The Complete Guide to Visting or Camping in Illinois State Parks

We know that navigating the different rules across the state can be difficult so we’ve put together the most frequently asked questions about camping or RV’ing in Illinois State parks. If you’re ready to reserve your weekend, find the best camping spots in Illinois using our campground guides, find the best deals on gear with our gear guides ,and best spots to find used camping gear in Illinois!

Basic Steps to Camping at Illinois State Parks

1. Find your Perfect Park!

Use the department of natural resources website or our Illinois campground guides to find a campground with the amenities and features you’re looking for in the location you desire

2. Book it!

Head over to ExploreMoreIl to select the dates you need (new for 2021) by clicking on the blue checkmarks for the dates available and filling out the reservation and payment details. Be sure to take a look at the campground map and try to select a site with privacy or a nice waterside view!

3. Get ready for your trip!

Take a look at the FAQs below to make sure you know what to do with your car or beer when you arrive to the campsite! Most state parks are hosted by a volunteer, have a self-service pay box, or a check-in station so be sure to check out your park’s specific rules before you arrive (you might not have much cell service!). Happy camping!

Frequently Asked Questions about Illinois State Park Camping

Are Illinois State Parks Free?

Illinois State Parks do not charge an entry fee other than the $1 charge for state beaches also run by the DNR. To camp in state parks, you should expect to spend between $8 – $35 per day depending on the type of campsite and if you are reserving for high-demand weekends.

Can I get a refund after camping at Illinois State Parks? What is the refund policy?


According to section 130.80 of the DNR rules, refunds for camping and utility fees can be requested for unused time as long as the request is made by the registered camper within seven days of departure. Note that they may take off one night of the camping and utility fee if you cancel a reservation after their cut-off date (usually, about three days before but check your reservation).

How many cars can I park at each IL State Park campsite?

Two cars per tent or trailer campsite. If you have motorcycles, you can either have two motorcycles or two motorcycles and a car parked at each campsite. Vehicle campsites are similar except you can also park the camper or RV itself without counting it as a car. If you’re in a primitive site, you can only keep your bike, canoe, or snowmobile with you.

Can I bring my dog or cat camping at the state parks?

dog camping IL state park

Yes! The only place you cannot bring your furry friend is into any of the Rent-A-Camp cabins. Just be sure to keep them on a leash! While the DNR doesn’t have any specific guidance on cats, they are presumably bound to similar rules and regulations. If you’re looking to bring your pet in the winter, there are a number of private campgrounds with cabins nearby parks across the state. Check out our state guides to find the best one for you!

Can I smoke at Illinois State Parks?

smoking IL state park

Yep! Smoking tobacco is permitted as long as you’re adhering to the normal state guidelines around building entrances whenever nearby camp stores, restrooms, etc.

Can I smoke cannabis / marijuana / weed camping at Illinois State Parks?

Unfortunately, the state laws for IL prohibit ‘public consumption’ of weed in Illinois. While the DNR hasn’t provided a specific ordinance against it, it is likely that smoking or consuming cannabis would be subject to a fine unless you have a medicinal card. Given that camping attracts all ages and types of families, consider picking up less disruptive types of marijuana, like edibles, if you must bring something for your weekend in the state parks.

Can I drink alcohol camping in Illinois State Parks?


In most state parks, alcohol is prohibited on the campgrounds. To check your specific site rules for alcohol, take a look at this page on the DNR website. In any case, as long as you aren’t disruptive or openly displaying your goods, we’ve never had issues in the past (but understand what your local DNR rules & penalties are before taking any risks!)

Can I mushroom hunt in Illinois State Parks?

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Yes, you can hunt mushrooms in Illinois State Parks and recreation areas but not in nature preserves. Additionally, during spring turkey hunting season (May 10th & 17th depending on your region), any parks with turkey hunting are closed to mushroom hunters until 1 pm for safety. If you want to be certain that you won’t encounter any trouble while mushroom hunting on state park land, just give them a call and they’ll be happy to answer your questions! Happy hunting!

Where can I buy an Illinois State Parks gift card?

Unfortunately, you cannot purchase gift cards for the Illinois State Parks. While some lodges within parks, like at Starved Rock, may offer gift certificates – the IL DNR does not.

What is the cancellation policy for Illinois State Park camping reservations?

Camping fees may be refunded if you cancel your camping reservation online at least three days ahead of the first night. Note that there is a $5 non-refundable reservation deposit that is made when you first reserve that will not be returned.

Which is the largest Illinois State Park?

The largest State Park in Illinois is Pere Marquette with over 8,000 acres to explore at the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers.

Which is the most popular state park in Illinois?

In 2020, the most popular state park in Illinois was Starved Rock State Park. A longtime Illinoisan favorite, over 2.3 million people visited in 2020.

Which is the least popular state park in Illinois?

With less than 4,000 visitors in 2020, the Fall Creek Scenic Overlook was the least popular state park in Illinois. A small park with limited activities, this park sees about 300 people a month throughout the year for archery hunting.

Where was the first State Park in Illinois?

Along the Ohio River, Massac State Park was first established in 1908 to preserve the history behind this French-Indian war encampment first built in the mid-1700s

About the Author

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Robbie is a Co-Founder and editor at Midwest Camping. Robbie has backpacked over three hundred miles of the Appalachian trail, visited seventeen national parks, and camped regularly for the last two decades.

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