- 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.
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.