views. Really a great place to get lost in nature. Prepare accordingly with footwear because you might get wet on parts of the trail. Matthiessen State Park is a hidden gem in central Illinois that can be visited anytime of year. Packing a light lunch is recommended. I can't stress enough to bring footwear that's waterproof or bringing a 2nd pair of shoes.
Great family place or just to get away alone from stresses of the city. Cell phone service was off half the time so it's a great place to go if you'd like to not be bothered by anyone and just enjoy nature.
The Upper Dells and Lower Dells trails are great. What you want to do is go down into the canyons because the non-canyon trails are rather boring. The Lower Dells has a large waterfall and a massive canyon whereas the Upper Dells has a smaller stream running through it, but it does have a waterfall close to the lake at the northern end.