Above: The waterfall-turned-icefall at LaSalle Canyon in Starved Rock State Park Photo: Jackie Novak
Difficulty Meter Like a session on the StairMaster

Oglesby, Illinois

  • Drive Time 1.5 hours

Starved Rock State Park provides a surprise twist in the state’s mostly flat landscape. During the winter, snow-covered sandstone canyons and frozen waterfalls transform the park into the perfect hiking playground. But it’s the wildlife that makes the drive a must: When temps are at their coldest (typically from December to March), Starved Rock draws an impressive number of American bald eagles—as many as 100—coming to fish the Illinois River. First-timers should sign up for the guided 4.5-mile hike from Starved Rock Lodge to LaSalle Canyon ($12; starvedrocklodge.com). You’ll hoof it through an ice-glazed forest to panoramic spots such as Eagle Cliff and Lover’s Leap. Tack on two more miles, round-trip, to the mossy Wildcat Canyon—with its 125-foot drop, it’s the deepest in the park—to see a massive icefall and hear the stream still flowing beneath.


The Particulars

A bald eagle
An American bald eagle at Eagle Cliff Photo: Kathy Casstevens

Body Burn Work your quads climbing up canyons and your core balancing on ice.

Get in Gear Increase your traction with Yaktrax (buy a pair for $25 at the lodge), which slip over your shoes and use metal coils to grip icy surfaces.

Stay Knotty pine timbers and a 50-foot fireplace make for idyllic ambiance at the 80-room Starved Rock Lodge (from $100).

While There Sip Illinois Sparkling Co. wine—the first bubbly in the state to be produced with the same centuries-old method used in France’s Champagne region—at August Hill Winery (tastings from $5, augusthillwinery.com), 10 minutes from the lodge.