Family Hike in Matthiessen State Park – Illinois

Our first stop in the Heritage Corridor area was to Starved Rock State Park.  While Starved Rock boasts impressive river overlooks, an extensive trail system, and visitor amenities, we found the less popular Matthiessen State Park to be the perfect spot for our family. 

Stunning waterfalls and a unique creek path made our Family Hike in Matthiessen State Park perfect!

Cascade Falls in Matthiessen State Park, IL


Location and Parking

Matthiessen State Park is located along Route 178, just south of Starved Rock State Park and Grizzly Jack’s Grand Bear Resort

Easy parking is available along the south end of the park, however, we took the hard way. Traveling west along Route 71 from the Route 71/178 intersection, go about a mile or so to Deer Park Lane. This is confusing because it looks like you are turning south into a private driveway for the houses and golf course, but the narrow road turns into a bumpy gravel road that leads around the golf course to the Lake Shelter. I would NOT recommend driving a large camper or trailer into this area. 

These are directions that were given to us by a park ranger at the Visitor Center in Starved Rock State Park. Obtain a copy of this trail and parking map for Matthiessen State Park at the Visitor Center at Starved Rock State Park. The yellow line marks the road to the parking lot. Parking and Hiking map for Matthiessen State Park, IL


These directions lead you to a small parking lot near the Lake Shelter. Don’t be fooled by the lack of maintenance for this building. Follow the path and you’ll be steps away from Lake Falls. This spot seems to be a local secret and hangout area.

Lake House in Matthiessen State Park, IL


Lake Falls

Here is what all the trouble and effort is for!

Lake Falls in Matthiessen State Park, IL

There is a path and wooded stairs leading down into the canyon and along the stream edge. Visitors can either hike on the crushed rock trail that goes around the canyons or take the stream trail along the edge of the water.

Several series of concrete stones and board walks lead along the stream bed. This area is not as easily accessible and therefore is less populated with visitors. 

Round stone creek path in Matthiessen State Park, IL 


Giant’s Bathtub

Continuing downstream from Lake Falls is the Giant’s Bathtub. Again, wooden stairs and round stone steps lead along the stream bed. 

Cascade Falls

As the stream bed continues south, visitors will come to the “end”. A heavy metal gate prevents guests from trying to go down Cascade Falls for safety. Hikers can make their way up a set of wooden stairs onto the main path by the bridge. Follow the main path that is on the west side of the Canyon. Go south until you see another bridge and concrete stairway that will lead safely into the Canyon. (Labeled near Devil’s Paint Box on the map).

Bridge and stairway that leads down to Wishing Well in Matthiessen State Park, IL

Always follow posted rules and signs. DO NOT try to access the canyon in any other way except for the designated paths. 

Enjoy the Canyon!  This was by far our family’s favorite spot in both parks during our visit. Our visit was in the spring after heavy rains. 

Our total time on our Family Hike in Matthiessen State Park was around two hours. The cool temperatures along the stream bed and the relaxing atmosphere encouraged us to linger and enjoy.


Family Hike in Matthiessen State Park 

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