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3 Best State Parks to Camp at Near Chicago

  Trip Ideas & Guides

May 15, 2024 3 Best State Parks to Camp at Near Chicago

While Illinois state parks aren’t world renowned tourist destinations, they will still satisfy any outdoor lover’s craving for nature. These three state parks offer affordable camping within an hour and 30 minutes of our Chicago location. They are perfect for a night’s rest as your adventure continues or a longer stay. 

Chain O’ Lakes State Park

Chain O’ Lakes State Park is about an hour north of the Chicago location. It’s perfect for a one night stop on your way in or out of Chicagoland or a longer stay with plenty of activities. Horseback riding, hiking, fishing, boating, wildlife watching, biking and many more activities are available.

Camp in the Prairie View loop for $12 a night. Restrooms and showers are nearby. Be sure to make a reservation ahead of time and take note of the time the front gate closes. The park rangers won’t let you enter, even with a reservation, if you arrive after the front gate closes! Bike along the limestone path from your campsite to the Gold Finch Trail to experience nearly the whole park. Or walk down to the boat ramp for a picnic, paddle boat/canoe rental or simply people watch.

Alcohol in Illinois State Parks

Alcohol is rarely permitted in Illinois State Parks. If you’re camped for the night in a park where alcohol is not allowed, be sure to leave your adult beverages in the fridge, cooler or at home.


Rock Cut State Park

Near Rockford, Illinois and along Interstate 90, Rock Cut State Park is a scenic stop over on your way north. It’s only about an hour north of our Chicago rental location. There are tons of hiking trails in the park and a lake that’s great for fishing. Tent sites are $12/night and premium RV sites with electricity are $25/night. Restrooms and showers are nearby. Be sure to make reservations ahead of time as this is a popular campground! If you can’t find a site available for your dates, Kettle Moraine State Park is a great alternative. 


Buy Firewood Locally

In the Midwest, it’s typical to buy firewood near or at the place you intend to have a campfire. Local firewood will have similar insects as the local forest, therefore limiting the risk of introducing a new, harmful insect into the local forest. Do your part by picking up firewood at local farm stands, gas stations or park concessions.

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Starved Rock State Park

Starved Rock State Park is filled with gorgeous canyons, waterfalls and Native American history. The park is only about an hour and 30 minutes southwest of our Chicago location and a short drive off I-80. You’ll want to spend a full day exploring this state park and could easily spend a full weekend if you visit nearby Matthiessen State Park, too. 

Stop by the visitor center to learn what waterfalls are the best at the time and learn the history and geology of the area. Near the visitor center is a short hike to the park’s namesake, Starved Rock. There are beautiful views at the top and signs along the trail to explain the history, vista and local stories. Saint Louis Canyon is a longer hike and favorite because you can swim in the pool at the bottom of the waterfall! 

Reservations for the campsites at Starved Rock State Park open 6 months before your travel dates. Each campsite has a cement pad, electricity and access to a public shower house with flush toilets and fresh water. There is a $25 campsite fee, unless it’s a holiday weekend, then the nightly rate is $35. 

State parks in Illinois are a mix of maple, oak and elm forests, open prairie, broad rivers and lakes filled with fish. Speaking of wildlife, you’ll be impressed by the diversity of birds, small reptiles and amphibians. Whether you’re heading out of Chicago on a longer Midwest road trip or staying close to the city, these state parks are easy to get to from the Chicago location. Book now to rent a campervan from the Chicago location starting May 1, 2021.

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