Starved Rock Camping: What You Need To Know And The Most Popular Times To Visit

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A view from the backside of a waterfall with the water coming down. Sunlight rays and green trees are seen through the water at Starved Rock State Park.

State Parks are some of the best places in the nation to go camping. Starved Rock State Park is one of the best in Illinois. While it is quite easy to access this park and set up for a wonderful stay here, with a few tips, tricks, and tools of the trade, your stay here will be made even simpler and more enjoyable. You definitely won’t be starving for information after reading all about Starved Rock camping. This is what you need to know including the most popular times to visit.

About Starved Rock State Park

Starved Rock State Park is located in Northwestern Illinois on the Illinois River bluff in La Salle County. You’ll revel in the stunning 18 canyons with their vertical walls of moss-covered stone formed by glacial meltwater. You’ll wander and wonder in awe at the tree-covered sandstone bluffs, the forested lands, and the gently rolling plains.

Starved Rock State Park’s cultural history can be traced to 8000 B.C., but generally, the question on most peoples’ minds sticks to, “Where did the name come from?” 

According to the State Park, “the name is derived from a Native American legend of a band of Illiniwek who died of starvation. Out of a legend of injustice and retribution, in the 1760s, Pontiac, chief of the Ottawa tribe, was slain by a Peoria brave. A band of Illinois, under attack by a band of Potawatomi (allies of the Ottawa), sought refuge atop a 125-foot sandstone butte. The Ottawa and Potawatomi surrounded the bluff and held their ground until the hapless tribe died of starvation.”

A steep stone cliff with layers can be seen in Starved Rock State Park.

Best Time To Visit Starved Rock State Park

While it is quite busy in the spring, summer, and fall, the heat sets in during the summer months. Because of this, the best time to visit is in the spring and fall. If you’re looking for a unique experience, try the winter months where the campground is less likely to be full. There are fewer people and you get to enjoy this winter wonderland all to yourself as the beauty of the snow glistens like crystals and the peace of the season sets into your weary bones. Pure beauty during any season; it just depends on your favorite season.

Things to Do at Starved Rock State Park

There are so many things to do at Starved Rock State Park, so be sure to reserve a camping site for enough time to explore the entire park. With 18 canyons, over 13 trails, guided hikes, and tours offered year-round, waterfalls, natural springs, sandstone overhangs, overlooks, wildlife and so much more, you will most definitely not be bored with your time spent here.

Did I mention fishing, boating, hunting, horseback riding, picnicking, and even winter sports? Starved Rock State Park has all of this.

If you find yourself staying at the 1930s-era stone and log Starved Rock Lodge, you’ll even have access to an indoor pool complex with two saunas, a hot tub, a children’s pool, and a sun deck. There’s also a gift shop, a cafe, a lounge, and outdoor dining and entertainment on the veranda.

The Starved Rock Lodge is show which has a gift shop and restaurant. It is an alternative to Starved Rock camping.

Starved Rock Camping: State Park Campground

The campground is open all year round with the exception of the weekend before Thanksgiving. Most of the sites require a reservation 3 days in advance. There are also a few first come first serve sites available.

There are 129 premium campsites. Each of them includes cement pads, tent areas, picnic tables, fire pits, and electric hook-up. Water and Porta-potties are located throughout the campground. And you’ll also find two shower houses including flush toilets. Starved Rock camping also means you get the comfort of a seasonal camp store and even a playground. For those with RVs, there is also a dump station on site.

Due to all the amenities and activities within the park, this campground books up fast. Be sure to plan ahead if you have your heart set on Starved Rock camping at the State Park. All sites are reservable up to six months in advance. Start planning today for a great camping vacation in the future.

Price: $25/night and $35/night during holidays

Camping Near Starved Rock State Park 

If you are unable to reserve a spot at Starved Rock for camping, no worries. There are some other options nearby allowing you to wander the area, sleep soundly, and still explore the beauty that is Starved Rock State Park.

Lasalle/Peru KOA Journey

Address: 756 N. 3150th Rd., North Utica, IL

Season: April 15 – October 31

Billed as a great country retreat for weary travelers, the Lasalle/Peru KOA Journey is located only seven miles north of Starved Rock State Park. This makes it quite easy to stay here and head out for day trips to the beautiful State Park while exploring more of the area. With a max length of 70 feet for rigs, a seasonal pool, on-site fishing, group pavilion, laundry facilities, and more, your stay here will be quite comfortable.

Pleasant Creek Campground 

Address: 926 N. 2150th Rd., Oglesby, IL

Season: May 1 – Late Fall

Located a mere five miles from Starved Rock State Park, this beautifully wooded campground is along the Vermillion River and surrounded by rolling hills and majestic trees. At Pleasant Creek Campground, it’s almost like you’re at Starved Rock, camping in the same stunning area. Here, you’ll have access to a well-stocked fishing pond, a game room complete with arcade games, ping pong, and more. Other amenities include an onsite store, a playground, many outdoor games and courts, and all the amenities you need while living in your RV, including newly remodeled bathhouses and showers.

Tips for Camping at Starved Rock

Just as with most camping trips at State Parks and anywhere else you may love to camp, you need to be prepared for camping at Starved Rock. Thinking things through, such as the weather, how to find your perfect spot, where to explore and what to do, and ensuring that you have packed everything you need, will bring about the best experience for your camping trip to Starved Rock State Park.

Prepare For The Summer Heat

It can get over 90 degrees here in the summer with high humidity and many mosquitoes. Be sure to bring your sunscreen, hats, and bug spray. Know your RV and its cooling capabilities, and plan your activities appropriately according to the weather forecasts for that day.

Plan Ahead to Get the Best Spot

Do your research. Check out the campground ahead of time and know what you are looking for. Reserve your spot as far in advance as you can. Be flexible whenever possible to make the best of your time camping at Starved Rock.

Get Out and Explore the Park

With all the canyons, trails, picnic spots, and more, you’ll be lucky to get it all in. Take your time and be in the moment when hiking and exploring. There’s so much beauty everywhere. Remember to take advantage of the guided activities and visitor’s center to help you make the most of your stay at Starved Rock.

Bring Everything You Need

As with any camping trip, be sure you have packed everything you need including water bottles, sunscreen, and hats for hiking; smores for the campfire; layers of clothing for hot days and possibly cool nights; and all the items you need to camp safely, securely and Mother Nature friendly. (Be sure to follow those Leave No Trace Principles.) If you did forget something, you’ll probably be able to find it in the nearby towns, so don’t worry too much. Just enjoy your Starved Rock camping trip, knowing you brought most of the necessities. To plan the perfect family vacation without sacrificing any fun, check out these ways to save money on activities

A wooden bridge crosses a creek in Starved Rock State Park. The trees are a lush green and the skies are blue.

Starved Rock Camping Will NOT Leave You Starving.

In honor of the Illiniwek who died of starvation atop the 125-foot sandstone butte almost 300 years ago, we will not starve at Starved Rock State Park. We will, in fact, thrive from that sacrifice. We will hike the trails, climb the rocks, wander through the canyons, and gaze upon the same skies that looked down upon the many people that have passed through this stunning land over the last thousands of years. So, throughout your journey, while camping at Starved Rock State Park, stop for a moment to take in the rugged beauty of Mother Nature, but to also recognize the footsteps of so many before us.​​​​​​​

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