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  • Suzanne Carmel

Play Outdoors at Getaway Starved Rock, Illinois

Tiny house cabins a short road trip south of Chicago give guests a chance to renew and recharge.

In mid October, autumn hits its peak in the Midwest and foliage turns brilliant hues of yellow, orange, and red. Winter won’t be too far off, and there’s no better time to head into nature. Crisp, cool fall days under a brilliant blue sky are the perfect time to hit the trails in Illinois’ Starved Rock and Matthiessen State Parks.

Set up a home-away-from-home base at Getaway Starved Rock in Ottawa, Illinois. The upscale, tiny home outpost is one of 29 locations across the country, with clean, comfortable tiny house cabins from which to enjoy the outdoors. This particular location has 58 cabins—41 with single beds, 14 with bunk beds, and 3 suites—spread across 251 wooded acres.

A tiny cabin in a forest, Getaway Starved Rock
Credit: Getaway

Cozy tiny house cabins encourage intimacy, offering large picture windows framing the tree-filled landscape, viewed from a queen-sized bed. Just beyond, a small table offers seating for three, and a tiny kitchen comes equipped with a double burner stove and mini fridge. A kitchen sink doubles as the bathroom sink, and the bathroom features a commode and a shower with hot-running water, shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel.

Units are heat and air conditioning outfitted, but a lantern hanging from beside the doorway, an outdoor fire pit, picnic table, and Adirondack chairs encourage outdoor living. Firewood, s’mores kits, and a variety of other supplies and snacks are available for purchase.

Spend daylight hours exploring some of the more than 13 miles of trails at Starved Rock, designated Illinois’ second state park in 1911. Situated some 20 minutes from the cabins along the Illinois River, scenic vistas abound at every turn. Trail paths lead to canyons and rain-fed waterfalls beneath tree-covered sandstone bluffs filled with varieties of maple, oak, hickory, pine, and cedar.

Break up leisurely walks with a stop in the snack and gift shops at the visitor center or a meal at the Starved Rock Lodge restaurant or lounge. It’s also possible to book activities in advance from the Lodge website, including 90-minute historic trolley tours of the park and downtown Utica, a variety of cruises on the Illinois River (in season), and guided hikes.

A woman and a child sit on chairs around a fire, Getaway Starved Rock
Credit: Getaway

There are five more miles of trails to explore at Matthiessen State Park—1,938 acres of beautiful rock formations, including a main, sandstone canyon comprised of Upper and Lower Dells—picnic tables, and restroom facilities, and a restored fort representative of the fortification utilized by the French in the late 1600s and early 1700s in the Midwest.

From the state park, drive 7 minutes to just across the Illinois River for lunch or dinner in North Utica. Grab a bite at one of several eateries on Mill Street, and cool off with ice cream treats from Bruce & Ollie’s for dessert. For places to dine closer to Getaway Starved Rock, you can also drive seven minutes across the Illinois River to the larger city of Ottawa, where there are plenty of dining and shopping options. The two towns are about 17 minutes apart by car, with Utica closer to the two state parks.

When not out exploring on glorious fall days, cozy up in your tiny home cabin with a good book or a game, or just outside your front door on the Adirondack chairs beside the fire pit or at the picnic table.

For more information on this and other Getaway locations, visit

Cover photo credit: Getaway


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