Living in the city has it's advantages. Everything is right at your demand and the energy is always moving. Sometimes, taking a drive and getting out the city for a day or two and into nature is actually what the body, mind, and soul need.
Arriving into Utica Illinois is a cute little town with some local restaurants, shops, trading posts, and lodgings. Following the well marked signs through town about 1-2 miles into Starved Rock National State Park to the Visitor Center. Parking is FREE and there is plenty of it, unlike downtown Chicago. Logan and I mounted our packs for the day, stopped at the Visitor Center to grab a map of the trails, and headed out to surround ourselves with Nature.
The trails that leave from the Visitor/Lodge area are a little crowded and touristy. For a more rugged and less touristy hike park at the other end near the Council Overhang or Hennepin Canyon and hiking towards the Visitor/Lodge area. The views are much more spectacular and the terrain is a little more athletic.
About two miles up the road is Matthieson State Park. This dell area has an upper area hiking trail that is a 3 mile loop with wood like views. The lower level is through the dells walking through the rocks and canyons. A little more rugged and wet, but Logan was in heaven tromping along and wading through the water. Well worth a stop if you have the time. There is also a horseback riding trail as well.
Logan and I hiked for 3 hours that day and according to my heart rate monitor I burned close to 1000 calories. More importantly was the breath of fresh air, vacation like-mode, and cleansing of my spirit that happened less than 2 hours outside of Chicago.