The Tentgirl

There are crucial 5 tips and four reasons why you should camp in a tent at Starves Rock

Can I Camp In a Tent At Starves Rock: 5 Tips & 4 Reasons

The weather warmed up as spring rolled around. I knew the camping season was here. Camping was always a great way to connect with nature, providing shelter for my overnight stay. Luckily, the Starved Rock area had plenty of camping sites, giving me various options. I couldn’t wait for the upcoming camping adventures.

There was also an alternative option to stay at the Starved Rock Lodge, which boasted hotel rooms, cabins, and various amenities. I chose the authentic camping experience. It’s important to note that camping was only allowed in designated areas, not throughout the park. This rule ensured the preservation of the park’s natural beauty. It was truly an unforgettable experience.

I’ll share info on camping in a tent at Starved Rock State Park, provide camping tips, explain why it’s the best place to camp, discuss the ideal time to visit, and suggest activities there.

Can I Camp In a Tent At Starves Rock: 5 Tips

5 Tips for Camping at Starves Rock

Starved Rock State Park is the place for you if you love hiking, nature, and camping. I went there with my family and camped in a tent for two nights. Here is what I learned about camping at Starved Rock and some advice for first-time campers.

  • My concern was Poison Ivy: It grew abundantly in the park and became a crucial food source for local fauna. I looked out for plants with three leaves and avoided touching them. I remembered the saying, “Leaves of three, leave it be.”
  • I avoided Night Hiking: The park had an extensive network of trails. It was easy to lose my way, even with a reliable light source. To prevent any mishaps, I hiked early in the day.
  • My Eco-Friendly Camping Practices: I left the land as if I was never there, with no trace of my presence. I refrained
    from picking anything from the wild, including wildflowers.
  • I kept My Pet on a Leash: It is for the safety of my furry friend that I kept him on a leash and kept a close watch on him.
  • My backpack contained Light Snacks and Sufficient Water: The trails could lead me far from a water source and my camp. Therefore, bringing enough supplies with me for the day ahead was essential.

My Reasons For Camping At Starved Rock State Park

If you love nature and outdoor adventures, camping at Starved Rock State Park can be a great way to unwind, explore, and recharge your spirit. As a former first-time camper at this iconic park in Illinois, I highly recommend it.

Scenic Natural Beauty of the Park

I camped at Starved Rock State Park because it has stunning natural beauty. The park has 18 canyons formed by sandstone erosion, creating a majestic landscape of waterfalls, cliffs, and forests. Popular trails offer breathtaking views of these features.

  • Starved Rock Trail: A 3-mile loop that takes you to the top of a 125-foot sandstone butte, with panoramic views of the Illinois River and the park.
  • French Canyon Trail: A 0.8-mile trail that leads you through a narrow canyon with a small waterfall and exciting rock formations.
  • Wildcat Canyon Trail: A 2.7-mile trail that rewards you with a 100-foot waterfall and a peaceful stream.

Multiple Hiking Trails and Outdoor Recreational Activities

I loved camping in Starved Rock State Park, which had many hiking trails. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced hiker, there’s a trail for every level and interest. The park also offers other recreational opportunities.

  • Kayaking and canoeing: Rent a canoe or kayak at the park’s boathouse and explore the Illinois River and its tributaries.
  • Fishing: You can fish in the Illinois River or some of the park’s smaller streams and ponds.
  • Horseback riding: You can bring your horse or take a guided trail ride from the park’s concessionaire.

Abundance of Wildlife and Nature Sightings

Wildlife and nature sightings are abundant

On my Starved Rock State Park camping trip, I was amazed by the abundant wildlife and nature sightings. The park is a symphony of sounds, bird songs, and rustling leaves can soothe your soul. Some animals you may see or hear include:

  • White-tailed deer: The park’s most common large mammal, often seen feeding or resting in open fields or forests.
  • Bald eagles: The park’s official bird, often seen soaring above the Illinois River or perching on trees.
  • Raccoons, opossums, squirrels, and rabbits: Some of the park’s most common small mammals, often seen at dusk or dawn.

Wide Range of Camping Options

When camping at Starved Rock State Park, you have multiple options. The park offers over 129 campsites across four campgrounds:

  • Starved Rock: Closest to the popular trails, it has a dump station, a playground, and a camp store.
  • LaSalle: Closest to the Illinois River, it has boat launches, fishing piers, and a picnic shelter.
  • Wildcat: Most secluded, has a vault toilet and a scenic pond.
  • Ottawa: Most spacious and modern, it has a shower house, a dump station, and a camp store.

Starved Rock State Park’s Best Things To Do

I still remember when I pitched my tent in Starved Rock State Park. It was an adventure that brought me closer to nature and taught me the importance of preserving our natural heritage. Here’s a glimpse of my journey:

Exploring the Canyons

I could hike and explore the various canyons while visiting Starved Rock State Park. Each canyon was unique, offering a fantastic experience and view. The trails were well-marked, and the natural beauty was breathtaking. Here are some highlights:

  • St. Louis Canyon: Known for its stunning waterfall, especially after a heavy rain.
  • French Canyon: A hidden gem that required a bit of a climb but was worth the effort.
  • Wildcat Canyon: The largest canyon in the park, offering an impressive view.

Water-Based Activities

Starved Rock State Park offers a variety of water-based activities. I enjoyed kayaking down the Illinois River, which provided a unique park perspective. Fishing was another popular activity, with the river teeming with species like bass and catfish.

Wildlife Watching and Nature Photography

The park was a haven for wildlife and a paradise for nature photographers like me. I spotted deer, squirrels, and a variety of birds. The flora was equally impressive, with wildflowers adding color to the landscape.

Historical Sites and Landmarks

Starved Rock State Park was rich in history. I visited several historical sites and landmarks within the park, including the Starved Rock itself. The Visitor Center was a great place to learn about the park’s history and the Native American tribes that once inhabited the area.

Best Time to Camp in a Tent at Starved Rock

Starved Rock's Best Time to Camp

If you plan on tent camping at Starved Rock, timing is everything. The weather and park attendance can make or break your camping experience. Here are some tips to help you choose the best time for tent camping at Starved Rock:

Spring March-May

Spring is a great time to go camping as the weather is mild, averaging around 60℉. The foliage is just blooming, and the park is not as crowded as during the summer months. Remember that spring showers are frequent, so pack your rain gear!

Summer June – August

Summer is peak camping season at Starved Rock, and it’s easy to see why. It is sunny and warm, perfect for outdoor hiking and swimming. However, the park can get crowded this season, so book your campsite beforehand.

Fall September – November

Fall is one of the campers’ favorite seasons. The cooler temperatures, ranging from 50℉ to 70℉, make for comfortable sleeping conditions. The changing leaves create a beautiful scenery, making fall camping genuinely magical. Remember that the park can get crowded during weekends, especially during peak leaf-peeping season.

Winter December – February

Winter camping is not for the faint of heart, but the brave are rewarded with stunning views of snow-capped trees and icy waterfalls. This park offers cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails, so it’s perfect for outdoor enthusiasts in the winter. Remember that temperatures can drop below freezing, so pack warm layers and proper gear.

Benefits of Off-Peak Camping

  • Camping during off-peak times, like weekdays or non-holiday weekends, can offer several advantages:
  • It is a quiet camping experience with fewer crowds and less noise.
  • There are more available campsites to choose from.
  • Lower prices on campsites and park amenities.
  • Better chances of spotting wildlife as they are less likely to be scared off by crowds.


Starved Rock State Park was the perfect place to camp in a tent while immersing myself in nature. The scenic beauty, outdoor activities, and a wide range of camping options ensured I found something that suited my preferences.

Whether hiking through the canyons, fishing in the river, or enjoying a peaceful evening around a campfire, the experience of camping at Starved Rock State Park was memorable and enjoyable.


If you wish for a fulfilling visit, plan for at least one full day to explore the trails, see waterfalls, and take in the scenery. Spend two to three days in the park to explore more trails and enjoy its natural beauty.

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