ILLINOIS,  Road Trips

Matthiessen State Park, Illinois

Matthiessen State Park
Matthiessen State Park

Matthiessen State Park, IllinoisMatthiessen State Park

This place is amazing. I went in February while everything was frozen and in black and white tones. It was magic. The Dells Canyon and Bluff is one of the 5 Miles of trails in the whole of Matthiessen State Park, it’s a small gorge in Illinois with two waterfalls. The Dells trial itself is only about 2 miles in total but it makes a figure eight so you don’t have to hike it all in one go.

Dells Canyon and Bluff

Distance: 2 Miles

Pets: Yes, on leash.

Matthiessen State Park

Matthiessen State ParkMatthiessen State Park

The lower falls in summer can create a corkscrew cascade and I’m told it’s amazing. I wasn’t able to see it take that form but if you get a chance to see it I’d love to see pictures. Matthiessen State Park is very green and lush in the summer. When I get a chance to visit during that season I’ll be sure to come back and update the post for y’all.

The trail head to the gorge starts with a series of stairs so be warned if you have knee problems or health issues you may want to keep this in mind. There are two pieces to the hike. The first leg of stairs leads to a bridge that overlooks the lower falls. You can follow the upper trail from any point and make a figure eight around the gorge or you can do the upper or lower falls without having to complete the full circle.

Matthiessen State Park

There are several staircases that take you down into the gorge. The first set is just above the lower falls, another set along the gorge towards the upper falls and a third set at the larger of the two falls. The lower falls also has a set of stairs but you’ll have to pick one or the other and climb back out to get to the other level. There’s a gate above the lower falls so you can’t continue down the gorge or up the gorge depending on which level you started. So you’ll have to take the stairs back out and then go to the next staircase to get back into the gorge.

Matthiessen State Park

I imagine in the summer it will be full of water and you’ll have to hike through water if you choose to go down into the gorge. In the winter it was frozen over and I was able to walk quite comfortably around.

Matthiessen State Park

Regardless of what season you choose to hike this amazing gorge this waterfall will be well worth the effort. It was stunning, frozen wings.

There’s also two other State Parks in the area, Buffalo Rock and Starved Rock. Starved Rock State Park is only a few miles up the road from Matthiessen and it’s just as beautiful and well worth a stop if you’re going to be in the area.
Matthiessen State Park

As per usual, I took way more pictures than I could possibly post on here so if you’d like to see more I have several accounts that I’ve posted more images on.

P interest

Happy Travels
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  • Paolo

    Hi Norma,

    I have been trying to make up my mind between Starved Rock and Matthiessen. But after seeing your pictures, even if Starved Rock is open, I feel Matthiessen is worth checking out as a great destination. Matthiessen isn’t nearly as large as Starved Rock, but I see from your work, it has some great features. And what I like most is there are no crowds as
    often found at Starved Rock.

    • NJKuhr

      Honestly, they are so close together you can easily do them both in half a day. They’re relatively small, and the hikes are fairly easy. You don’t have to choose. Both parks are within a few mile of each other.

  • Rose

    Wow! What a beautiful place! Thanks for sharing.

    I haven’t leave my country yet and I remember my personal oath back when I was in high school, I will leave only the country for leisure trips and not for work.

    To be honest, I had attempts leaving for work, I was being accepted, but I call it not God’s will that there had been circumstances to hold me from leaving. I take it for greater purposes.

    But I am still holding to my self promise. Perhaps, if I leave with my family for just unwinding, my wish will be granted. Your posts will be great reference for destinations. Many thanks!

    • NJKuhr

      That makes since, God will tell you when the right time is and prayer is so important. I love traveling for work purposes. I get to see more and experiencing more without paying the bill. I’m all for travel in every form.

  • Brian

    Hi Norma Jean,

    Those pics of the falls are beautiful! Thank you for all the great info about this place and the trails it has to offer. Did you hike the whole figure eight while you were there and how long did it take if so?

    Also I have a suggestion, would you mind adding a GoogleMap or something that shows the locale of where this place is within the state of Illinois in the article? I can guess that there are many people like me that are too lazy to go Google it themselves. Thanks!  ^.^

    • NJKuhr

      I can do that for sure, Google map coming up. I did hike the entire thing and it took me roughly 2-3 hours but I also took several hundred photos and I have a horrible relationship with gravity so I was also taking it very slow because there was so much ice. I think if you were a quick hiker and were in a time crunch you could easily do it in less than an hour.

  • Stephanie

    If I’m being honest, I got completely lost on how stunning these pictures are, and the fact that you were the one who took them actually blew me away. The angles, the resolution, the imagery on its own, and how well you captured all of that truly has me in awe. I have never been to Illinois before but from what I’ve gathered from this specific place; it’s completely worth the trip. Not to mention that you’re allowed to bring dogs with you which is a must for me. 

    • NJKuhr

      Aww, that’s the best compliment ever. Thank you so much. I’ve been working on my photography skills and am so happy when people notice. Thanks. I’m glad I could help. I love hiking with dogs and it’s always bitter sweet to go places where they’re not allowed. 

  • Jas

    I’m a fan of magical places like this, conquered by beauty at every age in their own way. The pictures are fascinating and they just invite us on a tour. Thank you for making us familiar with this national park, I enjoyed reading this article. Lots of successes in your work and more beautiful landscapes like this!

    • NJKuhr

      Thanks. I’m glad you liked it. That’s why I started Dashboard Destinations was to help people avoid the pitfalls that set my trips back. There so much out there and not a lot of information until you show up. I missed out on a lot simply because I just didn’t know it was available. Hopefully, this helps others avoid the mistakes I made.

  • Anastazja

    Wow. These are beautiful photos. I now live where in never snows.  This article really made me miss the beauty and peace of new fallen snow.  How far did you have to travel to get to this place?  I imagine there is a different kind of beauty there each season of the year. You have inspired me to look around where I live to look for nature beauty I have not yet enjoyed. Thanks for this little pictorial hike.

    • NJKuhr

      I was actually on a road trip so for me it was a long drive. I started in Cleveland Ohio and drove to Portland Oregon and took several detours along the way. Thanks for the compliment, I hope it inspires you to take a long drive.

  • Mike

    Hello there! I used to visit relatives in Illinois often but I had not even heard of Matthiessen State Park before. From your description of it and the pictures you included in your post, it really looks like a hidden gem. I have never even seen a frozen water fall before and that’s quite amazing how cold it can get for that to happen. I definitely have to pay a visit to this location the next time I visit Illinois. Thanks for sharing this!

    • NJKuhr

      You should, it was amazing. I’m planning a second trip to see it in the summer. The contrast is going to be amazing. Thanks for the great comment.

  • Kokontala

    Greetings, I’ve just gone through your article about Matthiessen state park, Illinois. I am very glad I came across this post. I only heard about Matthiessen state park but unfortunately, I’ve not been there before. But, by the look of these pictures, this place is amazing. I would love a road trip to places like this one. Thank you so much for sharing such an amazing post with us, I definitely will be sharing it further too.

  • Matiss

    Long series of stairs have never made me back down on a great hike, haha. But I really appreciate the heads-up because it does definitely make things more difficult if we were to put our baby in a stroller and try to do the trail. I mean, a sling is the default but still. We have done hikes with strollers. But stairs definitely tend to a bit spoil that experience. 

    And, indeed, I agree. It does look like a kind of place that would be absolutely full of water in the summer. The gorge I mean. But to me, that would make it so much more beautiful. I’m always down to getting my feat wet if it adds to the experience. And with this place, I think it would. 

    Personally, I think it looks great in winter as well but we’ll have to visit in summer. 🙂 Cheers.

    • NJKuhr

      I love river walks, so i can’t wait to get back when it’s warmer but this would be really hard with a stroller. If you do make I’m glad I was able to help with bringing alternate means of carriers for the little ones. Thanks for such great comments.

  • Sunny

    Hi Norma, I have been enjoying reading through your articles. Matthiessen State Park is incredibly magical. The waterfalls are beautiful. How long it takes you to hike through this park? I really wish I can visit. Anyways, it’s nice to see these beautiful places through your camera as well. You should organize some nice photo exhibition 🙂 

    However, please check your links, they are not clickable. Maybe you want to add them in your articles as the HTML in the “text” mode in WordPress so they become valid. 

    Let me know if I can help you with that. I am a WA member, you can find me on Lilika84. 

    • NJKuhr

      Thanks, I’ll go back and fix the links. I would love to do an exhibition. If I can’t get the links to work I’ll message you.

  • Nina

    Wonderful to visit Matthiessen State Park in the winter, in its icy appearance reminiscent of a fairytale winter landscape. I can imagine fairy creatures roaming this landscape. The pictures you attached impressed me so much that I went to see even more pictures on your Pinterest profile.
    I am happy to read presentations of worthwhile destinations on your site, Matthiessen State Park also impressed me. Are you planning to return to Matthiessen this summer? I can’t wait to see your photos and read the description of the experience from the warmer season.
    I wish you many wonderful experiences on your journeys,

    • NJKuhr

      Aww, I love that you enjoyed the pictures so much. and I wish you many happy travels as well. This place felt very snow white to me, I even whistled to the birds a few times.

  • Denislukic

    I have come across your posts about some destinations several times already and every time I am happy with your pictures.
    Matthiessen is a small park but I think it’s worth a look. If the park itself doesn’t attract visitors then your photos definitely will. I like how you write honestly and warn people if they have difficulty thinking about a tour.

    • NJKuhr

      Wow, thank you for such a great compliment. I’m glad it could inspire you, that’s what Dashboard Destinations is all about. Helping people plan a trip and knowing a head of time any information that might affect their experience. I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

  • Bogadi

    This is the place, I will certainly love to  be at right now. I like everything you outlined here, it makes it so attractive, I really enjoy hiking and i feel I do not hike as frequent as I would love to. Unfortunately it is far fetched for me to plan or even think about coming to hike at matthiessen-state-park-illinois because of distance. I would  search for such in South Africa.

    • NJKuhr

      I would love to see south Africa, I’m sure there are amazing hikes and outdoor destination there that would be amazing to see. Feel free to share them when you do.

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