Camping Near Chicago - 15 Spots To Get Up And Close To Nature

By Rohin Raj on Feb 27, 2017
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Technology has grabbed our life and attention in such a way that living without some basic necessities like Wifi, cell-phones, laptops, tablets and the likes seems too ridiculous an idea! All the addictive advancements in science and user-tech has made us forget the thrills of stepping out into the wild, of getting up and close to nature and roughing it all out like in the golden old days! So, to try out something new this coming weekend, forget about all the things to do in Chicago, just chuck those gadgets aside for some days, step into the wild and have the time of your life by going for camping near Chicago!

1. Kettle Moraine State Forest

Kettle Moraine State Forest - Go Camping near ChicagoPC: Amy Bayer/

Step out into the expansive and vividly beautiful forests of Wisconsin, that offer you endless opportunities for fun, exploration and quality family-time. As adventure activities in Chicago are somewhat limited, pursuing them in the vast terrains of Kettle Moraine which offers trails for hiking, snowmobiling, off-road bicycling, horse-riding and skiing ranging in over hundreds of miles! The best part is that there are more than 750 campsites, making it a perfect place for camping near Chicago.

Distance: 130 miles approx.

Duration: 2 hours 15 minutes approx.

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2. Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area

Goose Lake Prairie State Natural AreaPC: Wikimedia Commons

If you’re a die-hard nature lover, and sightings of various animals and birds really makes your day, then an extended stay at the Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area will be the perfect dose for any bouts of sadness you might be suffering from! Apart from the traditional activities of hiking, boating and fishing, the park also has space for practising archery and some great spots for enjoying a peaceful campfire with your close and loved ones!

Distance: 65 miles approx.

Duration: 1 hour 20 minutes approx.

Also Check Out: Best Road Trips from Chicago

3. Starved Rock State Park

Starved Rock State Park - cool camping spot near ChicagoPC: Wikimedia Commons

Located in the state of Illinois itself, the Starved Rock State Park attracts millions of tourists each year, making it one of the most popular parks of the state. Though the park is more famous for its gorgeous rock canyons, the camping ground is one of its lesser known secrets! More than 100 camping sites can be found and reserved for unlimited fun! This will allow you and companions to explore the natural beauty of Sacred Rock, go for boating and fishing expeditions, and hike on the miles-long trails!

Distance: 95 miles approx.

Duration: 1 hour 45 minutes approx.

4. P. J. Hoffmaster State Park

P. J. Hoffmaster State Park - camping near chicagoPC: A Healthier Michigan/

The P. J. Hoffmaster State Park has everything that is required for it to be one of the best camping sites near Chicago! There is access to a major chunk of Lake Michigan’s shore, numerous sand dunes, hiking paths and even ski trails whenever the weather permits. There is a dedicated area for camping, surrounded by a lush green forest, making it a perfect backdrop for bonfires, musical nights and other wonderful camping adventures! If you want to create some unforgettable memories with your friends and family, then this is the place to be at!

Distance: 180 miles

Duration: 3 hours 15 minutes

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5. Illinois Beach State Park

Illinois Beach State Park - camping within 2 hours of chicagoPC: Peter Ciro/

The Illinois Beach State Park is highly reputed for its primary feature, that is, the beach itself! It attracts thousands of visitors, especially in the peak season months of May to September, for the tons of activities that can be enjoyed on the park grounds namely hiking, bicycling, bird-watching, swimming, boating and of course camping! If you are looking for a memorable family outing at a close distance from Chicago, then should definitely give Illinois Beach State Park a try.

Distance: 50 miles approx.

Duration: 1 hour approx.

6. Turkey Run State Park

Turkey Run State ParkPC: Paul J Everett/

The star attraction of Turkey Run State Park has to be the famous Sugar Creek and the path which lead to it. Enthusiastic trekkers can catch sights of awesome gorges, mesmerizing sandstone ravines and many natural wonders. You can also try your hand at kayaking and canoeing if the water levels in Sugar Creek permit it! The park’s campgrounds offer a very peaceful respite from the otherwise hectic Chicago life, and make one prize the bounties bestowed by Mother Nature.

Distance: 155 miles approx.

Duration: 3 hours approx.

7. White Pines Forest State Park

White Pines Forest State Park near Chicago for campingPC: Nicholas A. Tonelli/

One of the most popular camping zones near Chicago, the White Pines Forest State Park has oodles of fun-filled activities to enjoy during the course of your stay here! Depending on the season, activities like hiking, fishing, picnicking, cross-country skiing and others are opened up to the general visitors. Huge campgrounds and availability of lodges makes spending a couple of nights here an added attraction and a sure-shot way to make outstanding memories with your loved ones!

Distance: 110 miles approx.

Duration: 2 hours approx.

8. Indiana Dunes State Park

Indiana Dunes State Park

Another park that shares the shoreline of Lake Michigan, the Indiana Dunes State Park should a perfect fit if you are searching places ideal for camping near Chicago. The highlight of the park is the numerous sand dunes and the beaches along Lake Michigan where swimming and sunbathing is permitted. The camping facilities in Indiana Dunes park is excellent, with well laid out spaces, electricity availability and trails for cycling and hiking. Being close to Chicago, it doesn't take much time to reach the park and go back home also! Thinking about a lake vacation this summer? Check out the best lake vacations in USA to take your family for the much needed break!

Distance: 50 kilometres approx.

Duration: 1 hour approx.

9. Matthiessen State Park

State Parks near Chicago for campingPC: Logan Ward/

Usually overshadowed by its more popular counterpart, Starved Rock State Park, the Matthiessen State Park is also a beautiful place to check out Mother Nature’s bountiful treats! There are several hiking trails, horse-riding trails and also for mountain biking. An archery range and ample space for R/C airplanes is also provided in the State Park, so that there isn’t a single dull moment during your stay here.

Distance: 100 miles approx.

Duration: 1 hour 45 minutes approx.

10. Kelleys Island State Park

Kelleys Island State Park - best for familiesPC: Wikimedia Commons

Campers may find the Kelleys Island State Park a tad bit far, but then what great things are found easily? The 676-acre park is located on an island, so you’ll have to take a ferry to access it, but the long drive and ferry ride will be well rewarded once you’ve seen the astounding beauty that awaits you in the park. Make the most of your own private heaven, with no unwanted disturbances, and go and check out the famed glacial grooves, the soothing beaches and fabulous camping spots, perfect for a friends and family getaway!

Distance: 300 miles approx.

Duration: 5 hours 30 minutes approx.

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11. Kankakee River State Park

Kankakee River State ParkPC: Lotzman Katzman/

The Kankakee River State Park is a favourite haunt for visitors looking out to have an exciting overnight camping holiday, close to nature and under the beautiful stars. There are spectacular hiking trails, paths for horse-back riding and in the winters snowmobiling can also be enjoyed in certain special trails! The camping grounds, being a specialty of the park, are very well distributed, offer all facilities required to make the experience more awesome and are suitable located inside the Kankakee State Park!

Distance: 60 miles approx.

Duration: 1 hour 15 minutes approx.

12. Van Buren State Park

best campgrounds around ChicagoPC: Dakota Callaway/

The Van Buren State Park is one of the most fun camping spots near Chicago that offers its many visitors unlimited access to swimming zones, walking trails and camping hotspots. The park is also popular amongst people who are passionate for metal-detection, and there are official regions for the express purpose. Visiting groups can also enjoy a lovely picnic basket and see their young ones having a gala time at the playground in the premises. It is a full-fledged package vacation for all enthusiastic campers and vacationers!

Distance: 120 miles approx.

Duration: 2 hours approx.

Must Read: Life Lessons You Can Learn From Camping

13. Mississippi Palisades State Park

Mississippi Palisades State ParkPC: CinCool/

Visit and camp at the Mississippi Palisades State Park to satiate the explorer inside of you and have amazing fun moving around the limestone caves, ravines and some rather spectacular rock formations! The treks are perfect for nature enthusiasts and photography bluffs, and the presence of hundreds of campsite locations within the park territory make it a convenient destination for an impromptu camping plan near Chicago. Just grab your camping gear, drive down to the park and spend a wonderful night in the lap of Nature.

Distance: 150 miles approx.

Duration: 3 hours approx.

Check Out: Largest Caverns in the USA

14. Rock Island State Park

Rock Island State ParkPC: Wikimedia Commons

Visiting the Rock Island State Park is a very memorable experience, courtesy its scenic road and the ferry that has to be taken from Washington Island in order to reach the State Park. You are not allowed to bring any wheeled-vehicle inside the park, and thus this leaves the whole area to be explored on foot! It is a spectacular experience to roam around in the park, and even a better one to camp for a night in the open camping regions. Numerous sightseeing options will keep kids and adults both busy and entertained during the course of their stay!

Distance: 300 miles approx.

Duration: 6 hours approx.

15. Chain O’Lakes State Park

Chain O’Lakes State ParkPC: Doc Searls/

Awaken the passionate water addict inside of you when you get to visit the Chain O’Lakes State Park in Illinois itself. There are several connected and independent lakes in the park, which offer its visitors innumerable opportunities to take part in fun activities like boating, kayaking, water skiing and swimming. Enthusiastic anglers can also try their luck with the old fishing road and bait at various designated areas inside the park! There is ample space to set up camp in the park, making Chain O’Lakes a highly desirable camping spot near Chicago!

Distance: 65 miles approx.

Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes approx.

Hope this list of fabulous camping places near Chicago helped in inspiring you to take a trip to the outdoors soon enough! Do tell us if we missed out on some of your favourite camping locations by writing in the comments section below!

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