Ah Winter. While it may be frigid and icy, the scenery is quite beautiful and still. To see all of nature’s winter beauty, you have to go to Starved Rock Lodge. The Lodge and State Park are open all year round and there are so many seasonal activities to enjoy while you’re there.
While I have hiked at Starved Rock in the past, I have never done a winter hike because 1. I don’t like the cold and 2. I don’t like slipping on ice. Unlike other times hiking at Starved Rock, I made sure to bundle up, put on a pair of warm waterproof boots, and packed extra layers before I hit the trail. I headed out to explore the West end of the park and hiked to St. Louis Canyon which was a new trail to me as well.
Hiking in the winter is a little bit different than hiking in other seasons because you need to wear some more gear and layer up. I wore a pair of YakTrax on my warm, waterproof boots to help get some traction on the icy trails. Let me tell you these were lifesavers. If I didn’t wear them on the hike, I would have been slipping all over the place and it would not have been enjoyable. I would also recommend wearing a bright colored coat so you really stand out in photos.
I lucked out on having perfect weather on the hike. It was a crisp 33 degrees without a breeze in the air. Since it wasn’t bitter cold, the waterfalls and streams were not completely frozen so it was neat to see them still flowing. Once the waterfalls are frozen solid, you can ice climb on them!
There are so many cool photo opportunities on this trail. The bright orange St. Peter sandstone stands out from the rest of the rock. You can also see the green ferns peeking out from the freshly fallen snow.
After hiking, relax in the Great Hall by the giant fireplace and grab a hot chocolate or a seasonal cocktail from the Back Door Lounge. The Main Dining Room is open with limited seating and reservations are required. The Back Door Lounge is also open for drinks, but bar seating is not available at this time.
You really can’t experience the whole park in one day, so stay at the Lodge overnight and hit the trails in the morning. There are a variety of rooms available including lodge rooms, hotel rooms, and cabins. Also ask about their winter packages to spice up your stay and their hot rate days to save.
Planning on going to Starved Rock Lodge for the first time this winter? Take a guided hike or hop on a trolley tour to see and learn about the park from a different point of view. If you head to the lodge on February 28, check out the sled dog demos at the Visitors Center’s west parking lot. They will take place at 9:30 am, noon, and 3 pm. Face masks and gloves will be required to pet the sled dogs.
Submitted by Elle Bottom (dontstoplovin)