Grizzly Jack's Grand Bear Resort: Utica, IL
This year marks Starved Rock State Park’s centennial anniversary. After 100 years, this wilderness located 90 minutes southwest of Chicago is still one of the best outdoor adventures in the Midwest. It’s a perfect weekend escape any time of year. Autumn is awesome, bringing spectacular fall foliage. Spring turns the sandstone cliffs into waterfalls and winter turns the falls into blocks of ice with intricate icicles lacing the canyons.
Grizzly Jack’s Grand Bear Resort
Plenty of people choose to camp overnight. My family stayed across the street from the park, at Grizzly Jack’s Grand Bear Resort. This waterpark resort is a kid’s dream vacation! There’s a huge waterpark, mini-golf, an indoor amusement park and a fun Northwoods decor. Little ones will be excited by the talking grizzly bear in the lobby.
Grizzly Jack’s hosted us in one of their vacation villas. It was a 2 bedroom, 2 story town home with a full kitchen, dining and living room area. It was perfect for our family of 5.
Staying right across the street makes it easy to go on a quick hike, then head back to the hotel and return later in the day to hike another section of the park.
Wear your hiking shoes, because there are 18 canyons to explore in the 2340 acre Starved Rock Park. The sandstone cliffs provide plenty of scenic lookouts of the Illinois River.
My 11 year old son enjoyed climbing along the cliffs and finding hidden caves. It’s hard to believe you’re in the Midwest. What a great escape from the flat farmland you’ll find throughout most of Illinois!
The Legend of Starved Rock
Starved Rock State Park gets its name from a Native American legend dating back to the 1760’s. Legend has it that the Illiniwek tribe killed Pontiac, chief of the Ottawa Indians. To avenge the killing, the Ottawa along with the help of the Potawatomi tribe, chased members of the Illiniwek up to a cliff, cornered them and forced them to stay there until they starved. It’s a pretty gruesome story, true. Share it with your kids during the hike, and it will only add to the excitement for them! What a wild history lesson!
If You Go: www.grizzlyjacksresort.com