An Unforgettable Trip Through The Starved Rock Area

Being from the city of Chicago, I am use to seeing tall buildings, crowded highways and people everywhere. The only times I felt like I was surrounding myself with the outdoors were the times I would go to the lakefront to lay in the grass and watch the waves of the water.

This past weekend I got a chance to explore Starved Rock State Park to go for a hike. Of course, I’ve never truly hiked before, so I was a little bit anxious to give it a try. The drive was just 90 mins outside of the Chicago which made for a miniature road trip that was also fun! 

When we made it to our exit, we entered into the Village of Utica. Driving through this quaint downtown was such a treat! There were many different shops and restaurants to look at.

As we drove a little further, we noticed we were getting closer to our destinations. Not only because our GPS said so, but because the trees began to tower over us. 

We finally got to the parking lot and was ready to begin our adventure! When it comes to Starved Rock State Park, I had no idea what to expect. The moment I got there I was taken away. Endless views of greenery and nature, I just couldn’t believe it. 

Starved Rock State Park - view from the top of a canyon

There was so much to cover that we didn’t know where to begin. What helped us were maps that were there to help guide you through each trail. We took our time to really soak in the fresh air, the sounds of the wind and the many different birds chirping. 

One of the trails lead us to the French Canyon, which was more beautiful in person. We managed to grab a quick picture and went on to conquer the rest of the trails. 

French Canyon at Starved Rock State Park

Although there were many people out, that didn’t limit us at all. With so much ground to cover and many different trails to explore, everyone was able to spread out and keep their distance from each other. 

Wooden Walkways at Starved Rock State Park

As the day went on, we stirred up a great big appetite and was ready to tackle some of the local storefronts. From our drive up to Starved Rock we noticed this very colorful and cute ice cream shop we knew we had to visit before it closed. 

The place is called Roxie’s Sweet Confections in Utica, IL. We knew it would be delicious because there were many people outside, enjoying their cold treats. 

Roxie's Sweet Confections

As we got there, all I could think about was a nice big scope of ice cream to cool me off after such a great big hike. We got inside and boy was I surprised! Not only did they sell ice cream but all kinds of goodies from brownies, to gummy candies and chocolate covered everything – even chocolate covered bacon! 

I ordered a creamy ice cream cone and a brookie (brownie and cookie) that I couldn’t take my eyes off of. 

Various desserts from Roxie's Sweet Confections

Since we didn’t have dinner yet, we enjoyed our cold delight and saved our brownie treats for later. 

As the sun began to set, we found ourselves just up the road at The Red Dog Grill in Ottawa, IL. We knew we wanted to eat somewhere outside with a nice view, so this was the perfect spot. When we got there, we noticed there was live music filling the air. 

The menu looked great and made it even harder to choose what to eat. I settled on their Shrimp and Tuna bowl and I have to say I was so glad I did. It was just as refreshing as the ice-cold ice cream after our hike. 

It was a light dish but yet packed with so many flavors! From the cilantro lime rice to the seared yellow fin tuna and fresh shrimp, to the creamy guacamole, it was just perfect! 

Two entreees from The Red Dog Grill in Ottawa

Finally, the sun had set and we were ready to hit the road back home with a happy belly. It was such an eventful day but a memorable one. We got to meet friendly people along the way while experiencing something new together.  

If you’re looking for the perfect escape where you can enjoy the outdoors surrounded by beautiful tall trees, delicious cuisine and a refreshing cold treat, then this is the perfect trip planned out just for you! 

Mariah Scott is the Marketing Assistant for the Heritage Corridor Convention and Visitors Bureau and enjoys traveling through the Heritage Corridor for new adventures while capturing them. As well as trying all the different foods and fun treats along the way. 

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