Camping in Illinois
By Alex Murphy
Illinois is full of great destinations to explore, from the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan and the bustling metropolis of Chicago. Further afield, visitors will find open plains and the Shawnee National Forest, a lush landscape dotted with historical landmarks.
So whether you're looking for Camping near Chicago or a quiet campsite in a state park, Illinois has a lot to offer guests.
Illinois State Parks
There are more than 60 Illinois State Parks that cover everything from waterfalls to fishing and luxury cabins. The best part about camping in the Land of Lincoln is campgrounds in Illinois vary greatly depending on the region.
Starting in the northern half of the state, Rock Cut State Park has miles of trails and is a popular hunting destination. The park is named for the rocky terrain found in the region.
Illinois Beach State Park sits on Lake Michigan with beach access and is only a short distance north of Chicago.
Fort Massac State Park is the oldest state park in Illinois. Visitors can enjoy disc golf and historic sites.
National Parks in Illinois
When it comes to federal land, history is king in Illinois.
The Pullman National Monument in Chicago is focused on the Pullman company, known for building train cars during the Westward Expansion in the late 1800s. The site was later home to a massive riot which led to important changes for U.S. workers.
Another well-known historic site is the Lincoln Home National Historic Site in the state's capital of Springfield. There are a few nearby campgrounds that can provide easy access to the original home of Abraham Lincoln, including Illinois State Fair Campground and the Springfield KOA.
Free Camping in Illinois
Unlike some nearby states, there isn't a lot of free camping in Illinois. Most visitors will have to stick to businesses that allow overnight parking. Other options include highway rest stops like Rend Lake Rest Area found not far from the Missouri and Kentucky state lines.
National Forests in Illinois
Located in southern Illinois, Shawnee National Forest Camping is carved by the flowing water from the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. For hiking fans, the River to River Trail is a 160-mile path connecting the two rivers through the forest. The area is also known for scenic drives for those who prefer to stay in the car.
Redbud Campground and Shawnee Forest Campground are both located within the National Forest and are great for tent camping or RVers. Another option is the private Tall Tree Lake Campground which has waterfront campsites.
RV Parks in Illinois
There are many Illinois RV Parks to choose from in the state, including some that offer camping near Chicago.
Campers can get a free hotel breakfast at the Hollywood Casino Hotel and Resort and have easy access to the casino. Also just over the Indiana state line is Emerald Trails Campground, which is located near a lake.
Outside St. Louis, MO, there are many RV campsites, including Cahokia RV Parque, which is a short drive from downtown St. Louis. Further, into the state of Illinois, you'll find RV and tent sites at Boulder Recreation Area that also have great lake views.