Exploring the hidden gem Matthiessen State Park in Illinois with the Family

When I was planning our visit to the Starved Rock area, I kept hearing great things about Matthiessen State Park. Some people even said that they preferred Matthiessen over Starved Rock. Well, that was enough to pique my curiosity — we just had to check it out ourselves. The verdict? We were not disappointed at all. Read on to learn more.

Start at the Visitor Center

If you want more information on the area, your best bet is to go to the Starved Rock Visitor Center. They were super helpful in showing us a better way to get to Matthiessen State Park as well as providing trail maps.

The secret way to get to Matthiessen State Park

We followed the directions to the “secret entrance” given by the park ranger at Starved Rock State Park’s Visitor Center. We headed south on Rt. 178 and made a right turn on Rt. 71. We passed an old horse barn on the right, then made a left on the street by the golf course. We passed a few residential homes and continued until we reached a small parking lot by the Lake Shelter.

Exploring the hidden gem Matthiessen State Park in Illinois with the Family

Lake Waterfall Trail

We then followed the boardwalk and immediately saw stairs leading down to the trail. Since water levels were a little higher due to area rainfalls we may have been a little hesitant going down. But then we saw another family exploring and decided if they could do it, so could we!

Exploring the hidden gem Matthiessen State Park in Illinois with the Family

Exploring the hidden gem Matthiessen State Park in Illinois with the Family

And boy are we glad we decided to try it out. We crossed the stream by hopping on these concrete steps, logs, and rocks. Basically, anything to keep from getting wet. But we couldn’t avoid it — the water was just too high at some spots.

Exploring the hidden gem Matthiessen State Park in Illinois with the Family

Exploring the hidden gem Matthiessen State Park in Illinois with the Family

Someone was pretty excited to have conquered the first part of these trails.

 

Exploring the hidden gem Matthiessen State Park in Illinois with the Family

Exploring the hidden gem Matthiessen State Park in Illinois with the Family

In the end, we were proud of our accomplishment and deemed ourselves, explorers. 

Exploring the hidden gem Matthiessen State Park in Illinois with the Family

And yes, it was totally worth it! Along the way, we admired the beauty all around us. Just breathtaking.

Exploring the hidden gem Matthiessen State Park in Illinois with the Family

Exploring the hidden gem Matthiessen State Park in Illinois with the Family

Cascade Falls Trail…and other trail

The main highlight of this trip was to get Cascade Falls. From the main parking lot (by the fort), we headed down the stairs (be prepared for a LOT of them!) and made a left until we saw the the stairs entrance to the Lower Dells. 

View of bridge after going down the stairs

I obviously couldn’t read the map, so we ventured to the opposite direction of Cascade. Our little crew tried their best to stick to the trails but quickly found that it was too muddy (even losing a shoe). An executive decision was made to stick to the creek instead — wet shoes and all! 

It was quite an adventure and tons of fun. I’m glad we got lost! 

 

Fort

Before leaving, we scoped out the restored fort, similar to those built by the French during the 1600s and 1700s.

Tip: There are washrooms across from the fort.

Bottom Line:

We absolutely loved our time at Matthiessen State Park. It’s a definite must see if you’re in the area. 

Tips to enjoy Matthiessen State Park:

  • Bring an extra set of clothes and shoes in case you get wet or get muddy.
  • Bring a garbage bag. Once you go deeper in the trails, there are no garbage cans. Bring a bag to stow your garbage until you find a trash can.

Nitty Gritty:

Website: dnr.illinois.gov
Address: 2500 Il. Rt. 178, Oglesby, Illinois
Admission: Free

RELATED:

Interested in more hiking? Starved Rock State Park is a must. Read about it here.

Looking for a place to stay? Grizzly Jack’s Grand Bear Resort was a great family-friendly place to stay especially with its newly revamped indoor waterpark. Check it out here.

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