5 Magnificent Waterfalls to Spot Near Chicago

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

NOTE: Due to COVID-19 concerns, some locations may be closed or only offer limited access. Please see each location’s website for more information and practice social distancing when visiting. Also, it might hard to social distance during peak times such as the weekends. 

Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve


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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. Many visitors end up wading in the shallow waters at the waterfall’s base on warm days.

Tip: Although reviewers say Waterfall Glen is gorgeous and a great place to take kids, you’ll want to make sure to bring bug spray along. The mosquitoes are known to be fierce during the summer months.

Starved Rock State Park


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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.

Tip: Check out our handy 11 tips for hiking Starved Rock State Park for useful info before you head out.

Jon J. Duerr Forest Preserve


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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. Until 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.

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.

Matthiessen State Park



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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.

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.

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.

Tip: This location offers access to Cal Sag Trail. Bring your bikes along if you want to hop on the trail after exploring Lake Katherine.

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This article originally published on April 10, 2019. It has been updated with the most recent information.

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