The 19 Illinois State Parks with Cabins | Explore in Luxury

Illinois State Parks with Cabins

Cabin camping is great to keep you out of the elements while close to the outdoors! Unfortunately, the state’s website is out of date and the reservation system has broken filtering. We sifted through the noise and found out that Illinois operates 37 cabins in 19 Illinois state parks with cabins!

State Park

Number of Cabins


Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish & Wildlife Area



Hamilton County State Fish & Wildlife Area



Fox Ridge State Park


Kankakee River State Park

(Cabins Unavailable for 2021)


Pere Marquette State Park



Sangchris Lake State Park


Shabbona Lake State Park


Siloam Springs State Park


Washington County State Recreation Area



Beaver Dam State Park



Dixon Springs State Park



Illini State Park


Johnson Sauk Trail State Recreation Area



Lowden State Park



Ramsey Lake State Recreation Area



Red Hills State Park



Rock Cut State Park



Stephen A Forbes State Recreation Area


Wolf Creek State Park 



Reserving Cabin Space at Illinois State Parks

Since space is limited, be sure to book as far in advance as possible over at ExploreMoreIL. If these state parks are full, check out some of the best cabin camping near Chicago right in Cook County! Not sure where to go yet? Check out our Illinois campground reviews!

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How Much Does It Cost To Camp In Illinois?

Cost to Camp FeatImage

Campground prices can vary widely between state parks and private RV-focused campgrounds making it hard to understand how much the cost to camp in Illinois will run you. You don’t want your campsite given away for failing to plan for all of the expenses! We’ve done extensive research on our inventory of over 300 campsites (and growing!) to understand the campsite fees that you’ll encounter so you can plan your next trip!

How much does it cost to Camp in Illinois?

Depending on the campground type you are reserving, your daily cost will range between $15 and $30. The Illinois State Parks are the cheapest option at $8 per night for car campers while private campgrounds start closer to $20-$25 with added amenities like Wifi.

Is there an Illinois State Park Camping fee Senior Discount?

The Illinois state parks offers 50% discounts on camping fees Monday through Thursday for seniors 62 years old or over. To take advantage of the discount, you must be an Illinois resident. Read the discount section below for more details and restrictions!

Factors affecting the cost to camp in Illinois


Usually denoted by the campground classes AA through D, campsites can offer electricity, shower access, and show if a campsite has vehicular access. These campground classifications are used by the State Parks in Illinois and other state and national parks across the country to help you understand what you are getting and are frequently used to determine daily prices (like the IL DNR does).

Cost to Camp in Illinois State Parks



Best Suited Equipment

Daily Price


Showers, Electric, & Sewer

RVs, Campers, Tents

$25 - $35


Shower & Electric

RVs, Campers, Tents

$20 - $30



Campers, Tents

$18 - $20



Campers, Tents

$10 - $12






No Vehicle Access

Tents, Backpacking


Private campgrounds will also usually change their price either by the type of campsite or the specific equipment you’ll be bringing (more on that later). Private campgrounds are more likely to use a more straightforward naming system than the nebulous AA, B/E, Etc. used by the Department of Natural Resources.


Holiday Weekends Can Increase the Cost to Camp in Illinois State Parks

In Illinois, the state parks have slightly higher pricing for their premium campsites (AA & A-Class) over holiday weekends for the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, and Labor Day. Expect to pay $10 extra per day for these weekends.

Private and local county operators may have variable pricing based on the larger seasons so double-check their website or the reservation information to be certain. For example, Chicago’s Cook County Forest Preserves have fees that are $15 per night higher in the summer than during the winter.


how much does it cost to camp in illinois

Most campgrounds charge different prices for RVs than they do for just tent campers if they aren’t charging you by the campsite type. If you are just driving in and pitching your tent – you likely won’t need to worry about additional fees either way. Tent camping is the cheapest option for sure!

Residency (For Public Campgrounds)

Blackwell Forest Preserve
Blackwell Forest Preserve – $20 for residents but $30 for non-residents

For some county forest preserves, there are higher fees for non-residents than residents. For example, at Cook County’s Bullfrog Lake, fees are $10 higher for non-county residents. While this shouldn’t impact you at private campgrounds or state parks (except to qualify for senior discounts), keep this in mind when looking through fees and planning your budget!

The Cost To Camp in Illinois

Without further ado – using our extensive research in Illinois Campgrounds across the state, we have found the average cost to expect at each campground type:

Campground OperatorAverage Price RangeNote(s)
Illinois State DNR$8 – $20Taken from tent and tent + electricity site prices
City/Park District$15 – $20
Federal (Army Bases, Federal Land, etc.)$17 – $20
Private (KOA, Good Sam, etc.)$25 – $35
County Forest Preserves$20 – $42The wide price range is primarily driven by the average $10 price increase non-residents
Illinois Average Daily Campsite Cost$15 – $30

Illinois State Parks Discount Programs for Seniors, Veterans, and Persons with Disabilities

Senior Discounts at Illinois State Parks

For Illinois residents that are 62 years old or older, you are entitled to a 50% discount on campground fees from Monday through Thursday for B – AA campgrounds any week. For Class C D campgrounds, seniors pay nothing from Monday through Thursday! Unfortunately, this means that Friday through Sunday you’ll be paying the full rate alongside everybody else since weekends can get so crowded already. Additionally, this is only a discount on the campground fee itself – there is a $10 utility fee attached to any campground with electrical access that is not discounted (B/E – AA in the chart below).

This means that if a campgrounds total price was $25 a day ($15 being the campground fee and $10 being the utility fee), the Senior Discount price is actually $17.50 (7.50 for half the campground fee + $10 full utility fee).

Campground FeeUtility FeeFinal Price
Full Price (Fri – Sun)$ 15.00$ 10.00$ 25.00
Senior Discount
Class AA, A, B/E (Mon – Thurs)
$ 7.50$ 10.00$ 17.50
Senior Discount
Class C or D (Mon – Thurs)
$ 0.00$ 0.00Free!

Illinois State Parks Disability Status Discount

For Illinois residents with a Class 2 or 2A card , you are entitled to a 50% discount on the campground fees from Monday through Thursday any week. The discount program is set up exactly the same way as the senior discount program discussed above. Friday through Sunday you’ll be paying the full rate alongside everybody and this is only a discount on the campground fee itself – there is a $10 utility fee attached to any campground with electrical access that is not discounted (B/E – AA in the chart below).

This means that if a campgrounds total price was $25 a day ($15 being the campground fee and $10 being the utility fee), the Senior Discount price is actually $17.50 (7.50 for half the campground fee + $10 full utility fee). Use the chart in the Senior discount section for a more structured example!

Veteran Discounts Camping at Illinois State Parks

For Illinois residents that have ID cards showing disabled veteran or POW status or veterans who apply for a special armed forces pass in Sprinfield are entitled to a 100% discount on campground fees at anytime. Unlike the Senior discount, this is not restricted to weekdays. The only fee that is required by eligible individuals will be the $10 utility fee on Class B/E – AA campgrounds. For Class C D campgrounds, eligible veterans pay nothing!

Campground FeeUtility FeeFinal Price
Full Price (For Comparison)$ 15.00$ 10.00$ 25.00
Eligible Veteran Discount
Class AA, A, B/E
$ 0.00$ 10.00$ 10.00
Eligible Veteran Discount
Class C or D
$ 0.00$ 0.00Free!

For more examples of how the fee structures work, take a look at the Illinois Camping Fee Schedule.

Cost to Camp in Illinois Infographic

Illinois Campground Types and Rates

Ready to go camping? Use our County Guides to find your next outdoor adventure!

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4 Camping Gear Kickstarters Nobody Needed in 2020

camping gear kickstarter fails

This year has been ripe for odd inventions as everyone is stuck in their homes! Take a look at these Kickstarter fails and camping gear that nobody asked for in 2020! While we usually try to find quality gear for everyone, here we’ve pulled together forks that are certain to cut your mouth, packs that are already full of questionably useful gimmicks, and a particularly dangerous pole awaits you below…

1. EATI Titanium Spork

Kickstarter Fail | Sharpen Your Tongue

kickstarter fails

The EATI titanium utensil is a great example of a good idea that went a bit too far. In their quest to add everything in the western world into one tiny spork shovel, they forgot one key thing, holding onto a knife is bad for the normal human. By adding a blade into the handle, the rest of the titanium piece is useless (except maybe the bottle opener but try to find a gadget around camp without a bottle opener these days)!

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Their media shows everyone just choking up on the fork itself, which would work but puts a LOT of confidence into never slipping too far back, or even forgetting about the blade while cleaning up! There are easier ways to cut and eat on the trail, especially for over $20 a spork-knife. Here’s a $10 titanium spork instead. Then you can just get a $5 or $10 titanium knife and still stay set on budget and ~safe eating~.

2. TRAJET Backpack of Junk

Kickstarter Fail | Do Nothing with Everything

The TRAJET backpack is a fantastic way to spend $230 to get budget versions of everything you may actually need backpacking. The kickstarter boasts that this backpack comes with:

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  • Pop Out Tent
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Fold-Up Grill
  • Outdoor Solar Shower
  • Cooking & Dining Gear
  • Built-In Cooler
  • Eternal Flashlight
  • Multi-Tool
  • “Every Tool you Can Imaging”

Some of these things alone will run you north of $200 if you want to survive your first storm. Especially when it comes to buying tents or cooking gear. The pop-up tent in the video looks like it would buckle at the first sign of high wind and rain. While this tent is marketed as a ‘bug out bag’ or full gear loadout for a first camping trip, you’d have a hard time surviving more than 36 hours with just the equipment included. On the bright side, your drinks will stay cold! You’d probably be better off putting your money into a real backpacking backpack.

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This tent does not inspire confidence. (Kickstarter)

3. Exod Arc Tent

Kickstarter Fail | Puncture Guaranteed

If you’ve ever punctured your sleeping pad, just wait till you puncture your whole tent! The Exod Arc Tent is a hammock style tent with an inflatable frame. After a long day on the trail, just find two to four trees of fair strength to hold the multiple lines it requires, blow up your tent, and then you can climb up and relax. Just hope a field mouse doesn’t try to take a nibble after running across the new ‘branches’ that your tent/hammock created!

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Overall, inflatable gear is a tough sell for reliability out in the backwoods or when you’re camping in more primitive campgrounds. If weight is your worry, maybe one of these small tents would work better!

4. Trekking Pole Multitool

Kickstarter Fail | Stab the Earth, or Yourself

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Why does everyone insist on putting knives into places they don’t belong? Even regular trekking poles can break and turn into sharp sources of problems on a steep downhill while you’re really putting your weight on them! These guys can turn lethal if anything goes wrong. Not to mention that a double-sided knife and saw combination is already challenging to do anything useful with. One slip of the grip and you might need a first aid multi-tool instead Unless you’re looking for an outdoor themed sword-cane, these poles are pretty unlikely to do you any good.

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Think we got it wrong? Really love your sword-cane Trekking Pole Multitool? Let us know about your favorite gear or other comments by sending an email!

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Shabbona Lake Camping Review | Great Group Camping

shabbona lake review

Nestled within DeKalb County, Shabbona Lake offers some of the best camping within ninety minutes of Chicago. Midwest Camping hit Shabbona Lake camping, just before the turn to winter, in October 2020. We gathered some friends to fill three campsites for three days to really check out what Shabbona Lake’s campsites, facilities, and nearby activities for ourselves.

Shabbona Lake Camping Tips:

  • Take a look at the campsite map to find sites with amazing Lake views
  • Note that the sites may be a little small for two medium or large tents
  • Head to the shower building when you need a bathroom


shabbona lake camping map

Shabbona Lake had three camping loops to choose from, we opted for the Canvasback Cove loop since it is closest to both the Lake and the camp store – The only real downside of the is that its a little further than the Merganser circle from the best bathrooms. The campsite itself is fairly typical for the state parks with a metal campfire circle, picnic table, and gravel parking for two. While the site are supposed to be large enough for two tents, we had a challenging time finding enough flat ground for just our REI Grand Hut Four. You may want to consider getting two sites if you’re worried about space for two tents.

Shabbona Lake Camping Activities

Walking the loop trail is a great way to spend a few hours around the state park, enjoying the great outdoors and admiring the different areas around the lake. It was a little cold for us but if you’re there in the summer, check out the boat rentals to relax or to fish – we saw a lot of successful fisherman around the lake during our time there.

We also drove about fifteen minutes away to Jonamac Orchard spend a day doing fall activities like apple picking, navigating a corn maze, and enjoying hot cider. They also had a cider house where you can try a whole flight of different hard ciders! We walked out with a dozen donuts, half peck of apples, and more cider than I’d like to admit!


Back at camp, there are outhouses and a larger shower building with more developed facilities (and of course, the showers). It is definitely worth the walk to go all the way to the better spot if you’re interested in running water. The shower house was clean but not very well heated so keep that in mind for winter months!

hiking in shabbona lake state park
Shabbona Lake Hiking Trail

Camp Store

The camp store is well stocked and has plenty of firewood. We went in October, right as the weather started to turn but there was plenty of firewood to keep us warm. The woodpile is also accessible outside of store hours in case you run out after they close (just be sure to leave the right amount and fill out the envelope!).


Shabbona Lake camping is a delightful way to spend a weekend – take a look at their website for more information. We will certainly be back there again in the future! If you’re going to have more than one tent in the group, take care to ensure you’ll have enough space given the terrain.

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3 Great Winter Weekends – Cabin Camping Near Chicago


As the days get shorter, there’s nothing better than enjoying the crisp winter air in your own private cabin, camping near chicago. When the lakes and rivers freeze over, new activities spring up that aren’t possible during the summer to make for a memorable trip! Try snowshoeing near Joliet or cross country skiing over miles of old canal trails or you can curl up with a book near your fire and enjoy a weekend of seclusion.

We’ve found the best cabin camping nearby so take a look and plan your next trip today!

1. Lasalle / Peru KOA

Cabins Near Starved Rock

cabin camping near chicago
KOA Cabin

While these cabins are a little further than the ones offered by the forest preserve, Lasalle Peru KOA cabins offer you the ability to hang all day at Starved Rock and then head back to a heated cabin and take a nice long shower. The extra hour drive is worth it to get to what we think is your best bet for cabin camping near chicago.

In the winter months, Starved Rock attracts hoards of Bald Eagles you can watch feast on fish. The dam breaks up the river ice allowing the birds to get to the fish beneath. For more winter fun, spend time ice climbing if you have your own equipment or rent cross country skis at the nearby Mattheison state park!

2. Camp Danbeard

Best Cabin Camping Near Chicago

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Camp Danbeard Cabin

Only a half hour away from the city, the cook county forest preserve’s Camp Dan Beard offers heated cabins for you to defrost during your escape. This six cabin campground has five cabins that can sleep up to eight people and one larger cabin with room for ten. The larger cabin also features a private bathroom, heat, and air-conditioning – perfect for the cold dry winter.

3. Camp Reinberg

Cabin Camping for Groups

Camp Reinberg has cabins for groups of all sizes, even space for up to three dozen people making it the perfect place for a couple families or few people looking to maintain social distancing! For a more regular sized trip, Reinberg has additional cabins more suited for 8 or 12 people.


While cabin camping is a bit more sparse than your options for spring, summer, and fall – it offers a completely different experience that everyone should have. There’s nothing better than the silence of a fresh snowfall along with your coffee just outside your warm cabin door. Reach out if you have any other cabins in the area you think we should recommend!

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