French Canyon

Starved Rock State Park

Western Central Till + Lowlands, Illinois

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French Canyon


  • Trails in the park are well marked with signs and frequent map displays.
- French Canyon
  • This wide path leads to numerous trails.- French Canyon
  • Once you enter the hiking trail area you'll need to carry out what you carry in.- French Canyon
  • Trails branch off and lead to different parts of the park.
- French Canyon
  • Be sure to take the trail into the canyon area, and above it.- French Canyon
  • When it is dry, use the footholds to walk into the canyon.
- French Canyon
  • The dry river bed shows the sculpting effect of water.- French Canyon
  • Take the staircase for an overhead view of the canyon.

- French Canyon
  • Use caution along this non-fenced section, it has a steep drop-off.
- French Canyon
  • A sign clearly marks the French Canyon overlook.
- French Canyon
  • A look into the canyon from above.
- French Canyon
  • A QR code is provided for help identifying location in an emergency.- French Canyon
  • Signs help hikers with direction on 
the intertwining trails.- French Canyon
  • Without water, artistic shapes in the canyon are revealed.
- French Canyon
  • The trail crosses the canyon.- French Canyon
  • A bridge crosses the canyon.
- French Canyon
Overview + Weather
Water-sculpted rock formations. Wooded. Hike on dry river bed. Potential waterfall depending upon weather.
Waterfall is weather dependent.
Western Central Till + Lowlands, IL
Pets allowed: 
Yes, with restrictions
Highest point: 
635.00 ft (193.55 m)
Net Elevation Gain: 
174.00 ft (53.04 m)
Year round: 
Parking Pass: 
Permit required: 
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
1.30 mi (2.09 km)
Total elevation gain: 
266.00 ft (81.08 m)
Trail type: 
Trailhead Elevation: 
465.00 ft (141.73 m)
Typically multi-day: 
Current Local Weather:
Hike Description

Hike Description

Pro Contributor

With a vast expanse of gently rolling fertile plains, Illinois is known as one of the leading agricultural states in the country. It’s also home to the third largest city in the United States, Chicago, with nearly 3 million people. Surprisingly, between the acres and acres of farmland and the myriad sidewalks of the city, adventurers will find a spectacular woodland oasis filled with trails, canyons and waterfalls.

This oasis, known as Starved Rock State Park, features 18 canyons, many of them with unique periodic waterfalls. Weather conditions determine if there are dry canyons or waterfalls. The best time to see waterfalls is after a heavy rainfall or during the spring snow melt. French Canyon, along with Kaskaskia, Ottawa, St. Louis, Tonty, and Wildcat canyons are considered to have the most scenic waterfalls in the park. During the winter, freezing and melting conditions create gorgeous icefalls throughout the park. Ice climbing is permitted in some canyons, with restrictions.

Beginning at the Starved Rock Visitor Center, the well-maintained trail to French Canyon is clearly marked. There are signs pointing to the canyon, and there are also directional markers indicating whether you are heading toward or away from the parking area. The trail leads through a forest filled with deciduous trees and wildflowers. Beware of poison ivy, which may wind across the path. Upon reaching the canyon, hikers can use steps to venture to the top of the canyon for a view from above. Be sure to use caution along the short unfenced portion. Adventurers will want to be sure to carefully walk into the canyon as far as water conditions allow. Will there be a dry canyon showing all the details of the naturally sculpted St. Peter sandstone, or a picturesque waterfall flowing over the steep rock wall? Either way, it’s a surprising woodland adventure in the "Prairie State.”

Updates, Tips + Comments

Updates, Tips + Comments

Field Guide

Field Guide

Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(1 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(3 within a 30 mile radius)

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Adventure Community

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35 Adventures Explored
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