Nicknamed the Prairie State, Illinois is home to Chicago, one of the biggest and busiest cities in the United States. Chicago is the hub of Illinois, with skyscrapers dotting the city’s landscape. Illinois is, however, larger than Chicago. There are lots of nature views and more than enough campgrounds for everyone.
Bordered to the east by the Mississippi River and Indiana to the west, the state has lots of wetlands, hills, prairies, and farmlands. The beautiful landscapes and unique attractions of Illinois make it attractive to outdoor lovers and campers too. Tons of camping grounds await you in the charming towns all over Illinois. Some are state-managed, while the others are privately owned campsites.
So if you are planning an escape away from the rubble and bubble of Chicago, a getaway with your family, or a solo move away from your comfort zone, you might need to know the most amazing places to camp in Illinois. That’s why we have compiled a list of the best camping grounds in the state, their unique features, and why you should visit them.
1. Matthiessen State Park
Perhaps the most impressive landscape in all of Illinois, the area around Matthiessen State Park is an outdoor lovers’ paradise. Waterfalls, canyons, and trails can be found around the state-owned campground, making it attractive for visitors.
The campsites here do not cost a lot of money and prove to be a great way to spend the night if you’re seeking inexpensive ways to enjoy your vacation.
The campgrounds are largely unsophisticated and natural, which might be appealing to some. The campsite provides campers with a grill and picnic table, and those who can afford it are allowed to come with a generator.
The park’s peaceful nature and the scenery of the location are a big attraction to several visitors. Also, since the park is not heavily trafficked, those looking for a quiet, clean, and relaxing environment will find it in Matthiessen State Park.
2. Blackwell Family Campground
Located in West Chicago, Illinois, the campground is not far away from the ever-busy Chicago city. This location, however, provides a sharp contrast to the city’s sophisticated nature. Once you get into the campground, you get the feeling of being so far away from any civilization.
Blackwell Family Campground is a section of the Blackwell Forest Preserve, which has a big lake and an impressive Spring Brook. Hiking trails can also be found all over the area. The campground provides different alternatives for all types of campers. Semi-wooded and wooded campsites with a parking pad that has gravel as its surface can be found here. Each spot has a picnic table and a fire pit. There is also electricity for each site.
The campground can get busy at some periods in the year, and since the spots are clustered together, it can get noisy during busy seasons, but that is very rare.
The cleanliness of the campground is one of its major selling points. Basic amenities are available here, meaning the camper does not have to worry too much about sleeping in the dark. Suitable for families and groups, Blackwell Family Campground is not the ideal campground, but it ticks all the right boxes.
3. Castle Rock State Park
Oregon is a sleepy, rustic town in Illinois, which plays host to Castle Rock State Park. This park is definitely for every camper out there. Only those seeking the caveman-style experience will appreciate the campground at this location.
To put it mildly, the campground here is remote. While visiting the area, it is possible to count the vehicles you encounter here with the fingers of one hand. There are a few small-scale businesses in the surrounding area, but you will find none in the campground.
That aside, Castle Rock State Park is only accessible by canoe, meaning that Recreational Vehicles and cars do not feature here. One of the first things you notice at the park is the complete absence of noise. The ambiance that this park provides is unique and will be loved by campers trying to recreate a simplistic, natural environment.
Visitors often talk about the walking trails, and rightly so. With the absence of vehicles, the courses offer an invitation to explore nature, up-close and personal. Bugs are the only flaw in this paradise, but with proper clothing, you will be fine. You should check out the antique shop when you are leaving the area.
4. Whittington Woods Campground
In Whittington, Illinois, the Whittington Woods Campground is the complete opposite of the Castle State Rock Park mentioned earlier. While there were very few businesses surrounding Castle State Rock, the Whittington Woods area is home to many shopping centers, wine shops, dancing halls, and even golf courses.
The campground, like every other, is surrounded by nature, and there is the magnificent Rend Lake, which hosts watersports activities. For bikers, biking trails are looping the campground to stretch out the legs.
Whatever your preference is, tents, recreational vehicles, or cabins, this campground has got it all. The Whittington Woods campground combines old-school and modern style camping to give the sojourner the best of both worlds.
The campground offers the option to rent the cabins monthly if you wish to do so. Many visitors rave about the hospitality of the staff at the campground and the location’s overall cleanliness. The free-range chickens are an additional bonus. You do not get to see that every day.
5. Ferne Clyffe State Park
Popular among rock climbers and hikers, the Ferne Clyffe State Park is situated in Goreville, Illinois. Waterfalls and trails are a theme throughout this state-owned park. The park is filled with nature and accommodates almost every style of camping.
If you’re exploring nature, then this campground is for you, as you will find unique plants along the trails. The site provides shade, and electricity hook-up is also an option if that is your thing. The campground is divided into different segments that provide additional amenities. Primitive, equestrian, backpack, and group camping are allowed on the site.
People often come to Ferne Clyffe State Park for the nature that abounds here. The beautiful trails that intersect the nature-conservative area are a significant attraction, too, as horse riders, bikers, and hikers can always be found in their numbers exploring the environment.
6. Crazy Horse Campground
Some of the most beautiful campgrounds tend to have weird names. Crazy Horse is both beautiful and has an odd name. While the lake here is famous among locals and visiting fishers, the campground’s primary point of attraction is the array of historical monuments present on the site.
The monuments, which mainly revolve around Abraham Lincoln, are a good place for any American history student to start from. Crazy Horse campground offers RV sites, cabins, and tent sites for rent. If your preference is modern camping, you can pay a little token for amenities. Otherwise, you can go primitive and find a location that suits you.
The lake is a hub of activities, ranging from watersports, fishing, swimming, etc. An annual Bluegrass Festival attracts people from the state and all over for music, food, and fun.
7. Hebron Hills Camping
The town of Oakland in Illinois boasts of the superb Hebron Hills Campground. Sitting just beside the beautiful Brush Creek, most of the campsites in this location are wooded, although there are vast spaces for exploration. Brush Creek is a small body of water that accommodates fishing, boats, and swimming. The campground’s location in a wilderness area means the area is relatively quiet.
The campground has it all, rustic sites, cabins, recreational vehicles, and parking lots. The place, however, is a one-room lodge that has no running water, but you do not go to campgrounds expecting five-star lodging facilities. The houses are tidy and properly maintained.
There are plenty of scenic views all over the location, and if you are going with kids or a group, the wide-open spaces are suitable for sporting activities. Visitors are usually impressed with the campground’s neatness and the hospitality of the camp’s owners.
8. Starved Rock State Park
One of the most popular campgrounds in Illinois is the Starved Rock State Park. The state-managed park, located in Oglesby, shares several similarities with Matthiessen State Park, which happens to be in the same city.
The significant difference between the two campgrounds is that while Matthiessen State Park is a primarily rustic campsite with no facilities, Starved Rock State Park has a few amenities. The park features waterfalls, gorgeous scenery, and canyons. The canyons here are eighteen in number, and during spring, all eighteen canyons have waterfalls.
The park, which dates back to 800 BC, is famed to have sustained humankind for a whopping 10,000 years. The park has several wildlife species and plants that can be enjoyed thoroughly along the 13-mile long trail that goes around the park. Squirrels can be found hopping tree to tree, Yellow-bellied sapsuckers, bald eagles, and indigo buntings litter the park.
Beauty is found in all forms in this park, with options to explore the woods, the waterfalls, or hiking. The campground offers an RV hook-up and a gravel parking spot at all campsites.
The amenities here are fundamental and provide a welcome escape from the remote Matthesien State Park located just across town.
9. Pere Marquette State Park
Suitable for families and groups, the Pere Marquette State Park is an 8,000-acre nature park with a great view of the Illinois River.
The many streams and rivers present here are a fallout of the glacial period. Native American culture greatly influenced the area surrounding this state-owned park, and it is evident in the burial mounds strewn around the state-owned park.
All through the year, nature lovers frequent the park for the many recreational activities it has to offer. They include boating, hunting, horseback riding, and of course, camping.
There are a total of eighty campsites available, with potable water, electrical hook-ups, a shower building, and a dump spot provided. If you choose to use the cabins, the luxury lodge is fitted with 50 ample rooms and over 20 smaller rooms.
The luxury lodge provides modern camping facilities and will suit the camper seeking a tremendous outdoor with top-notch services. Some of the facilities include an indoor swimming pool, a tennis court, saunas, and a gift shop. It even gets better as brunch is served to the lodgers. Campers and glampers will enjoy this park’s modern facilities and serene environment, respectively.
Pere Marquette caters to an extensive range of campers, from couples who seek an outdoor honeymoon experience to youth groups and families.
10. Kankakee River State Park
Formerly home to various Native American tribes, including the Ottawa, Potawatomi, and Miami nations, the Kankakee River State Park, which sits on a 4000-acre expanse of land, has a lot of history behind it.
The park is well known among hunters and fishers who come here all year round. About half of the park is wetlands, spanning eleven miles along the two sides of the river.
Anglers can use the two boat ramps, although the water can get shallow at specific points. Hunters, on the other hand, take advantage of the abundance of prey in this park. Fox, raccoon, rabbit, turkey, and dove, among others, are open to firearm hunting.
Over 200 campsites can be found in the campground, including grounds for horseback riders. The majority of these sites provide electricity and water, while the others are entirely rustic. There is also an area dedicated to picnics, and people looking for amenities can rent the cabins available in the park. Families and groups visit the park regularly and explore the river, go fishing, hunt, or ride a boat.
Illinois has often been erroneously limited to just Chicago. This list is further proof that the state is more than an epic urban center and baseball hotspot.
From remote and primitive sites that take you back to the Stone Age to luxury glamping sites that provide that royal feel, you’ll find every type of camping site in Illinois.
The scenery is inviting too, with lakes and rivers around every campground listed here. Also, everyone can find activities that suit them best, be it fishing, boating, hunting, or hiking.
The hospitable people of the state will make your stay more exciting. Now that you know where to locate the most incredible camping sites in Illinois, grab your gear and steel yourself for an adventure like no other.
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