Best Free Camping in Illinois

Free Camping in Illinois

By Nathan Swartz

Despite holding the nickname of the Prairie State, Illinois is more likely to conjure up images of the big city as opposed to wide-open spaces. Similarly, free camping is hard to come by–but not impossible to find. The bulk of free RV camping locations to be had in the state will come in the form of private business parking lots, but those are not your only options.

Free Camping in National Forests of Illinois

While primitive tent camping and even car camping opportunities are relatively abundant in the Shawnee National Forest, free campgrounds suitable for RVs are limited. Turkey Bayou, along the Big Muddy River, provides free camping in the campground itself and potential dispersed camping along nearby forest roads. These are your best bet at finding any type of solitude when it comes to free RV camping areas across Illinois. However, as the nearby river's name indicates, doing so is seasonal and getting stuck in the mud is a real hazard.

Always scout ahead before driving down dirt roads, and plan ahead in general. If this is your first time boondocking, you'll want to become familiar with the etiquette and best practices of such an endeavor.

Free Casino Camping in Illinois

If you're the gambling type, Harrah's Metropolis Casino offers free overnight stays in their parking lot. As is typical with casino camping, don't expect much in the way of amenities at your spot–it's simply a free place to stay and at your own risk, more or less.

Still, if playing the slots is your thing, this is a place to find free overnight RV parking.

Free Camping in Private Business Parking Lots

As is true in most of the United States, certain businesses are happy to allow RVers looking for free camping in Illinois to spend a night or two in their parking lots. These include Walmarts, Cracker Barrels across the state, and even a Bass Pro Shop near Peoria.

While you don't necessarily have to check in with the business owners in these locations, it never hurts, and especially if you don't see other RVs doing the same, doing so can help you avoid a knock on the door after nightfall. They do, of course, presume you'll shop their wares, and it is a nice way to say thank you for the spot. It also should go without saying that you are guests of the business and should limit your impact: don't put out your awning and camping chairs. Be discreet and polite so that places like these will continue to offer the same hospitality up for years to come.

More Free Camping in Illinois

Finally, rest stops along the freeway at times allow overnight stays. One specific example in Illinois providing just such a camping experience is near Rend Lake.

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Recent Illinois Free Campsite Reviews

Bloomington, IL

Cracker Barrel

Feb 02, 2024

"Good Overnight Stop"

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Excellent food and very friendly staff. Plenty of room and also grassy areas to walk the dog.

3 reviews
Nov 26, 2023

"Secluded Paved Boat Ramp with lots of Space! "

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Stayed on 11/11/23 for a single night stay on our way south. Originally planned to stay near Hannibal, MO but all camping areas were closed for the season, ended up taking a detour here and we absolutely loved it. The gravel road to the site was smooth and only took about half a mile off the main highway. The site consists of a large black top...
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1 review
Springfield, IL

Cracker Barrel

Nov 16, 2023

"A Cracker Barrel with RV friendly set up "

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Easy to get through large parking lot set up to receive buses, motorhomes, and trailers. Some other portions of lot may be available to park in along with the parallel pull-through slots. Easy to get to off the highway. General hum of road noise but not disturbing.

5 reviews
Oct 13, 2023

"Good Place For Dry Camping"

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We enjoyed our stay here. There were signs saying the road was closed so we weren’t sure if we could access the park but the closure is just past the park entrance, toward the beginning of the bridge that goes to Missouri. When we pulled in nobody was around except for two friendly apparently homeless folks who were at the picnic tables by the...
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Springfield, IL


Oct 09, 2023

"A Place To Stop For The Night … That’s It."

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I called prior to arriving….was told by a very nice employee, that, “yes you can overnight park… Please park on the pharmacy side”I arrived about 730… Decided to pick up a few things in the store. Wow. Store not stocked and super unorganized and messy. When I settled in, in the pkg lot it was noisy and sounds like a speedway within the lot. ...
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7 reviews