As promised on Monday... Starved Rock!
For those of you who live in more interesting/hiking-friendly areas (i.e. not the Midwest), Starved Rock may not be too exciting, but for those of us who live in either the urban jungle (Chicago) or on flat farmland (the rest of Illinois), it is quite an awesome place to visit. Not only can you get a serious cardio workout, it's also a really beautiful area. There are miles and miles of trails that lead to random waterfalls and cool rock formations - it's amazing that such a place exists less than two hours from Chicago! Before I discovered Starved Rock, I didn't think there were any really great places to hike in Illinois (I was mostly heading up to WI or over to MI to get my hiking fix).
I would love to go back during the winter to see the frozen waterfalls (click on each trail to see photos), but I have to admit that I'm a bit of a wuss when it comes to sliding around on the ice. :-)
French Canyon: It's the easiest waterfall to hike to, which also makes it the one of the most popular/crowded. However, it's a really gorgeous little area - one of the most scenic areas in the park and definitely worth fighting through the crowds!
One of my favorite rock formations - I named him Jabba Rock :-)
Wildcat Canyon: The largest drop in the park (125 ft!). There are three views of this waterfall - most people consider the prettiest one to be at the bottom, but it does involve a climb down a very steep set of stairs (quite a few people have fallen to their deaths in this canyon). While the view from the bottom is stunning, I also really love the view from the East - it almost feels like you're on a tropical island and not in the middle of IL.
We spent quite a bit of time contemplating whether or not this was carved. It was quite deep in the woods though, which made us decide that it wasn't... maybe. :-)