Magnificent Waterfalls to Spot Near Chicago

If you're up for a little adventure, these spots near Chicago feature breathtaking waterfalls.

Do you and the kids love exploring nature? Chicagoland offers some great hiking trails, and if you’re up for a little adventure, these spots feature breathtaking waterfalls that are at their peak during the spring.

This article was recently updated on April 3, 2024 by Chicago Parent’s Assistant Editor, Nikki Roberts. The update included her research and fact-checking expertise to provide the latest information on waterfalls near Chicagoland, aligning with Chicago Parent’s mission to provide the top parenting resources for local families. Questions? Please reach out to

Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve

  • Address: Lemont
  • Tip: For easiest waterfall access, park at the south parking lot. In the summer, make sure to take bug spray with you as the mosquitoes are known to be fierce .

Think you have to drive hundreds of miles to escape the hustle and bustle of the city? Nope! This forest preserve is a quick half an hour trip outside of Chicago and is a favorite of families due to its easy walking trails. Fishing, biking and running are also popular here, but the Rocky Glen Waterfall seems to be the main attraction. The falls are small and manmade, but that makes it perfect for kids who are eager to see them up close.

Starved Rock State Park

This massive park is a popular spot for families that enjoy hiking, camping and boating, but photo ops in front of their spectacular falls is also a big pastime here. A staggering 14 of Starved Rock’s 18 canyons feature waterfalls, and the most scenic ones include the falls at St. Louis, Wildcat, Tonty and Ottawa canyons. Those falls are right about at their peak in the spring following snowmelt and heavy rain. Worried you won’t have enough time to explore the park? No problem — Starved Rock has an onsite lodge and cabins available to rent.

Jon J. Duerr Forest Preserve

waterfalls near chicagoland
Photo credit: Forest Preserve District of Kane County

  • Address: 35W003 State Rte 31, South Elgin
  • Tip: The waterfall is situated near the intersection of McClean Boulevard and Route 31. You can find it pretty easily by going south on the Riverbend Trail.

Located along the Fox River in South Elgin, this preserve is a quiet oasis in the middle of the suburbs. Boating, hiking and picnicking are all popular here, but the biggest crowd pleaser in recent years is the park’s unnamed, 8-foot high waterfall. Not too long ago, the waterfall was a best-kept secret in the area, but that quickly changed when an Elgin Facebook group caught wind of this natural wonder.

Matthiessen State Park

  • Address: 2500 IL-178, Oglesby
  • Tip: It’s always a best bet to venture out to Matthiessen before summer hits. After the spring rainy season, the falls slow down to a mere trickle by July.

While plenty of Illinois residents have made the trek out to Starved Rock in Oglesby, not as many are aware of the smaller, but equally impressive, park just down the road. Gorgeous rock formations abound at Matthiessen State Park, but the park’s biggest highlight has to be the waterfalls. The appropriately named Cascade Falls here are a sight to behold; cascading 45 feet into the canyon below. Nearby, you can also spot the Devil’s Bathtub and Lake Falls waterfalls.

Lake Katherine

If your family loves nature centers as much as we do, Lake Katherine should be on your waterfall list. You’ll spot the smaller waterfall when you first walk in. The 1-mile trail around the lake is great for littles who want to spend some time outdoors. Overall, it’s a relaxing nature trip when you need some fresh air.

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