Starved Rock and Matthiessen State Park are great spots to hike year round, but I think winter is my favorite time of year to hike here because the crowds are few and you get to see all the different ice formations, and walk on the frozen creek within the canyons in the Lower Dells area at Matthiessen, while being surrounded by a gorgeous winter wonderland. A good pair of ice cleats or crampons is a must, and maybe bring some hiking poles if you have them. If you want to pick up a pair you can find them online for around $20-$30.
Although the creek isn’t very deep here, you should still be careful when walking on ice. The closer I got to the waterfall I could hear falling water and found the ice becoming very slushy, so I turned around to hike back because I didn’t want to risk falling through and getting hypothermia on this cold winter day. Be smart and remember, safety first 😉
If you want to see some really cool ice formations, check out the run off at the dam in the Lower Dells area at Matthiessen State Park. The hike is pretty easy as long as you don’t mind some stairs.
We were pretty much the only people on the trails with it only being 30 degrees and sunny, it was a perfect day for a winter hike.
Next we drove over to the parking lot by LaSalle Canyon and hiked along the river and eventually to the canyon where we found the frozen waterfall shown in the photos below.. If you do hike from the visitor center, keep in mind it is a 2 mile hike each way to LaSalle Canyon, so round trip would be 4 miles. Last year the parking lot to LaSalle was closed so we had to park at the visitor center and hike the long way which I didn’t mind because it gave us a chance to also see Wild Cat Canyon falls. (not shown)