The Six Most Amazing Waterfalls to Visit in Illinois

Natalie Frank, Ph.D.

Among the area’s many waterfalls, these are some of the most beautiful in the state to visit.
Lasalle Canyon FallsEric Ashley/Hiking Project

Illinois is not usually thought of having many stunning waterfalls. The state is relatively flat and those looking for water features usually focus on Lake Michigan. However, there are a number of waterfalls in the state that can be seen along other waterways, all of which have trails that you can use to visit them.

Ferne Clyffe Waterfalls Goreville, IL

There are two paths to these waterfalls which constitute almost a two mile loop. Each path is less than a mile long and have no difficult areas, although the path that starts at the Deer Ridge Camping Area is a bit tougher in places. The path that starts at the parking lot is an easier trek with a slight uphill gradient. It is about three quarters of a mile long and runs along a picturesque creek. It is perfect for both novice hikers and families with children. This path is stroller and wheelchair accessible. It is one of the best paths in the Shawnee National Forest area for those looking for an easy hike and is well worth the effort as there are amazing rock formations to explore all along the entire path. After passing over a bridge, you arrive at the falls. The falls are 100 feet high and have pools at their base of differing depths to play and swim in. There are more difficult paths around the waterfalls for experienced hikers and climbers to explore.

There are BBQs, toilets, tables, and shelters and the camping grounds open seasonally which have showers for visitors. The falls are part of Ferne Clyffe State Park which has many other areas of interest to explore, including caves and a lake.

Lasalle Canyon Falls Utica, IL

Illinois Starved Rock State Park is a popular area for hiking and getting vista views along several canyons that have been carved in the sandstone by small streams. Waterfalls can be found at the heads of each of these canyons, and it has been claimed that there are 18 seasonal waterfalls throughout the park though most rarely have water.

The most frequented waterfall in the park is Lasalle Canyon Falls. LaSalle Canyon is a magnificent canyon that is particularly popular with photographers. The hike to the top is a moderately difficult narrow trek but rewards you with an ample waterfall which spills 20 feet down in the large basin below. The best part of the trail however, is the section which takes you behind the falls.

Wildcat Canyon Falls Utica, IL

Wildcat Canyon Falls also at Illinois Starved Rock State Park is the highest falls in the park at 70 feet tall.This is also the deepest canyon at about 90 feet and it has two overlooks at the top. If you are into ice climbing this is one of only three places in the park this activity is allowed. There are three trails that lead to the falls with Wildcat Canyon Staircase being the most difficult and somewhat dangerous so it’s recommended that all but the most experienced hikers take one of the other two.

Burden Falls, Stonefort, IL

These falls are located in the Shawnee National Forest. The Upper Falls, are a 5 to 10 food wide curtain fall flowing off a ledge. These can be seen from the car since the parking lot is near the top of the falls. However, Twin Falls, which can be found on the western edge of the canyon, are two separate free-falling falls one of which drops 48 feet to the canyon floor.

To safely view the falls from below, visitors can follow a switchback trail that runs along the top of the western edge of the bluffs until they level off. The trail then runs alongside the bottom of the bluff to circle back to Twin Falls, and finally to the ruggedly majestic cliff faces of the Upper Falls.

Cascade Falls Utica, IL

Located inside Matthiessen State Park, the path to these falls is an adventure in itself. It begins next to a French fort replication from the 1600’s and heads down into the canyon. You head downstream using a long series of steps that go all the way to the lower dell (gorge). The views along the trail are breathtaking and the falls drop 45 feet into a large amphitheatre like area below, where there is also a series of caves along both sides. The caves on the west side are connected by short tunnels, one which leads to a nice view of the falls. A bridge just behind the falls provides a scenic overlook perfect for photos.

Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve, Darian, IL

Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve’s waterfall is man-made but is nevertheless a beautiful waterfall. The tiered falls were created by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s. The Preserve covers 2,500 acres and is popular with walkers, cyclists, and runners. The trail winds around the boundary of the Preserve, and the diverse landscape of hills, woodlands, prairie, and savannah makes it a fascinating walk.

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Chicago, IL

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