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A sandy walkway with wooden banisters leading to Lake Michigan shoreline and a cloudy sky.
Indiana Dunes
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13 best places to camp near Chicago

Illinois has lakes, rivers, dunes, canyons, and wildlife to see

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Indiana Dunes
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Perhaps compared to other regions, it might not seem like Chicago has a lot to offer in the camping department. Although, if you believe that you’re definitely missing out.

The beaches at Indiana Dunes to campsites around Starved Rock State Park are some of the most popular places to visit. But just a short drive away, there are relaxing cabins near Chain O’Lakes State Park and wildlife to see at Goose Lake.

While you’re on the road to the state park, it might be worth checking out one of the nearby small towns or bringing your bike along to explore suburban trails.

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1. Kettle Moraine State Forest

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Kettle Moraine State Forest
Kewaskum, WI 53040

In southeaster Wisconsin, Kettle Moraine was formed when two massive glaciers collided over the area around 20,000 years ago. The Ice Age visitors center explains the history and hosts activities throughout the year. The 3.1-mile Butler Lake Trail is a great looped hike that’ll take you past some of the small lakes. Reserve campsites or cabins online.

2. Chain-O-Lakes State Park

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Chain-O-Lakes State Park
Antioch, IL

The park contains three large natural lakes, seven other smaller lakes that make up the chain, and parts of the Fox River. There’s 488 miles of shoreline which means there’s plenty of fishing, swimming, and canoeing. Horseback riding is popular too, with the many trails and state park stable with seasonal riding opportunities. There are 230 campsites, three cabins, and a group campsite which can be reserved online.

3. Illinois Beach State Park

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1 Lake Front Dr
Zion, IL 60099
(847) 662-4811
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Not only are there dunes, but sunken marshes, forests of oak, and savanna landscape. More than 650 species of plants have been found here including prickly pear cactus. Walk through the cattails, thin sedges, and big bluestem grasses to get to swimming beaches and hiking trails. There are campgrounds, but also the only hotel in Illinois right on Lake Michigan’s shoreline.

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4. Rock Cut State Park

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7318 Harlem Rd
Loves Park, IL 61111

Just outside of Rockford, the 3,092-acre park includes Pierce Lake and Olson Lake with plenty of year-round spots for fishing, ice-fishing, and skating. There are over 100 types of wildflowers and wildlife like deer and foxes call this place home. The park has 270 camp sites, a few cabins, and group accommodations which you can book online.

5. White Pines Forest State Park

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W Pines Rd
Mt Morris, IL 61054
(815) 946-3817
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White Pines is one of the oldest state parks in Illinois and has one of the southern most forests of white pines in the Midwest. What’s unique about this park is the concrete fords submerged in the river—essentially underwater bridges it allows cars to drive straight through the creek or stop to observe wildlife. Plenty of space exists in the campground, but visitors can also stay at the White Pines Inn originally constructed in the 1930s. There are 16 cabins and a restaurant on site.

6. Bullfrog Lake

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Bullfrog Lake
Palos Township, IL 60480

In Palos Preserves, one of the county’s forest preserves, visitors can rent boats and bikes, go fishing, and find easy hiking trails. This camp site is a little more manicured than other state parks and offers a camp store, indoor bathrooms and showers, and two educational centers. Reserve a campsite online.

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7. Indiana Dunes State Park

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1600 N 25 East
Chesterton, IN 46304
(219) 926-1952
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Recently declared a national park, Indiana Dunes has long been a vacation spot for Chicagoans escaping the city. The beach getaway is a mix of tall grassy trails and sandy shores which can be easily accessed from the South Shore Line. Within the park, there are campsites but also seven small inns.

8. Camp Sullivan

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14630 Oak Park Ave
Oak Forest, IL 60452
(312) 636-0041
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Near the Tinely Creek system, and also in a forest preserve, Camp Sullivan is another great option for a quick trip. A big red barn greets visitors—it has a 28-foot climbing wall and event space inside. There are small cabins and bunkhouses for rent, or campsites tucked away in the surrounding woods too.

9. Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area

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County Rd 5000 E
Morris, IL 60450

Wildlife abounds in the sea of grass: deer, coyote, red fox, cottontail rabbits, muskrat, badgers, and birds. Goose Lake Prairie represents a small part of the type of land that once covered most of the state. Most the park is protected as a nature preserve and gives a home to endangered birds like Henslow’s sparrow. Because of this, visitors can’t stay overnight (there are other options for lodging in Morris). Still, its a great day stop for picnics, long bike rides through the grasses, and leisurely hikes across the wooden walkway.

10. Starved Rock State Park

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2668 East 873 Road
Oglesby, IL 61348
(815) 667-4906
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Starved Rock is one of the most popular destinations for outdoor recreation. The easy-to-hike trails are perfect for families, including dogs. Visitors can explore the parks 18 canyons, which are even more beautiful after a heavy rain causing waterfalls to flow. Stay in a 75-year-old log cabin or one of the campsites.

11. Kankakee River State Park

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5314 IL-102
Bourbonnais, IL 60914
(815) 933-1383
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This park lines both Kankakee River shorelines for 11 miles. It’s an ideal place to be if your fishing, canoeing, hiking, or cycling. Choose from hundreds of campsites (although the Potawatomi and Chippewa campgrounds are currently closed).

12. Fox Ridge State Park

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18175 State Park Rd
Charleston, IL 61920
(217) 345-6416
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While most of Illinois is flat prairie land, Fox Ridge is different. Near the Embarras River (pronounced “ambraw”) there are rolling hills and bluffs. Enjoy thick woods, sun-drenched valleys, and miles of hiking trails like the 144-step stair climb that leads to a scenic river vista. If you’re not aware, the northern area of the park contains hundreds of acres for public hunting. More than 40 campsites and two rustic cabins are available to rent.

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1. Kettle Moraine State Forest

Kettle Moraine State Forest, Kewaskum, WI 53040

In southeaster Wisconsin, Kettle Moraine was formed when two massive glaciers collided over the area around 20,000 years ago. The Ice Age visitors center explains the history and hosts activities throughout the year. The 3.1-mile Butler Lake Trail is a great looped hike that’ll take you past some of the small lakes. Reserve campsites or cabins online.

Kettle Moraine State Forest
Kewaskum, WI 53040

2. Chain-O-Lakes State Park

Chain-O-Lakes State Park, Antioch, IL

The park contains three large natural lakes, seven other smaller lakes that make up the chain, and parts of the Fox River. There’s 488 miles of shoreline which means there’s plenty of fishing, swimming, and canoeing. Horseback riding is popular too, with the many trails and state park stable with seasonal riding opportunities. There are 230 campsites, three cabins, and a group campsite which can be reserved online.

Chain-O-Lakes State Park
Antioch, IL

3. Illinois Beach State Park

1 Lake Front Dr, Zion, IL 60099

Not only are there dunes, but sunken marshes, forests of oak, and savanna landscape. More than 650 species of plants have been found here including prickly pear cactus. Walk through the cattails, thin sedges, and big bluestem grasses to get to swimming beaches and hiking trails. There are campgrounds, but also the only hotel in Illinois right on Lake Michigan’s shoreline.

1 Lake Front Dr
Zion, IL 60099

4. Rock Cut State Park

7318 Harlem Rd, Loves Park, IL 61111

Just outside of Rockford, the 3,092-acre park includes Pierce Lake and Olson Lake with plenty of year-round spots for fishing, ice-fishing, and skating. There are over 100 types of wildflowers and wildlife like deer and foxes call this place home. The park has 270 camp sites, a few cabins, and group accommodations which you can book online.

7318 Harlem Rd
Loves Park, IL 61111

5. White Pines Forest State Park

W Pines Rd, Mt Morris, IL 61054

White Pines is one of the oldest state parks in Illinois and has one of the southern most forests of white pines in the Midwest. What’s unique about this park is the concrete fords submerged in the river—essentially underwater bridges it allows cars to drive straight through the creek or stop to observe wildlife. Plenty of space exists in the campground, but visitors can also stay at the White Pines Inn originally constructed in the 1930s. There are 16 cabins and a restaurant on site.

W Pines Rd
Mt Morris, IL 61054

6. Bullfrog Lake

Bullfrog Lake, Palos Township, IL 60480

In Palos Preserves, one of the county’s forest preserves, visitors can rent boats and bikes, go fishing, and find easy hiking trails. This camp site is a little more manicured than other state parks and offers a camp store, indoor bathrooms and showers, and two educational centers. Reserve a campsite online.

Bullfrog Lake
Palos Township, IL 60480

7. Indiana Dunes State Park

1600 N 25 East, Chesterton, IN 46304

Recently declared a national park, Indiana Dunes has long been a vacation spot for Chicagoans escaping the city. The beach getaway is a mix of tall grassy trails and sandy shores which can be easily accessed from the South Shore Line. Within the park, there are campsites but also seven small inns.

1600 N 25 East
Chesterton, IN 46304

8. Camp Sullivan

14630 Oak Park Ave, Oak Forest, IL 60452

Near the Tinely Creek system, and also in a forest preserve, Camp Sullivan is another great option for a quick trip. A big red barn greets visitors—it has a 28-foot climbing wall and event space inside. There are small cabins and bunkhouses for rent, or campsites tucked away in the surrounding woods too.

14630 Oak Park Ave
Oak Forest, IL 60452

9. Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area

County Rd 5000 E, Morris, IL 60450

Wildlife abounds in the sea of grass: deer, coyote, red fox, cottontail rabbits, muskrat, badgers, and birds. Goose Lake Prairie represents a small part of the type of land that once covered most of the state. Most the park is protected as a nature preserve and gives a home to endangered birds like Henslow’s sparrow. Because of this, visitors can’t stay overnight (there are other options for lodging in Morris). Still, its a great day stop for picnics, long bike rides through the grasses, and leisurely hikes across the wooden walkway.

County Rd 5000 E
Morris, IL 60450

10. Starved Rock State Park

2668 East 873 Road, Oglesby, IL 61348

Starved Rock is one of the most popular destinations for outdoor recreation. The easy-to-hike trails are perfect for families, including dogs. Visitors can explore the parks 18 canyons, which are even more beautiful after a heavy rain causing waterfalls to flow. Stay in a 75-year-old log cabin or one of the campsites.

2668 East 873 Road
Oglesby, IL 61348

11. Kankakee River State Park

5314 IL-102, Bourbonnais, IL 60914

This park lines both Kankakee River shorelines for 11 miles. It’s an ideal place to be if your fishing, canoeing, hiking, or cycling. Choose from hundreds of campsites (although the Potawatomi and Chippewa campgrounds are currently closed).

5314 IL-102
Bourbonnais, IL 60914

12. Fox Ridge State Park

18175 State Park Rd, Charleston, IL 61920

While most of Illinois is flat prairie land, Fox Ridge is different. Near the Embarras River (pronounced “ambraw”) there are rolling hills and bluffs. Enjoy thick woods, sun-drenched valleys, and miles of hiking trails like the 144-step stair climb that leads to a scenic river vista. If you’re not aware, the northern area of the park contains hundreds of acres for public hunting. More than 40 campsites and two rustic cabins are available to rent.

18175 State Park Rd
Charleston, IL 61920

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