The Great Outdoors Await – The10 Best Camping Spots in Illinois

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Prepare to embark on an unforgettable adventure as we explore the 10 best camping spots in Illinois. From breathtaking vistas to serene lakeside retreats, Illinois offers a diverse array of outdoor experiences for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you’re a seasoned camper or a novice explorer, we’ve carefully curated this list to guide you towards the most picturesque and memorable camping destinations in the state.

As you delve into the lush landscapes of Illinois, you’ll discover the unique charm and natural beauty of each camping spot, from the towering trees of Shawnee National Forest to the rugged terrain of Starved Rock State Park. With a wealth of outdoor activities and opportunities for adventure at your fingertips, there’s no better time to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and embrace the tranquility of the great outdoors.


Starved Rock State Park

A visit to Starved Rock State Park is a must for any camping enthusiast in Illinois. This iconic park offers a plethora of outdoor activities, including hiking, fishing, boating, and camping. It’s also one of the best free dispersed camping spots in Illinois, making it an excellent choice for budget-conscious adventurers.

Stunning canyons

Rock formations and stunning canyons are the highlights of Starved Rock State Park. The park is home to 18 canyons, each with its unique features and natural beauty. Exploring these canyons on foot is a thrilling experience, with opportunities to discover hidden waterfalls and breathtaking overlooks. The park’s geology and natural formations are a testament to the power of nature and offer a glimpse into the earth’s ancient history.

Waterfall trails

Another draw of Starved Rock State Park is its waterfall trails. An intricate network of trails leads visitors through lush forests and alongside cascading waterfalls. The park is home to several stunning waterfalls, each with its charm and allure. These trails provide the perfect opportunity for hikers to immerse themselves in the park’s natural beauty and capture some unforgettable moments.

To make the most of your experience on the waterfall trails, be sure to wear appropriate hiking footwear and bring plenty of water and snacks. Some of the trails can be challenging, so it’s essential to be prepared and take necessary precautions. The sight of the waterfalls and the soothing sound of rushing water make the effort well worthwhile, creating a truly memorable outdoor adventure.

Shawnee National Forest

Any camping enthusiast in Illinois knows that the Shawnee National Forest is a must-visit destination. Located in the southern part of the state, this expansive natural area offers a wide range of camping experiences for outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds.

Wilderness Areas

Areas within the Shawnee National Forest designated as wilderness are some of the most pristine and secluded spots for camping. With untouched natural beauty and a sense of seclusion and solitude, these areas are perfect for campers looking to truly disconnect from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Hiking trails, wildlife viewing, and the opportunity for wilderness camping make these areas a top choice for outdoor adventurers seeking a more immersive natural experience.

Giant City

To truly experience the unique geological features of Shawnee National Forest, Giant City is a must-see destination for campers. The ancient rock formations and beautiful hiking trails make it a popular spot for outdoor enthusiasts. With designated camping areas and the option for backcountry camping, visitors can choose the level of adventure that best suits their preferences.

Plus, the proximity to Giant City State Park provides additional recreational opportunities such as rock climbing and horseback riding, making it an ideal destination for those seeking a well-rounded outdoor experience.

Mississippi Palisades State Park

If you’re looking for a camping spot that offers breathtaking natural scenery and a wide range of outdoor activities, look no further than Mississippi Palisades State Park. Located in Northwestern Illinois along the mighty Mississippi River, this park is a haven for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike.

Scenic river views

On your camping trip to Mississippi Palisades State Park, you can look forward to stunning views of the Mississippi River and its surrounding bluffs. This natural beauty provides the perfect backdrop for a peaceful and rejuvenating experience in the great outdoors. Whether you’re enjoying a leisurely hike, birdwatching, or simply unwinding at your campsite, the tranquil river views are sure to leave a lasting impression.

Rock climbing

Any adrenaline junkie will appreciate the opportunity for rock climbing at Mississippi Palisades State Park. With its rugged limestone bluffs and challenging rock formations, this park offers a thrilling experience for climbers of all skill levels. The sense of accomplishment and the adrenaline rush from conquering these daring climbs make this one of the best rock climbing spots in Illinois.

If you’re a novice climber, there are guided climbing tours available to ensure your safety as you navigate the cliffs. For experienced climbers, the park’s numerous routes and diverse terrain make for an exhilarating and rewarding challenge.

Kankakee River State Park

Keep in mind that Kankakee River State Park is a nature lover’s paradise, offering a wide range of outdoor activities for all ages. The park is located along the Kankakee River, and it boasts over 4,000 acres of natural beauty, making it an ideal destination for camping and outdoor enthusiasts.

Fishing opportunities

The Kankakee River State Park is known for its excellent fishing opportunities. The river is teeming with a variety of fish, including smallmouth bass, channel catfish, and northern pike. Whether you’re an experienced angler or a novice, the park provides a serene and picturesque setting for a day of fishing, and the chance to catch some impressive specimens is high.

Biking trails

opportunities for biking are plentiful at Kankakee River State Park. The park offers several well-maintained biking trails that wind through the dense forests and along the riverbanks. The trails provide an excellent opportunity for both leisurely rides and more challenging mountain biking adventures, catering to cyclists of all skill levels.

Fishing is not the only attraction at Kankakee River State Park; the biking trails offer visitors a chance to explore the park’s diverse landscapes, from dense woodlands to open meadows. Whether you’re an avid angler or a biking enthusiast, Kankakee River State Park promises an unforgettable outdoor experience.

Rock Cut State Park

Not many places can offer the diverse range of outdoor activities that Rock Cut State Park can. Located in Winnebago County, this expansive park covers over 3,000 acres and is a popular destination for camping, hiking, fishing, and picnicking.

Two lakes

Park visitors have the opportunity to enjoy the park’s two beautiful lakes, Pierce Lake and Olson Lake. These lakes provide ample opportunities for fishing and boating, as well as a chance to relax and take in the picturesque views. Both lakes are stocked with a variety of fish, making them a popular spot for anglers.

Hiking paths

State Rock Cut State Park is home to numerous hiking trails that cater to a range of skill levels, from leisurely strolls to more challenging treks. The trails wind through diverse terrain, including lush forests, open meadows, and around the lakes, providing hikers with breathtaking scenery and a chance to spot local wildlife.

Exploring the hiking paths at Rock Cut State Park offers the opportunity to immerse oneself in nature and experience the tranquility of the lakes and surrounding landscape. Whether visitors are seeking a peaceful nature walk or an adventurous hike, there is a trail to suit every preference.

Pere Marquette State Park

Despite its close proximity to the urban bustle of St. Louis, Pere Marquette State Park offers a tranquil escape into nature for camping enthusiasts. Covering over 8,000 acres along the Great River Road, this park is a haven for outdoor activities and breathtaking scenery.

Great river road

Pere Marquette State Park is nestled along the Great River Road, offering campers stunning views of the Mississippi River and its surrounding bluffs. The road also provides access to numerous hiking and biking trails, as well as opportunities for birdwatching and wildlife spotting.

Autumn leaf viewing

River enthusiasts flock to Pere Marquette State Park during the autumn months to witness the colorful display of foliage along the Mississippi River bluffs. The park’s hardwood forests burst into vibrant hues of red, orange, and yellow, creating a picturesque backdrop for camping and outdoor activities.

To fully experience the beauty of fall at Pere Marquette State Park, visitors can take advantage of the park’s scenic drives and overlooks, providing unparalleled views of the autumn landscape.

Garden of the Gods

Now, let’s delve into one of the most iconic and breathtaking camping spots in Illinois – Garden of the Gods. Located in the Shawnee National Forest, this natural wonderland is a must-visit for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.

Unique rock formations

The Garden of the Gods is best known for its unique rock formations that have been sculpted by centuries of natural forces. The towering sandstone formations, with names like Camel Rock and Anvil Rock, provide a stunning backdrop for camping and hiking. The red and white rock formations create a surreal and otherworldly landscape, making it a paradise for photographers and adventurers alike.

Panoramic overlooks

With scenic vistas that stretch as far as the eye can see, Garden of the Gods offers some of the most panoramic overlooks in Illinois. From these vantage points, visitors can soak in the stunning beauty of the surrounding wilderness, including the Shawnee National Forest and the Ohio River. The overlooks are particularly breathtaking during sunrise and sunset, providing a memorable and awe-inspiring experience for all who visit.

To fully appreciate the panoramic overlooks at Garden of the Gods, be sure to bring along a pair of binoculars or a camera to capture the stunning views. The expansive vistas are also popular spots for picnicking or simply reflecting on the natural beauty of the area.

Matthiessen State Park

After exploring the vast natural beauty of Illinois, Matthiessen State Park stands out as a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts. Located in LaSalle County, this 1,938-acre park is a haven for outdoor adventurers seeking a getaway from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. With its stunning canyons, waterfalls, and diverse wildlife, Matthiessen State Park offers a truly immersive experience in the heart of nature.

Diverse ecosystems

State Park boasts an array of ecosystems, including prairies, forests, and wetlands, making it a paradise for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts. Visitors can embark on scenic hikes through lush woodlands or take a leisurely stroll through the park’s expansive prairies. The diverse landscapes provide opportunities for birdwatching, wildlife photography, and simply enjoying the tranquility of nature.

Geologic wonders

An array of geological wonders awaits visitors at Matthiessen State Park. The park’s stunning canyons, carved out by the forces of water and time, offer a glimpse into the earth’s natural history. Breathtaking rock formations, including towering bluffs and unique rock pillars, add to the park’s allure and provide a sense of wonder for those exploring the area.

Matthiessen State Park also features captivating waterfalls, created by the convergence of water from the park’s streams and creeks. The park’s unique geology and striking beauty make it a prime destination for geology enthusiasts and nature photographers alike.

Chain O’Lakes State Park

For nature enthusiasts and outdoor lovers, Chain O’Lakes State Park is a must-visit destination in Illinois. With its picturesque setting and array of outdoor activities, this park offers something for everyone, making it a top choice for camping and outdoor adventures.

Boating heaven

On the shores of the Chain O’Lakes, campers can immerse themselves in a boating paradise. With 6,100 acres of water and 488 miles of shoreline, this park is a haven for boating enthusiasts. Whether you prefer fishing, water skiing, or simply cruising the lakes, the park offers ample opportunities for enjoying the water.

Winter sports

Any winter sports enthusiast will find plenty to love at Chain O’Lakes State Park. The park offers opportunities for cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and ice fishing, making it a winter wonderland for outdoor enthusiasts. During the colder months, the park transforms into a snowy paradise, where visitors can explore the scenic beauty of the landscape while partaking in their favorite winter activities.

State-of-the-art facilities and well-maintained trails make this park a popular destination for winter sports, drawing in visitors from near and far. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or a beginner, the park provides an ideal setting for enjoying the great outdoors in the winter.

Illinois Beach State Park

Unlike other camping spots in Illinois, Illinois Beach State Park offers a unique experience of camping near the shores of Lake Michigan. This sprawling state park is a perfect destination for nature enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers looking to immerse themselves in the beauty of the Midwest.

Lake Michigan access

Access to Lake Michigan is one of the main draws of Illinois Beach State Park. Campers can enjoy swimming, sunbathing, and beachcombing along the 6.5 miles of pristine shoreline. The park also offers opportunities for boating and fishing, making it a great destination for water lovers.

Dune landscapes

Michigan dune landscapes are another highlight of Illinois Beach State Park. The park is home to unique dune ecosystems, providing a picturesque backdrop for camping and hiking. Campers can explore the undulating dunes and enjoy stunning views of Lake Michigan from the top.

These landscapes are not only beautiful but also provide a habitat for a diverse range of plant and animal species, making it a must-visit for nature enthusiasts and wildlife photographers.


Upon reflecting on the 10 best camping spots in Illinois, it is clear that the great outdoors of the state offer a wide range of camping experiences for nature enthusiasts. From the picturesque beauty of Starved Rock State Park to the rugged wilderness of Shawnee National Forest, there is something for every camper to enjoy. Whether you prefer hiking, fishing, or simply enjoying the tranquility of nature, Illinois has it all.

As you plan your next camping trip in Illinois, consider visiting one of these top 10 spots for a memorable outdoor adventure. With stunning landscapes, diverse wildlife, and excellent amenities, these camping locations showcase the best that the state has to offer. So pack your gear, gather your friends and family, and head out to explore the great outdoors in Illinois!


Q: What are the best camping spots in Illinois?

A: The 10 best camping spots in Illinois are Starved Rock State Park, Shawnee National Forest, Giant City State Park, Pere Marquette State Park, Matthiessen State Park, Turkey Run State Park, Silver Springs State Park, Mississippi Palisades State Park, Kankakee River State Park, and Illinois Beach State Park. Each of these locations offers diverse landscapes and a range of amenities for camping enthusiasts.

Q: What kind of activities can be enjoyed at these camping spots?

A: The camping spots in Illinois offer a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, fishing, birdwatching, boating, swimming, and wildlife viewing. Additionally, some locations have designated areas for rock climbing and horseback riding. Visitors can also explore caves, waterfalls, and unique geological formations at several of these camping spots.

Q: What amenities are available at these camping spots?

A: Most of the camping spots in Illinois offer campgrounds with varying levels of amenities, including electrical hookups, restroom facilities, and picnic areas. Some locations also provide cabins, lodges, and rental equipment for recreational activities. Visitors can expect to find well-maintained trails, scenic overlooks, and educational programs at these camping spots as well.


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