Camping in Illinois | Guide to the Best Campgrounds in the Prairie State
Planning your big weekend camping in Illinois? If you’re planning a weekend getaway to camp in Illinois then you are in the right place! We’ve found the best places for camping in Illinois – Take a look at the types of Illinois campgrounds or use the map below to take a look at our county guides and see the best that the Land of Lincoln has to offer – Check back often as we continue to explore and fill Illinois and the surrounding states in our quest to find the best camping site in Illinois and the entire Midwest!
With the first state park opened in 1908, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources now operates over fifty camping locations in Illinois! Each state park has unique features and opportunities for endless fascination and outdoor exploration. The state parks offer daytime activities for beach camping, waterfall chasers, and plenty for hikers too.
State parks have slightly stricter rules than most campsites, but we haven’t seen them enforced too strictly unless the campers become a nuisance. On the other hand, state parks should provide the most opportunities for trails, activities, and enough forest to be away from the city lights.
In most counties across the state, there are forest preserves or conservation districts also offering well-maintained camping near the local community. Usually featuring great access to trails, county-operated campgrounds are a great way to find a classic camping experience without breaking the bank! Each organization will have different ways to reserve and different rules so be sure to do your research!
If you’re looking for somewhere with slightly fewer rules and more modern comforts, you might be more interested in private campgrounds. Chain campgrounds like the KOA near Starved Rock may have amenities like a pool, TVs, or even campsite-wide wifi. These campgrounds will have looser alcohol rules but also may not have the seclusion that camping in Illinois in a tent in the middle of a state park would have!
More common in southern Illinois, the federal government hosts a number of campgrounds in the national forest and on other federal recreation areas that you can find on recreation.gov. These campgrounds are usually well developed and have a similar price range as the state parks.
Free Camping in Illinois
With a fairly limited amount of federal land throughout the state – the only real boondocking in Illinois can be found in Southern Illinois in and near the Shawnee National Forest. For other regions, you’ll likely be stuck with parking lots if you need a free place to camp for the night
Regional Differences for Camping in Illinois
Covering over 380 miles from north to south, Illinois has a wide variety of topography and wildlife that makes the northern part of the state look completely different from the southern half. Each region has its own benefits to offer based on your priorities!
Including the population centers of Chicago, the surrounding suburbs, and another hundred miles in every direction – Northern Illinois is a hub of state parks and local campgrounds allowing you to mix a camping vacation with city exploration. Expect to see a fair amount of grasslands and flatter hiking experiences that camping in Illinois is known for.
Anyone you ask in this state is going to give you a different idea of where ‘central’ Illinois starts and ends but you’ll know you are there when you drive past your 50th mile of corn and soybeans. You will find many riverside campgrounds near Peoria with unique historical remnants and a larger selection of private campgrounds to pick from compared to northern IL.
Camping in central Illinois is a great way to get away from the light pollution of the city and suburbs and enjoy a bit more peace and quiet away from the highway.
Camping in southern Illinois is going to look much more different than the flat plains of northern and central Illinois. Here, the glaciers deposited the rocks and debris that was swept from the northern regions. This leads to more hilly hiking options and more forests, like the Shawnee National Forest or Rend Lake.
Southern Illinois is going to have far more options for exploring varied nature but less to offer in terms of larger towns, restaurants, and other out-of-camp activities.
Take it straight from an Illinois native – While we may be known for cornfields, there are still some found the best options for camping near Chicago – within a two-hour drive of the city! Skip the research and snag a reservation at one of these campgrounds within two hours of Chicago! State Park Campgrounds … Read more
Central Illinois has campgrounds for every type of camper! While camping in central Illinois usually surfaces visions of flat forests and fields, we’ve found hidden gems throughout the state to explore state parks, local forest preserves, and private campgrounds in central Illinois with unique waterfalls, lakes, and more! State Park Camping in Central Illinois Illinois … Read more
Northern Illinois has dozens of campgrounds perfect for adventure seekers and families – if you know where to look. We’ve pulled our favorite state parks, local forest preserves, and private campgrounds in northern Illinois so you don’t need to spend hours going from Google Maps to websites and back again. Find your perfect spot for … Read more
Southern Illinois offers unique midwestern camping experiences you can’t find in other parts of the state! Camping near Carbondale at one of these four campgrounds will be an unforgettable experience for any outdoor adventurer. Check out our recommendations for Jackson county camping and plan your trip today! 4. Crab Orchard Campground Best Carbondale Campground for … Read more
Seeking a state park or private campground for camping near Freeport? We’ve found the top three options in Stephenson county so you can focus on getting your family prepared for that big weekend away! Whether you’re looking for a beachy weekend in the midwest or more of a pool experience, these campgrounds have something for … Read more
Finding the perfect place for winter camping in Illinois can be tough as most campgrounds close for the off-season. We’ve pulled together the best state parks, local campgrounds, and private spots to spend a weekend warming over the campfire. Where to Go Winter Camping in Northern Illinois These campgrounds are open throughout the year for … Read more
The Illinois DNR can trace its history back to the very origins of the state’s creation as the first game law was put in place in 1853. These fun facts show how far Illinois conservation has come over the last 200 years! Illinois State Park Statistics Number of Visitors (2020) 34.9 million Number of State … Read more
With so many options and activities, Starved Rock can be overwhelming for first-timers. Our guide to the most frequently asked questions about Starved Rock State Park will help put your mind at ease and answer those burning questions keeping you up at night. Conclusion Starved Rock AND Mattheissen full? Check out more state parks and … Read more
Pining for a weekend in the forest? Check out these top three campgrounds in Woodford county for a great experience camping near Eureka! 3. Hickory Hill Campground Hickory Hill Campground is a great private campground option when you are camping near Eureka. It’s nestled into Illinois’ countryside and provides a relaxing, beautiful place to stay. … Read more
Perfect for autumn leave seekers, we’ve found three great spots for camping near Carlinville this year! Check out both private and state-run campgrounds below to avoid missing out on a serene weekend in the outdoors. While there isn’t any true primitive camping, the county is full of impressive private campgrounds, in addition to our state … Read more
Seeking out a great outdoor weekend camping near Kewanee? Check out these Henry county campgrounds for great options near the quad cities for families, history buffs, bikers, and more! Great for all seasons, these campgrounds offer cabins and seasonal spots for every type of camper. 5. Atkinson Motorsports Park Do you love riding on thrilling … Read more
Seeking an outdoor weekend camping near Galesburg? We’ve found the four best campgrounds in Knox county with fishing, swimming, and more to keep you entertained through the summer! 4. Woodland Hills Camping Woodland Hills Camping and Recreation is nestled in the beautiful relaxing natural landscapes of Southern Knox County. Although this campground is only a … Read more
When it comes to camping near Rochelle, the Rock River provides unique topography and a setting for activities that can be hard to find in other parts of Illinois. We’ve found the six best campgrounds in Ogle county to give you a variety of experiences to explore on your next outdoor adventure! 6. Castle Rock … Read more
At the tail end of the 2021 camping season, Midwest Camping took a few friends to Kankakee River State Park to review their facilities, campground quality, and more so you know exactly what to expect the next time you’re in Kankakee! Summary Kankakee River State Park centers around the namesake river, covering over ten miles … Read more
There is plenty of ADA Camping in Illinois if you know where to look! Accessibility for people with disabilities at campgrounds in Illinois is important, so we’ve put together this article to give an overview of where to find accessible camping across the state. There are a few types of campground operators most likely to … Read more
After being closed for almost three months in 2020, Illinoisans were able to get out to the parks all year – and over 38 million took to the trails! Based on reports by the Illinois DNR obtained by Midwest Camping – we identified the most visited Illinois State Parks. See the winners and losers across … Read more
Looking to backpack the prairie or just a little extra privacy? You can find primitive camping in Illinois a quarter-mile away from parking all the way up to 15+ miles away! The forests and parks across the state offer unique boondocking opportunities. We’ve pulled the best for you to narrow your search for your next … Read more
As the largest State Park in Northern Illinois, Rock Cut State Park has a ton to offer car campers and RV campers alike at this 3,000-acre escape to nature! We took a weekend to go and check out what Rock Cut has to offer. We found spacious campgrounds, shady groves, and enough activities to go … Read more
Looking for an Illinois State Park within one or two hours of Chicago? These Illinois State Parks close to Chicago offer fishing, boating, camping, hiking, and everything else under the sun for a great weekend or weeknight outdoors! You have PLENTY to choose from, even if the Friday Kennedy traffic looks terrible. Looking specifically for … Read more
Camping in Illinois doesn’t have to be expensive if you know where to find cheap or used camping gear! There are plenty of people and companies out there selling used gear or even renting it if you’re just trying the outdoors for the first time. Take a look at our roundup of the best places … Read more
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! Reserving Cabin Space at … Read more
Split in two by the mighty Rock River, you can find amazing whiteside county camping right along the flowing waters for an unforgettable camping experience! Take a look at the three best campgrounds near Rock Falls to find your next weekend under the stars! 3. Crow Valley Campground Private Whiteside County Camping This campground, a … Read more
Looking for the best camping in Boone County? Take a look at one of Illinois’ premier state parks, or, for a more private experience enjoy a pet-friendly RV park complete with planned activities like Bingo! 1. Rock Cut State Park Best Camping in Boone County If you want to go camping or exploring in Winnebago … Read more
With one of Illinois’ largest state parks and a great county forest preserve, we have found two great options for camping in DeKalb, IL. Enjoy the Muskie Capital of Illinois or relive your scouting days in an old scout camp for your next weekend getaway! 2. McQueen Forest Preserve Best Group Camping in DeKalb County … Read more
Home to the stunning Rend Lake, you can find Franklin County camping options all around the man-made resovior! Enjoy swimming beaches, great fishing, hiking, and other water sports all while sleeping under the stars! We’ve found the four best campgrounds near Benton to make your trip planning a breeze! 4. Old Bates Campground This privately … Read more
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 … Read more
We’ve found the best Coles County camping to take the work off your hands! These two campgrounds near Charleston & Mattoon will give you serene weekends away and a chance to explore the ridges created by the Embarras River. 2. Walnut Point State Park A gem of central Illinois – Walnut Point State Park – … Read more
For great outdoor experiences near Danville, you don’t need to go further than Vermilion County camping in world-class state parks, county preserves, or backcountry camping just minutes away! Fishers, bikers, scuba divers, and more can enjoy the forests, lakes, and hills that Vermilion County campgrounds have to offer! 3. Middle Fork State Fish and Wildlife … Read more
For great weekends trips from Peoria, camping can be less than a half hour away! Take a look at these campgrounds in Tazewell county to explore a section of home you might not have seen before! Carl Spindler Campground Best Peoria Camping for Bikers This campground, included in the broader Fon du Lac Park District, … Read more
Use our packing list for your next camping trip!
We want to keep in touch! Subscribe to stay up to date on the BEST that the midwest has to offer and we'll throw in a free packing listso you don't forget the matches next time you head into the great outdoors!