An all-season State Park for Chicago area residents – accessible via a breezy 60-90 minute car ride and offering hiking opportunities suitable for all ages. Bonus add-ons – the waterfalls and the fully restored French fort reminiscent of early French fortifications in the early 1700s!
How to Plan your visit?
• Hop in a car and set your GPS to – https://www.google.com/maps/place/Matthiessen+State+Park+Fortemail@example.com,-89.028458,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x88095f48227c7e77:0x35617a6671e3f03a!8m2!3d41.2963773!4d-89.0262693
• Choose your hikes – the park is composed of dells which offer 5 miles of hikes. Please note that the hikes to Upper Dells and Bluff Tops are easy but it can get quite treacherous and slippery in the interiors of the dells during early summer. We had several kiddos in your group so went for the safer option – ‘Dells Canyon and Bluff Trail’ and a bit of ‘Dells to Vermillion River’ trek, making it around 3.5 mile overall.
Here’s the entire list of hikes –
Here’s the AllTrails.com version of Canyon and Bluff Trail which was really helpful –
Tip: The trail directions at the park are a bit confusing and there is very poor cell phone reception so please take printouts for the hikes or download Google Maps offline to make it a smoother experience.
• Pack spare clothes – we didn’t but still ended up getting sucked in by the temptation to sit under the waterfall and resultantly, had to depend on Mother Nature to dry us up. You can try the Cascade Falls or Lake Falls; we did the later.
• The park is alcohol friendly too, at least from June to December so …
• If you have more time, you can also the visit famed park near by – Starved Rock State Park.
Our Trip Details from Naperville
June 14, 2020
1.5 hours drive from North Naperville
The Walk to the park entrance.
Thanks to the pent-up cabin fever due to the Pandemic-which-shall-not-be-named, there were more than a thousand cars and hence, visitors had to park a mile away from the park entrance and ramble from there.
We had to navigate through a swathe of cars full of hikers eager to take advantage of a perfect summer day.
The park is riddled with several awe-inspiring natural limestone rock formations.
The hike towards the Upper Dells had both boardwalk and mud trails along the way.
Near the Lake Falls
Finally, reached the Lake Falls – the 40ft drop looked worth a couple of miles of trek.
The dam over the Lake Falls was a bit cringeworthy.
Although we missed it since it was closed due to Covid restrictions, the log fort is highly recommended.
Please ink in the comments section to share your thoughts on this post or your own Matthiessen ideas!