ADA Camping in Illinois | Accessible Campgrounds for People with Disabilities

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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 have accessible campgrounds prepared for people with disabilities:

Where to Look for ADA-Accessible Camping in Illinois

Illinois State Parks, County Forest Preserves, and National Forests are required to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements regarding accessibility at campgrounds for people with disabilities.

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State Parks

All Illinois State Parks with campgrounds contain at least one campsite that is accessible for people with disabilities. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR) also provides discounted campsite reservation fees for people with disabilities who meet certain criteria. The DNR also runs a program titled Disabled Outdoor Opportunities aimed at increasing accessibility and creating more programs for people with disabilities within Illinois State Parks.

County & Municipal Forest Preserves

County and Municipal forest preserves with campgrounds, such as the Cook County Forest Preserves, also include at least one campsite accessible for people with disabilities.

Federal Campgrounds

Campgrounds on Recreation.gov in Central and Southern Illinois such as Shawnee National Forest, Lake Shelbyville, and Carlyle Lake have accessible campgrounds available.

Note about Private Campgrounds

Private campgrounds in Illinois are not guaranteed to have any campsites that are accessible for people with disabilities, and it’s important to call the specific campground and ask about their accessibility for people with disabilities before making a reservation. 

What does it mean to be an ADA-Accessible Campground in Illinois?

Campgrounds are required to have a certain number of campsites accessible for people with disabilities based on the number of total campsites in total according to the Americans with Disabilities Act. For example, a campground with 51 to 75 total campsites must include at least 4 campsites accessible for people with disabilities.

Campsites must contain certain elements in order to be accessible for people with disabilities according to the ADA. They must provide a flat surface for the tent pad with very small amounts of sloping in any direction, an accessible firepit, and an accessible picnic table.

RV campsites must be 20 feet wide, provide paved access to the utility hookup, and include an accessible firepit and picnic table. Campgrounds with bathrooms must also include an accessible toilet stall and an accessible shower stall.

Best Spots for ADA Accessible Camping in Northern Illinois

Cook County Forest Preserves

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Hiking near Cook County Forest Preserve Camp Danbeard

If you live near Chicago and its surrounding suburbs, the Cook County Forest Preserves offers accessible campsites at all of their campgrounds. Their tent and RV campsites can accommodate up to six campers. These campsites also feature accessible parking, paved path to and around the campsite, a raised fire pit, and an accessible picnic table.

The Cook County Forest Preserves also offer cabins in addition to campsites. Their small cabin can accommodate up to eight people, and the large cabin can accommodate up to ten people. Both large and small cabins include accessible parking, paved path to the cabin, a roll-in shower with a bench, an accessible sink, a raised fire pit, and an accessible picnic table.

In addition to cabins, the Cook County Forest Preserves also offers large bunkhouses, which can accommodate up to 36 people, and small bunkhouses, which can accommodate up to 16 people. These bunkhouses offer accessible parking, paved path to the bunkhouse, a roll-in shower with a bench, an accessible sink, a raised fire pit, and an accessible picnic table. All campgrounds operated by the Cook County Forest Preserves include an accessible bathroom, a roll-in shower with a bench in the shower building, and an accessible changing area with a bench making these some of the best ADA campgrounds in Illinois!

Kane County Forest Preserves

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If you’re interested in accessible camping in Kane County, Big Rock Campground and Paul Wolff Campground are the best options.

Big Rock Campground, located within Big Rock Forest Preserve, offers six ADA-accessible campsites that include access to water and electric and are suitable for tent or RV camping. Campsite 77, which is an accessible campsite, is located along the forest preserve’s pond. All six of the accessible spots are located close to a restroom. Big Rock Campground also offers two ADA-accessible primitive campsites. These accessible campsites are Site P1 and Site P7. Both of these sites include a paved path that leads into the campsite. Site P1 is more open and less private than Site P7. Site P7 is located farther into the forest and provides more foliage.

Paul Wolff Campground is located in Elgin, Illinois within the Burnidge Forest Preserve. It offers five ADA-accessible improved campsites that include water and electric access, a parking pad, and a fire ring. Each of these accessible sites is located close to restrooms. This campground also offers two primitive ADA-accessible campsites. Site P1 offers a more private primitive camping experience while Site P4 is significantly more open.

Starved Rock State Park

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Currently, the most attended state park in Illinois, Starved Rock State Park offers seven ADA accessible campsites. All of the accessible campsites within Starved Rock State Park are Class A Premium Sites and include electricity access. These campsites can accommodate up to four campers and include a fire pit and picnic table. The ADA-accessible campsites within Starved Rock State Park are all located next to each other and form a small loop. These spots are also clearly marked with the international symbol of access.

Best Spots for ADA Accessible Camping in Central Illinois

Jubilee College State Park

Located right off U.S. Route 150 between Kickapoo and Brimfield, IL, Jubilee College State Park offers five ADA-accessible campsites. These campsites are Class A, include electricity access, a fire pit, and a picnic table, and can accommodate up to four campers. The accessible campsites in Jubilee College State Park are spread out throughout the campground and are intermixed between different loops. It’s important to note that campers who do not require an ADA accessible campsite are allowed to book the accessible sites when the rest of the campground is full. Make sure to make your reservations early in the camping season!

Moraine View State Recreation Area

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Moraine View State Recreation Area is located near Bloomington/Normal, Illinois, and gives campers the ability to enjoy the serenity Midwestern woodlands provide.

This state recreation area also offers seven ADA-accessible campsites within its campground. These accessible campsites are spread throughout the campground. They include electric access, can accommodate up to four campers, and are pet-friendly. Additionally, you’ll find a firepit and a picnic table at these campsites. ADA accessible campsites at Moraine View State Recreation Area also include paved driveways.

The campsites within this state recreation area are covered by dense foliage and trees. A fun fact about Moraine View State Recreation Area is that it was originally named McLean County Conservation Area until it was renamed in 1975!

Best Spots for ADA Accessible Camping in Southern Illinois

Wayne Fitzgerrell State Recreation Area

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Located just a short drive from North Sandusky Campground, Wayne Fitzgerrell State Recreation area offers two additional ADA-accessible campsites within its campground. These campsites offer electric access, a paved driveway surface, and a firepit. The ADA-accessible campsites are located directly next to each other in Hickman’s Point. They are not located near the water and provide partial shade.

Accessible restrooms and shower stalls are also available at this campground. Wayne Fitzgerrell State Recreation Area is the perfect campground for you if you’re an avid birdwatcher or nature photographer. You might even be able to spot an American Bald Eagle!

North Sandusky Campground

North Sandusky Campground is located along Sandusky Cove on Rend Lake in Sesser, IL. This campground offers six ADA-accessible campsites. These campsites include electric access, are fit for tents or RVs, and include a picnic table and fire ring. Some of the accessible campsites also include water access. They are also able to accommodate up to eight campers.

The accessible campsites at North Sandusky Campground are spread out throughout different loops within the campground. Accessible Site 010 overlooks Rend Lake and provides an amazing view! Accessible Sites 077, 024, and 116 provide full shade to help you escape from the hot summer sun.

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Illinois State Park 2020 Attendance Map

Illinois State Park Attendance

Use this tool to explore attendance at state parks across Illinois:

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Most Popular Illinois State Parks | Top 10 in 2020

Top 10 Most Popular IL State Parks

Despite being closed for almost 1/4 of the year, 2020 was still one of the best years for the most popular Illinois state parks as Illinoisans sought connections to the outdoors. Based on reports by the Illinois DNR obtained by Midwest Camping – we identified the most visited Illinois State Parks. Avoid the crowds (treat this list like the plague!) or join in on the fun below!

Top 10 Most Popular Illinois State Parks by Number of Visitors

10. Moraine Hills State Park | 870K Visitors

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Opened in 1976, Moraine Hills State Park has one of the only undeveloped glacial-fed lakes in Illinois leaving a pristine natural lake for fishing, hiking around, and boating! Under two hours from Chicago, this park is a popular destination for anyone looking for a little peace from the urban noise.

This year, Moraine Hills saw a burst of popularity, helping it leap into the top ten list from #13 in 2019 as a new entry into the most popular Illinois state parks list!

9. Fort Massac State Park | 900K Visitors

Bordered by the Ohio River, Fort Massac State Park saw just under 1 million visitors last year! As the first state park founded in Illinois, people have been enjoying the 1,500 acres of forested lands at the southern tip of Illinois for hiking, camping, or learning about the old fort maintained for over 110 years!

8. Kankakee River State Park | 1.0M Visitors

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(Tripadvisor)

Nestled along the beautifully scenic Kankakee River, the Kankakee River State Park offers something for everyone. It’s no surprise that Kankakee River is in the top ten most popular state parks in Illinois.

Enjoy fishing for smallmouth bass, catfish, walleye, and Northern pike. Check out Rock Creek for a great angling spot or bring your boat to fish out on the river! If you’re looking to experience the captivatingly stunning nature this park has to offer, be sure to try canoeing down the river or camping for a weekend!

7. Rock Cut State Park | 1.1M Visitors

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If you want to go camping or exploring in Winnebago County with immediate access to the vast outdoors, look no further than Rock Cut State Park. This park’s 3,092 acres contain two lakes for water activities like fishing, swimming, boating, and winter skating. There are trails for hikers, horseback riders, mountain bikers, and cross country skiers!

With tons of campgrounds and 40 miles of hiker trails, you can spend a whole week here and just scratch the surface! Activities plus the larger towns and cities nearby helped get Rock Cut on the list as the seventh most popular Illinois state park!

6. Adeline Jay Geo-Karis Illinois Beach State Park | 1.2M Visitors

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(Wikimedia)

Adeline Jay Geo-Karis Illinois Beach State Park is located along the beautiful Lake Michigan. Enjoy swimming in the cool waters on a hot sunny day or take a relaxing stroll along the beach to watch the sunset in the evening. As the only state park offering camping along the lake, Illinois Beach campgrounds are extremely popular during the summer months, so a reservation is recommended!

5. Kickapoo State Recreation Area | 1.2M Visitors

Over 1.2 Million people traveled to eastern Illinois to enjoy the outdoors at Kickapoo. Just a ten-minute drive from Danville, IL, these 2,800 acres of forests, lakes, and hillsides are lush with opportunities to explore. Split in two by the Vermillion River, this park has six lakes and plenty of trails to come back again and again for making it the fifth most popular Illinois state park!

4. Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park | 1.2M Visitors

Wayne Fitzgerrell State Recreation Area offers easy access to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ 19,000-acre Rend Lake Reservoir to enjoy hunting, fishing, camping, picnicking, horseback riding, hiking, and other outdoor sports. As the most popular state park in Southern Illinois, 1.2 million people flocked to the park to spot the American bald eagle, red-tailed hawks, and a variety of mammals such as the white-tailed deer around the lake.

3. Clinton Lake State Recreation Area | 1.5M Visitors

Known for its 4,900-acre lake, Clinton Lake State Recreation Area hosted 1.5 million visitors in 2020! With a sandy swimming beach and plenty of hunting and fishing opportunities, Clinton Lake has long been a favorite in east-central Illinois.

2. Hennepin Canal State Trail | 2.1M Visitors

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Hennepin Canal State Trail is unique in that it is over 100 miles long! Built along the namesake canal, this park gives visitors the opportunity to walk from the Quad Cities all the way to the Illinois River! No surprise that most visitors will make much shorter hikes along the protected canal, leading Hennepin Canal to be the second most popular Illinois state park!

1. Starved Rock State Park | 2.3M Visitors

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What is the most popular state park in Illinois?

Maintaining its spot as the most popular state park in Illinois, Starved Rock hosted over 2.3 million people in 2020! Less than two hours from Chicago, this state park is perfect for waterfall chasing and exploring the canyons throughout the landscape.

The park fills up to capacity regularly, leading to state officials closing the parking lots similar to popular national parks! Be sure to check the DNR Twitter account if you’re trying to get out there during the peak summer season.

Tool: Explore all of Illinois’ State Parks

See which is popular near you!

Conclusion

With almost 35 million total visitors across the Illinois state parks in 2020, the top ten contributed to over 13 million of the total! That’s more than 35%! If you’re looking to avoid the crowds when camping near Chicago or finding great state parks across Illinois, check out our guides!

Want to know more about Illinois State Parks? Check out our other articles!

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[REVIEW] Rock Cut State Park | Private Camping for an Exciting Weekend in Nature

Review RockCut

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 back for a month!

Summary

Rock Cut State has about 270 campsites ranging from Class A to Class B with Shower with additional equestrian-only camping that we did not venture out to. What made Rock Cut different from the other Illinois campgrounds we’ve reviewed was the privacy afforded within our campsite and sheer scale of options to stay entertained during the day. We would recommend Rock Cut to anyone looking to find some great camping within a couple of hours of Chicago especially!

Rock Cut State Park Camping Tips:

  • Reserve early for a chance to snag one of the riverside campgrounds
  • Grab campsites on the outside of the loops for more privacy and shade
  • Use the campsite photos on ExploreMoreIL to check the firepit type before reserving
  • Head to the shower building if you want a bathroom with running water

In-Depth Review: Rock Cut State Park

Campsite

Rock Cut State Park Review

We stayed at campsite 510 within the Prairie View loop. The campsite itself was at least 15 feet through the trees to our neighbors on either side giving us far more privacy than we expect from most State Park campgrounds. The inside of the loop was far less private, with fewer trees segmenting the campsites and more open grass between each one. We would strongly recommend looking for sites on the outer loop in any area of the campground when reserving.

The best campsites were in the Hickory Hills loop – We reserved too late to snag a spot but with good planning and a little luck, you may be able to reserve one of the eight campsites that back up directly to Pierce Lake. We saw campers launching kayaks straight from their site, making it incredibly easy to hit the water for a sunrise or sunset paddle.

The campsite itself was relatively even with few major rocks preventing the stakes from going in. The outer loop had great shade cover relative to the inner loop. The inner loop does still have some but not nearly as many trees.

Each campsite comes with the classic picnic table and a firepit BUT the firepits were different in some sites than others. The first type (A in the photo below) was the more traditional in-ground fire pit with a grate you could pull on top. Lots of surface area to make a roaring fire for smores! The second type we saw (B) was raised off of the ground and suited more specifically for cooking.

Firepit Type A: In-Ground

Rock Cut Fire Pit 2

Firepit Type B: Raised

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Personally, we prefer the in-ground (A) over the raised (B) as they give more flexibility in changing the type of fire you build and how large you can safely make it.

Facilities & Amenities

Bathrooms & Showerhouse

The bathrooms and shower house were cleaned daily but weren’t the most sparkling facilities we’ve seen before. There were still some dead bugs in the corners and floor greeting you as you entered the stall. They were far better than the vault toilets that dot the campgrounds so we would still recommend heading to the shower house if you are looking for a nicer bathroom experience!

We didn’t try out the showers this trip but the water coming out of the sink was hot!

Camp Store

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The camp store offered firewood and a little bit of everything else. From fishing lures to stakes to smore’s materials to drinks – if you forgot anything on your trip, you might be able to find a quick replacement here! They offered two types of firewood, a $5 bundle of traditional split wood logs and a $3 bundle that was filled with ‘odds and ends’. The odds and ends bundle had thick chunks of log, some sections of large knots, and thin flat end pieces.

We ended up going for a mix as the traditional logs are easier to light and build initial fires with but the thick chunks would burn longer (not to mention a $3 bundle of wood is a fantastic deal!)

Environment

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We were shocked at how quickly the city melted away when we entered the State Park. There might be a Walmart only 15 minutes away but you’d never know once you settled into your campsite. While there was still some highway noise, especially from what sounded like street racers on Saturday night, it was no louder than most State Parks in Northern IL.

While we didn’t encounter any mammalian wildlife, the birds seem to make that forest home and we were greeted by no less than a dozen different birdsongs and hoots as we woke up each day.

The park itself is a mix of forest and reclaimed prairie that is still being rehabilitated to its former glory. Rock Cut State Park has recorded over 100 different types of wildflowers that change between Spring and Summer to provide an ever-changing landscape.

Activities

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Rock Cut State Park has something for almost everyone! We found it tough to choose between heading to the lake concession stand to rent a pedal boat, kayak, or small motorboat or hitting the forty miles of hiking trails that are spread throughout the park. If you are into mountain biking – there are 23 miles of mountain bike trails shared with hikers.

Recommended Hikes

  • Willow Creek Trail – Picked up a little outside of the Hickory Hills campground loop, Willow Creek is an out and back that goes along its namesake creek for about 5 miles (10 miles total)
  • Pierce Lake Trail – Accessible from the Hickory Hills campground loop, this trail is 3.6 miles long and goes around the entire lake!
  • Perimeter Loop – Walk the wooded perimeter of Rock Cut State Park in this 9.5 mile loop easiest to access by parking at the lakeside lot near the concessions

Across the park from the campgrounds is a swimming beach ($5 fee) and dog training area (basically an off-leash area) for more fun and miles of additional trail if you brought your pets along.

Service Quality

Everyone we met during our time at Rock Cut was pleasant and helpful! The check-in process was simple since we had reserved and paid on ExploreMoreIL beforehand. They only required confirmation of a few reservation details before we were able to set up camp!

We saw the campground hosts making their rounds a few times during the day to keep an eye on things but we never had a reason to interact with them.

Verdict: Rock Cut State Park

We will absolutely be visiting Rock Cut again in the future! The private campgrounds, ever-present nature, and multitude of activities give us reason to head back again soon!

FAQs

Is Rock Cut State Park Free?

Access to the western portion of the park and its many trails is completely free! To access the eastern parking lot including the swimming beach, dog run, and other trails, will cost $3. There are additional fees for campsite reservations.

Is alcohol allowed at Rock Cut State Park?

No – Alcohol is not permitted for consumption at the beach, campgrounds, or other areas in Rock Cut. The DNR has a ban on alcohol at many parks (however, in our experience if you aren’t disruptive, the campground host won’t disrupt you either)

Are dogs allowed at Rock Cut State Park?

Yes! As long as they are kept on leash everywhere but the dog training area, you can bring your furry friend to any part of the park!

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14 Illinois State Parks Close to Chicago (by Driving Time) | Find the BEST Weeknight or Weekend Park

Illinois State Parks Close to Chicago

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 campgrounds? Our Illinois Campground Guides can help you find the best spot to pitch your tent or find a State Park cabin!

Illinois State Parks Within One Hour of Chicago

Before we get started, a quick disclaimer that we took a look at travel times on the weekend with minimal traffic from the heart of the loop. Your individual travel time is going to heavily depend on where you live in the city (or more likely, how far you are from the highway in the first place).

With that out of the way, let’s dive into the Illinois State Parks within one hour of Chicago!

1. James “Pate” Phillip State Park | 45 Minutes

Illinois State Parks close to chicago
Source: Openlands

Clocking in at about 45 minutes from Chicago, this is the closest Illinois State Park to Chicago. The park is reclaimed farmland slowly turning time backward to bring back the natural Illinois grasslands and prairie ecosystem that was stripped away as settlers developed the land. With a protected marshland and over three miles of biking/walking trails, this park is a serene escape from the city life that you can come back to and see change year over year.

Bikers can use this park to hook up to the Prairie Path for 61 more miles of biking and hiking trail atop old Illinois train tracks. This Illinois State Park less than one hour away from Chicago shouldn’t be missed for even just a quick weeknight escape!

2. Adeline Jay Geo-Karis Illinois Beach State Park | 50 Minutes

Illinois state park within one hour of chicago

As the only one of Illinois State Parks along Lake Michigan, Illinois Beach State Park offers great views of the lake just about an hour away from the city! This state park boasts rich biodiversity along the lakeshore and in the marshes just behind the sand dunes with hundreds of plant species being documented along their 6.5 miles of shore.

Primarily focused on camping, the state park has over 240 Class A sites giving you access to electricity, showers, and slightly nicer bathrooms (not to mention the lakeside sunset views). Non-campers can use Illinois Beach State Park to jump onto the Zion Bike Trail, fish in any number of the inland fishing ponds, or walk along five miles of nature trails!

3. Kankakee River State Park | 1 Hour

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Straight down 57, hop-off at the Manteno exit and you’re just ten minutes away from Kankakee River State Park! With 4,000 acres of protected forest and 11 miles of river shoreline, there are activities for any kind of outdoor explorer.

A simple 60-minute drive from Chicago, you can fish in the Kankakee River for catfish, walleye, Northern pike, and smallmouth bass or spend some time on any one of their 25 miles of hiking and equestrian trails (perfect for snowmobiling in the winter!). If you’ve ever wanted to go canoeing but the Chicago River is a little too……🤢…Kankakee River might be the place for you! Local retailers can set you up for a few-hour trip floating down the river or feel free to launch your own canoes off the park’s boat ramps!

Want to really get to know the park? Take advantage of the closest Illinois state park camping near Chicago with over 200 sites varying from Class A to Class C for tent campers and RVers alike! A cheap weekend away, camping outside Kankakee is a serene way to get away from the city noise for a few days.

Illinois State Parks Within Two Hours of Chicago

Expanding your radius a little more allows you to reach more western and south-western state parks. Take a look for the best Illinois State Parks within two hours of Chicago!

4. Chain O’ Lakes State Park | 1 Hour 15 Minutes

Illinois state park within two hours of chicago

Chain O’ Lakes State Park is a Lake County State Park for Chicagoans looking to enjoy some water activities in a smaller lake than Lake Michigan! Bordered by Northern Illinois’ largest natural chain of lakes (hence the name) and the Fox River, giving you ample opportunities to boat, fish, and more!

The marshy shoreline isn’t great for fishing straight from the side of the lakes but boats may be rented to get onto the water for some walleye, crappie, catfish, three separate species of bass, and more! There are also fishing piers available for the less boating-inclined.

Despite the large area of the park, there are only a few trail systems available for use – less than 3 miles for hikers with another six miles of biker/hiker trails and three equestrian-focused trails with a combined eight miles to explore.

Last but not least, you can get to know the area over a long weekend with any number of their 200+ campgrounds available to RVers and tent campers.

5. Gebhard Woods State Park | 1 Hour 15 Minutes

Channahon to Morris Trail Water Web

A small but mighty state park, Gebhard Woods is located along the Illinois & Michigan (or I&M) Canal and Canal State Trail, providing fantastic access to some of Illinois’ best waterways and larger trail systems. With only primitive camping available, this park is great for those who are really looking for privacy and don’t mind a lack of electricity or vehicle access.

The main attraction of Gebhard Woods is the canal itself – Spend the day paddling between here and Channohan State Park to spot wildlife, try your hand at fishing, and see historical structures like an original locktender’s house.

6. Moraine Hills State Park | 1 Hour 15 Minutes

Opened in 1976, Moraine Hills State Park centers around one of the only glacial-fed lakes in Illinois that have remained undeveloped (apart from some of the State Park facilities) leaving a pristine natural lake for fish to thrive in. The park is a haven for birdwatchers with over 200 documented species being identified within the park’s boundaries. Find the birds by hiking the ten miles of hiking/biking trails throughout the park as waterfowl migrate through the seasons.

No camping is available at Moraine Hills but a few day trips should give you a lay of the land! Located in McHenry County, this state park is just over an hour from Chicago for weekend or evening fun.

7. Shabbona Lake State Park | 1 Hour 15 Minutes

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Shabbona Lake is one of Illinois’ largest state parks with over 1,500 acres of prairie and an additional 315 acres of man-made lake that was named one of Illinois’ Best Fishing Lakes by the state legislature in 2011.

There is truly something for everyone at Shabonna Lake – The lake is stocked with twelve species of fish and you can rent a boat within the park, fishing or not! Hikers can spend time on eight miles of trails along the lake and surrounding forest. Shabbona Lake Campers can reserve lakeside campgrounds ahead of time or try their luck with grabbing one of the 60 first-come-first-serve campgrounds they keep in reserve every weekend!

8. Buffalo Rock State Park | 1 Hour 30 Minutes

Only an hour and a half away from Chicago, Buffalo Rock State Park is home to unique, hikeable sculptures developed as a tribute to the Effigy Mounds that local Native Americans would use for ceremonial and burial purposes. There are five critters found in Illinois rivers that have been built to be large enough to walk on.

As you make your way around the two-mile trail loop to each of the sculptures, you might spot the two bison that call Buffalo Rock home! They have a grazing area near the front of the park.

The park also offers a few primitive campsites for bikers & hikers coming off the I&M Canal Trail but do not have water or restroom access so keep that in mind! This LaSalle County State Park can be a great alternative when exploring the other nearby state parks (Starved Rock & Matthiessen) if they fill up for the afternoon!

9. Rock Cut State Park | 1 Hour 30 Minutes

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The largest state park in Northern Illinois, Rock Cut State Park has unique options not available at many other Illinois State Parks near Chicago like a swimming beach, almost two dozen miles of mountain biking trails, and an off-leash area for dogs and their owners to explore with freedom.

Adding to the park’s activities are forty miles of hiking trails crisscrossing the park through forest, along the lake, and through the many acres of prairie in the park. Spot over a hundred different types of wildflowers through different trails and times of year!

The fun doesn’t end in winter either – Rock Cut maintains groomed cross country skiing trails and you can rent snowshoes to make your way through fresh powder and experience the silent winter woods.

There’s so much here that you might want to consider spending a weekend at any one of their 250+ campsites. Launch your kayak right from the tent if you plan ahead to grab one of the lakeside spots! If the waterside sites are full, there are plenty of other private locations throughout this Winnebago County State Park (far more spacious and tucked away than most other IL State Parks).

10. Starved Rock State Park | 1 Hour 30 Minutes

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If you’ve heard of any parks on this list, you’ve almost certainly heard of Starved Rock.

Likely the most popular Illinois state park within two hours of Chicago, Starved Rock has 13 miles of well-maintained hiking trails and more elevation changes than you’ll find at almost any other park here. Take the different trails down into the water-carved canyons to find waterfalls and distinctive natural beauty. Many trails have constructed stairs and walkways for beginner hikers or hikers with difficulties in elevation so check in at the visitors center for recommendations if you meet this description!

If you’d rather take to the water – launch your boat right into the Illinois River or take advantage of kayak rentals to see a new perspective of Starved Rock or catch any number of fish species that call the river home.

Make it a long weekend by staying at the Starved Rock Lodge or camp at any one of the 129 campgrounds available for reservation.

11. Matthiessen State Park | 1 Hour 30 Minutes

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Just miles away from Starved Rock, Matthiessen State Park offers a beautiful canyon to hike around using the upper bluffs trails or into, especially if Starved Rock is full. Challenge yourself to hike down into the Giant’s Bathtub to walk along the creek and marvel at the exposed rock within the two different dells.

This LaSalle County State Park is a must-see and just under two hours from Chicago!

12. Illini State Park | 1 Hour 30 Minutes

Less than an hour and a half away from Chicago, Illini State Park is a campground and day-use area perfect for groups looking to spend some time outside.

While there are only a few miles of trails available, the park has shelters and tables scattered through the area as well as a little over one hundred campgrounds if you’d rather spend the weekend! This state park can be a great starting point for campers that were hoping to spend their time in Starved Rock or Mattheisen but were too late to reserve.

13. Lowden State Park | 1 Hour 30 Minutes

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A little under two hours outside of Chicago, Lowden State Park sits along the Rock River offering a nice place to unwind and walk the four miles of mild trails. Take the riverside trail all the way up the bluff to view the 50-foot tall statue dedicated to the Native Americans that originally inhabited the area.

Lowden has a slightly nicer camping experience with a wide range of options offering electricity all the way to primitive campsites deeper in the forest. The shower house available offers a better restroom for campers than the outhouses at White Pines so consider Lowden as your Illinois State Park of choice for your next weekend away

14. White Pines Forest | 1 Hour 45 Minutes

Just on the cusp of two hours away from Chicago, White Pines State Park is a 385-acre area for family forest camping, hiking, and fishing! The most distinct feature of White Pines is the concrete fjords built to allow driving through flowing water to access different parts of the park.

With about 5.5 miles of trails, the park is well suited for families looking for a nearby weekend excursion or camping trip! White Pines has over 100 campsites primarily for tent camping or other campers who do not require electricity.

Conclusion

Illinois State Parks Close to Chicago

There are a lot of IL State Parks nearby Chicago if you know where to look! If you need even more options, we’ve found more campgrounds and parks run by counties or privately owned in our Illinois campground recommendations!

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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

County

Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish & Wildlife Area

9

Cass

Hamilton County State Fish & Wildlife Area

5

Hamilton

Fox Ridge State Park

2

Kankakee River State Park

(Cabins Unavailable for 2021)

2

Pere Marquette State Park

2

Jersey

Sangchris Lake State Park

2

Shabbona Lake State Park

2

Siloam Springs State Park

2

Washington County State Recreation Area

2

Washington

Beaver Dam State Park

1

Macoupin

Dixon Springs State Park

1

Pope

Illini State Park

1

Johnson Sauk Trail State Recreation Area

1

Henry

Lowden State Park

1

Ogle

Ramsey Lake State Recreation Area

1

Fayette

Red Hills State Park

1

Lawrence

Rock Cut State Park

1

Marion

Stephen A Forbes State Recreation Area

1

Wolf Creek State Park 

1

Shelby

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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Whiteside County Camping | 3 Best Campgrounds near Rock Falls, IL

Whiteside County A FeatImage

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 ten-minute drive west of Rock Falls, IL, offers an opportunity to spend time with your family outdoors on the Rock River. Crow Valley Campground’s facilities include basketball and volleyball courts, a boat ramp, a pool, a playground, horseshoes, and a dump station. Visit the 3.7-mile Lynn Boulevard/Westwood Trail in Sterling and stretch your legs, or make your way to the eastern side of Rock Falls and visit Sinnissippi Mounds and Park for more walking trails.

Crow Valley Campground provides water plus 30-amp electric hookups, 50-amp electric plus water hookups, and primitive tent campsites. For folks without a trailer, you can also rent one for the duration of your stay or stick to the normal tent sites! Being a private campground, they have more amenities and relaxed rules compared to the state parks such as allowing alcohol and offering wifi!

To make a reservation for the only private Whiteside County camping, give them a ring at (815) 626-5376 or go to their website for more information.

2. Prophetstown State Park

Whiteside County Camping for Beginners

This park, 15 miles southwest of Rock Falls, IL, can be a 52-acre respite away from the bothers of the everyday. Less than twenty minutes from Rock Falls, beginners can run back home for forgotten items if you are looking to try camping out for the first time without worry. Cast your line right on the Rock River or you can go to Coon Creek for a more cozy fishing experience. A third of a mile trail offers hikers a clear walk along Coon Creek to the river. The park also has horseshoes if you know how to play!

This Whiteside County campground is open May through October and offers 43 reservable electrical sites with water spigots and toilets throughout the campground as well as a single shower building.

Check out their availability on ExploreMoreIL!

1. Morrison-Rockwood State Park

Best Whiteside County Camping

If you’re looking for adventure in northern Illinois, make sure to include Morrison-Rockwood State Park on your itinerary. This Whiteside County park offers a 3.5-mile trail that helps Lake Carlton show off its glory to hikers, and a 14-mile trail serves equestrians in exploring the park. Fishing and boating on Lake Carlton is a favorite pastime, and picnicking beside the lake can show off their endeavors.

To stay overnight at this park, you may avail yourself of one of the 92 heavily wooded campsites available 61 of which may be reserved. These sites are equipped with electricity, and the three-season showers and flush toilets are available to be used. Four group sites can also be reserved.

Enjoy your stay at this state park just a half hour’s drive from Rock Falls – See when the next available date is on ExploreMoreIL or check out the DNR website for more info!

More Whiteside County Camping Options

If you’ve already seen everything to offer in the three campsites above or are looking to explore a campground just a little bit further from home – Check out our guides for other nearby options!

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2 Gorgeous Campgrounds for Camping in Boone County | Illinois Campgrounds

camping in boone county

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

RockCut.4521.J.360600

If you want to go camping or exploring in Winnebago County with immediate access to the vast outdoors, look no further. This park’s 3,092 acres contain two lakes for water activities like fishing, swimming, boating, and winter skating. The numerous trails accommodate hikers (40 miles of trails), horseback riders (14 miles), mountain bikers (23 miles), and cross country skiers. There are picnic areas throughout the park each outfitted with a table, outdoor stove, and pit toilet. The concessions building near Pierce Lake not only offers food and beverages but also rents paddleboards and kayaks, sells bait and tackle, and provides WiFi.

camping in boone county

A mere 20-minute drive from Rockford, this expansive campground has 210 sites with showers, electricity, and vehicle access; 60 sites with showers and vehicle access; a large group campsite with shelters; and a cabin. Whatever you’re looking for from your camping experience, you’re likely to find it here at Rock Cut State Park! Make a reservation at Explore More Illinois.

2. Pine County RV and Camping Resort

Best Private Camping in Boone County

This three-seasons camping resort a half-hour drive from Rockford is a worthy destination unto itself. With shuffleboard, volleyball and basketball courts, horseshoes, a playground, fishing access along Mosquito and Coon Creeks, a pool, and a picnic area, camping in Boone County has never been more fun. Its clubhouse is the center of the action; it offers an activities center, arts and crafts, and planned activities for children and adults as well as bingo and cards. Feel free to bring Fido and Mittens along to enjoy this pet-friendly oasis! For the modern-day amenities, enjoy WiFi, satellite TV, laundry facilities, and a store to pick up anything you forgot to bring along.

This Boone county campground has 176 sites that offer full RV hook up. There are also two cottages available for rent that have a full bath/shower as well as a completely equipped kitchen. Check out their website to take a look at their available reservations!

Additional Resources

If Rock Cut & Pine County RV parks are not available or you’re looking for something different, check out our other nearby county guides including the bordering Winnebago County, Kane County, & McHenry County!

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2 Best Places for Camping in DeKalb IL | Camping Near Rochelle, IL

camping near dekalb

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!

1. Shabbona Lake State Park

Best Camping near DeKalb, IL

shabbona lake review

About an hour’s drive from Chicago lies Shabbona Lake State Recreation Area, a convenient place to enjoy a lake nestled in 1,550 acres of prairie. Meadows, woods, and a natural fen transition into one another, offering a beautiful look into the landscape ecology of Midwest prairies. Eight miles of trails wander the landscape for hikers and cross-country skiers, and 744 acres are available to deer, waterfowl, and dove hunters (satellite hunting areas cater to a wider variety of prey).

Swimming is prohibited at Shabbona Lake on account of this lake being a premier fishing lake in Illinois. This stocked lake has won many awards, including being voted “Muskie Capital of Illinois” in 2011. Besides fishing, water activities on the lake include boating and winter skating. A camp store offers groceries, firewood, and other supplies.

hiking in shabbona lake state park
Shabbona Lake Hiking Trail

This SRA near Rochelle, IL, boasts 150 Class A Premium campsites, 90 of which can be reserved. All sites have electricity, a picnic table, a fire ring, and vehicle access. Two rustic cabins on Lake Shabbona’s shore are available year-round, and the two group camping areas have space for 50 people each; these areas have water and toilets but no electricity. For anyone camping in DeKalb, IL, you can make a reservation here and be assured of having a memorable stay.

Find the next available date at Shabbona lake here!

2. McQueen Forest Preserve

Best Group Camping in DeKalb County

camping in dekalb il
McQueen Forest Preserve (DeKalbcounty.org)

Just outside the Potawatomi Woods Forest Preserve and the Kishwaukee River State Fish and Wildlife Area, a camp rests on top of a small bluff overlooking the south branch of the Kishwaukee River. This camp in the McQueen Forest Preserve is a 48-acre former Boy Scout destination. Camping in DeKalb County at this location offers canoeing, hiking, cross country skiing, and fishing opportunities depending on the season and weather.

About a half-hour drive away, this small privacy-oriented camping near Rochelle is ideal for a group with twelve tent sites. You may also reserve and rent the open and enclosed shelters if that better suits your taste.

Give them a call for more information at (815) 895 – 7191!

Additional Resources

If you McQueen and Shabonna are all full up and you’d like to explore other campgrounds nearby Dekalb or Rochelle – Take a look at our Illinois State Camping guide for a county near you! We have already taken care of the leg work and found the best campsites in nearby:

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Franklin County Camping | 4 Best Campgrounds near Benton, IL

Franklin County A FeatImage

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 owned campground near Rend Lake, Old Bates Campground is open all year long with full hookup-sites to enjoy Franklin county camping in a smaller setting. There is a pool, shower house, area for play, and a pavilion located at the campground for activities. There are tent sites and RV sites. Additional activities near the campgrounds include boating, fishing, hiking, hunting, kayaking, beach access, and more.

For more information and booking, please visit www.reserveamerica.com.

3. Benton KOA

Best Private Franklin County Camping

franklin county camping

Benton KOA is perfect for anyone looking for private franklin county camping and for RV campers with its extra-long and wide RV sites! Conveniently located right off of the highway, this campground has a wide range of amenities available including a 50 Max Amp, Wi-Fi, Pool (open from May to September), Propane, Cable TV, a Snack Bar, Fishing, Basketball, Paddle Boats for rent, and a picnic pavilion. For some reason, they even have a hair salon on the campground too – You’ll have a hard time finding time to leave the campsite with all that the KOA has to offer!

Stay at Benton KOA in one of three ways – RV Sites, Tent Camping, or Lodging in wooden cabins. Explore campsite descriptions and availability on the KOA website.

2. North/South Sandusky Campgrounds

Another Great Option for Franklin County Camping

South Sandusky Campground offers more than 100 reservable campsites with electric hookups at all campsites. The campground has a dump station, full bathroom, and drinking water for all your camping needs. There are also two playgrounds and a volleyball court as well.

South Sandusky is on Rend Lake in Southern Illinois where you can spot white-tailed deer, wild turkey, fox, raccoon, opossum, and others throughout the year. Boating, fishing, hunting, and swimming are available as activities at South Sandusky Campground. To book a campsite, check out recreation.gov for South Sandusky and North Sandusky.

1. Wayne Fitzgerrell State Recreation Area

Best Franklin County Camping

Wayne Fitzgerrell State Recreation Area overlooks the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ 19,000 Rend Lake Reservoir. There is a wide variety of outdoor recreation for all ages ranging from hunting, fishing, camping, picnicking, horseback riding, hiking, and other outdoor sports. You will have the ability to spot the American bald eagle, red-tailed hawks, and a variety of mammals such as the white-tailed deer as you explore the lake.

This campsite offers a wide range of opportunities for fishing tournaments, boaters, water skiers, and the regular fisherman. The SRA has 17 tent sites to accommodate campers and then there is upgraded camping offered by 243 modern campsites that offer electrical hookups and bathroom/shower facilities. There are also buildings for campers to shower in. Fees range from $20 a night for sites with electricity down to just $6 per night for basic campsites. Campsite maps and reservations can be found online at www.ExploreMoreIL.com or check out the DNR website for more information.

Additional Options for Franklin County Camping

If these campgrounds are full or you’d like to explore a little further than Rend Lake – Check out our other nearby county camping guides for more of the greatest campgrounds in Illinois!

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