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Starved Rock Lodge Review – Glamping in Illinois

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While the Starved Rock Lodge boasts a rich history, it lure is its location within the grandeur of Starved Rock State Park. The thousands of acres of forest, cliffs, and unfettered wilderness are situated in the area of Oglesby, Illinois, a quiet town of less than 4,000 people. Although campers and hikers can pitch their tents on any of the 129 different Class-A Premium campsites in the park, those who prefer to bed down within more comfortable accommodations can do so uniquely at Starved Rock Lodge.

Starved Rock Lodge Great Hall

Starved Rock Lodge Great Hall (Photo credit: Gabe Miller)

Glamping with Kitsch

No ordinary hotel, the Starved Rock Lodge’s aesthetic is exemplified in its Great Hall, where the spirit of Americana lives in the high wooden rafters and log cabin-esque walls. Mounted bison heads stare stoically into the distance and giant flags hang from beams below the ceiling. The two-sided brick fireplace is a magnet for cold tourists. For those who get itchy around the kitschy, it may be worth packing some cultural Benadryl—Starved Rock Lodge isn’t shy about commemorating its own history with penny smasher machines and souvenirs galore.

Starved Rock Lodge’s aptly named Dining Room (Photo credit: Starved Rock Lodge)

Starved Rock Dining

The main dining room bustles all day with patrons who wolf down pork chops and stacks of blueberry pancakes. The mood is one of woodsy coziness, with logs in the restaurant’s fireplace crackling and emitting steady warmth during fall and winter months, while windows are cranked open during sunnier seasons.

At any point during the year, visitors can duck into the Back Door Lounge & Veranda, a sports bar where visitors reunite with nachos and Michelob of 21st century life.

Cabins at Starved Rock

The Starved Rock Lodge’s actual lodgings include 69 guest rooms and several cabins. The cabins are billed as being “in the woods.” Standing at less than 500 feet from the main lodge, however, they aren’t exactly out in the wild and some are accessible by a brief walk on a manicured sidewalk flanked by park benches. For parents using strollers and/or with very young children, this smoothly paved convenience certainly offers benefits.

Starved Rock Lodge in North Utica, Illinois (Photo courtesy of Starved Rock Lounge)

Hotel Room Options

As for the hotel rooms, guests have the choice between Hotel Wing Rooms and Lodge Wing Rooms. To get the true Starved Rock Lodge experience, the Lodge Wing Rooms are recommended, as they’re original rooms from the 1939 lodge. The walls in Lodge Wing rooms are made from knotty pine, and they deliver on the unspoken promise of rustic quaintness. Hotel Wing Rooms are also cozy and pleasant, but were added in the late 1980s.

Starved Rock State Park

While the Starved Rock Lodge offers a unique way to savor the flavor of the area’s past, it’s the Starved Rock State Park that generates the most magic. The park is a geographical anomaly of sorts; while much of Illinois is notoriously flat, the park is full of spaces where the earth yields to echoing canyons of ancient rock, their walls frighteningly sheer.

The canyons are reached via paths that snake through the park’s forests, at times edging right along the canyons’ perimeter. Trails are interrupted by staircases and manmade walkways, but every effort has been made to blend them into the environs. From many spots, such as Eagle Cliff and the charming Lovers’ Leap, the lake and rock structures are seen in all their naked splendor. From within the canyons and along the forest paths, stunning views are common.

View of the Illinois River from one of Starved Rock State Park’s trails (Photo credit: Gabe Miller)

Guided Hikes

The lodge offers numerous guided hikes through the park, which include some moderately paced treks through the forest. These hikes follow routes into the canyons, where the air is naturally cool and refreshing. My wife and I recently did the Hike and Lunch trip. Spending time in the canyon was blissful. Other available hikes include the self-explanatorily named Half Day Hike, the Megahike, and the Teambuilding Hike.

Families with children under 10 should ask a guide about appropriate paths. Part of what makes Starved Rock State Park beautiful is what also makes it dangerous, as paths aren’t separated from steep cliffs by ropes or fences. Having such barriers would be detrimental to both the experience and the park itself, but children need to be watched very closely in lieu of unnatural safeguards.

Starved Rock State Park

Starved Rock State Park (Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Why to Go

The Starved Rock Lodge and the Starved Rock State Park live together harmoniously, with the former being an edifice celebrating the latter. The grounds of Starved Rock are sacred, supernatural, and evocative, and the lodge was designed as a symbol of appreciation. Indeed, you can open the window of your room at the lodge, and listen for the ghostly sounds of Illini tribe members who once lived in these woods by the river.

Would you prefer to camp in the woods or go glamping at the Starved Rock Lodge? Let us know in the comments below!

A Note from The Philosophical Travel Daddy: Thank you to the Starved Rock Lodge for hosting my stay for purposes of this review! All opinions are mine, as always.

About Gabe Miller, The Philosophical Travel Daddy

Long before Gabe Miller was a Travel Daddy, he was a Travel Son. Growing up in Ann Arbor, Michigan during the early 1980s, he was exposed to the town’s intellectual, hippie aesthetic before becoming functionally bipedal. He had barely shed his lanugo by the time he began to travel, going on modest trips that were nonetheless profound. His wife is equally passionate about traveling, and together they’re sharing new adventures with their baby boy. From the day of their son’s birth, they’ve rejected the idea that having a child means staying indoors with the blinds drawn. They take him everywhere they go, and his smiles are proof that he’s perpetually prepared for adventure! Gabe and his family currently reside happily in the small rural town of Dundee, Michigan. Gabe has a B.A. in English and works as a middle school English teacher. Connect with Gabe on Twitter as @thetraveldaddy.