Camping in Illinois is very popular thanks to its thick forests, rolling hills, and beautiful wetlands.
With the Mississippi River running along the western border, Lake Michigan at the northwest border, Shawnee National Forest in the southwestern corner, and six large state forests throughout the state, you’re never far from top-notch camping.
We’ve rounded up our very favorite Illinois campgrounds for tents and RVs (including a few free campgrounds!).
Best Tent Camping In Illinois
Tent camping is hands down my favorite way to camp in Illinois. You have a wide variety of options to choose from, including primitive campsites and more developed campgrounds with modern amenities.
A truly picturesque, woodland state park with a walk-in campground perfect for those interested in tent camping in Illinois. Amenities include grills, picnic tables, and camp pads, as well as drinking water and restrooms near the parking area. Be sure to explore the Big Rocky Hollow trail to see the park’s breathtaking 100-foot intermittent waterfall.
A tranquil environment without the noise and air pollution motorized vehicles create, Gebhard Woods is walk-in campground, offering tent-camping only. Tent campers interested in fishing and canoeing will especially enjoy the park’s three fishing ponds, the Illinois & Michigan Canal, and Nettle Creek. Hiking is also available on the Illinois & Michigan Canal State Trail.
Castle Rock State Park has primitive campsites accessible only by canoe or boat, making it one of the best places for canoe and kayak camping in Illinois when you want to leave the modern world behind. Activities include bank-fishing along the Rock River and hiking through scenic sandstone bluffs, ravines, and rock formations. Don’t miss the Rock River Overlook atop the large rock formation that gave the park its name.
Tent campers interested in long-distance hiking and scenic views should look no further. This campground is a six-mile hike along the Red Cedar Trail, marking the trail’s halfway point. Head down the Giant City Nature Trail to explore the prehistoric sandstone bluffs and rock formations referred to as the “Giant City Streets”. There are also several other trails to explore, some offering rock climbing and horseback riding.
This primitive Illinois campground is under the shading limbs of maple, sycamore and cottonwood near New Boston, IL. Part of the Corps of Engineers Rock Island District, it offers 34 campsites on 6.5 acres, all with river views. Anglers will especially love the gently-sloping banks for relaxing days of shore-fishing. Other amenities include tables, grills, restrooms, and a boat launch.
This tent-only campground offers full-sand, wooded campsites on the banks of the Illinois River just one hour from Chicago. Kayak Morris not only offers kayak rental, but guided kayak tours. Children can participate in the Beginner ECO Kayak Tour, introducing them to the sport of kayaking at a leisurely pace. They also offer specialty tours, including the 4 Rivers, 1 Kayak and Starved Rock Kayak Tours.
Located on the western shore of Lake Shelbyville, Opossum Creek offers some of the best lakeside tent camping in Illinois. Although the site offers both tent and RV camping with electric hookups, there are some tent-only, non-electric sites available for those seeking a more primitive experience. Children under 12 will love the campground’s small fishing pond with accessible dock.
Within the Shawnee National Forest, this site is a true shutterbug’s delight. Take your camera and head down the Garden of the Gods Observation Trail, a 1/4-mile loop trail with stunning views of sandstone rock formations and cliffs. Twelve campsites available for both tent and RV camping, but dispersed camping within the wilderness area is also permitted.
Best Free Campsites in Illinois
Illinois is home to countless dispersed and boondocking campsites thanks to its abundance of public land. In addition to the lack of a camping fee, these free campsites are generally quite remote and peaceful.
Our guide to finding the best free campsites in the US breaks down everything you need to know about free camping in Illinois in more detail.
This free campground near Murphysboro sits near a 20-acre oxbow lake that was once part of the nearby Big Muddy River. The site offers both campground and dispersed camping. A boat launch on the Big Muddy is available and anglers can try their hand at landing largemouth bass, channel catfish, and sunfish in either the lake or river. Motorized and non-motorized boats both permitted.
Bear Creek Campground offers free primitive camping as well as free use of a boat ramp for launching on the Mississippi River. Just north of the Great River National Wildlife Refuge, it’s an ideal jumping off point for wildlife viewing and photography. Birdwatchers will especially enjoy the wide range of bird species that migrate through the refuge each year, most notably bald eagles.
This public park and lake southwest of Springfield offers free overnight camping with a three-day limit. Although swimming is prohibited in Waverly Lake, boating is allowed with proper permits. There is also a playground for the kids.
With numerous high bluffs and rock faces, this beautiful Illinois campground is a treat for rock climbers looking for a free spot to hunker down for the night. Dispersed tent camping in the heart of the Shawnee National Forest. Hikers and equestrians can also enjoy the forest’s trail system. Head up the Jackson Falls Trail to reach the top of the falls. Although the amount of water falling depends on rainfall, the sandstone bluffs are always a sight worth seeing.
Watertower Park is maintained by the city of Oakland. While there is a suggested donation for overnight stays, there is no mandatory fee. Signage posted asks no stays lasting longer than one week. Both RV and tent camping welcome, with no vehicle size limit. Provides electric hookup, and some visitors even reported public use Wi-Fi. Attractions near this site include Walnut Point State Park, the Prairie Observatory, and the Independence Pioneer Village.
This forest area near Cobden offers year-round free campsites for those looking for affordable outdoor recreation in Illinois. Although all recreational vehicles must remain in parking areas, there are a number of walk-in sites with fire rings and picnic tables. The state forest also boasts trails for both hiking and horseback riding, as well as two large picnic shelters. There is even a ball field for the kids.
This Rock Island, Illinois casino offers free overnight RV parking in a designated lot. Although it limits stays to one night, it is a perfect stopover location for family camping road trips. Visitors can try their luck at the casino or take a day trip to nearby Wicks Lake, or the Mississippi or Rock Rivers. The casino also offers many nightlife and dining options.
Part of the Army Corp of Engineers Rock Island District, the Park-N-Fish Recreation Area is on the banks of the Mississippi near Hull, IL. It is open year-round and is perfect for those looking for days of boating and fishing.
There are restrooms for public use and campers may stay up to 14 days. Other nearby attractions include the Grubb Hollow Prairie Nature Preserve to the east and the Anderson Conservation Area across the river to the south in Missouri.
Best Lake Camping in Illinois
Not much beats camping by a lake. And, in Illinois, there’s plenty of lake camping to be had thanks to the state’s 155 lakes.
With more than 70 acres of water in three separate spring-fed lakes, this Illinois RV park has a little something for everyone. Activities include fishing for walleye or bluegills to swimming or enjoying a game of volleyball in the sand of the park’s private beach. This park even offers freshwater scuba diving.
This large campground offers 328 RV campsites and 36 tent campsites along the shore of Carlyle Lake. There are a number of sandy beaches and picnic shelters near the lake. It also offers a wide range of non-water recreational activities, including an archery range, hiking trails, horseshoe pits, basketball and volleyball courts, and even a public pool. Youth group camping is welcome at the Osage Youth Group Area.
This campground in Johnston City welcomes both RV and tent campers wishing to enjoy scenic Arrowhead Recreation and Wildlife Area. Fish for bluegill, channel catfish, or sunfish in the stocked lake. A nature trail rings the lake, ideal for walking or nature watching. Amenities include a rustic, on-site general store, laundromat, concession, bath-house, and Wi-Fi.
This lakeside Illinois camping destination offers RV, tent, equestrian, and youth group camping. The 40-acre lake is a hub for fishing, boating, and swimming. Visitors also enjoy more than eight miles of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding as well as cross-country skiing in winter.
Although swimming is prohibited, this 318-acre lake is one of the best campgrounds in Illinois for fishermen. The lake boasts more than ten different species of fish in its waters, most notably muskies. The campground offers 150 RV campsites, all equipped with electricity, fire rings, and picnic tables. Other recreational activities include hiking, hunting, winter sports, and nature watching.
As its name implies, this Northeastern Illinois state park possesses several natural lakes, most connected in a chain by the Fox River. RV camping is available in the park’s Honey Suckle Hollow and Fox Den campsites. A further three campsites offer tent camping. Youth group campers are welcome at the park’s Mud Lake West campsite. Other features include seven picnic areas, nature and equestrian trails, showers, and bicycling trails.
The Twisted Oak, Big Oaks, and Twin Oaks campgrounds within the Argyle Lake State Park offer all types of campsites, including primitive tent campsites without amenities. Nature enthusiasts will love the park’s more than five miles of hiking trails. Equestrian campsites and a 7-mile horseback riding trail are also available. With 200 different species of birds, Argyle Lake is also a treat for birdwatchers.
This Illinois state park isn’t just lake camping—it’s Great Lake camping! On the shores of Lake Michigan, Illinois Beach has more than 200 RV campsites, all equipped with electricity and located near restrooms with hot showers and flush toilets. In addition to lakeside activities, Illinois Beach also offers biking on the Zion Bike Trail and as well as hiking along the Camp Logan Trail.
Best RV Campgrounds in Illinois
I love RV camping in Illinois because it allows you to enjoy this beautiful state while still enjoying modern comforts.
Check out our extensive RV camping resources for more great RVing tips.
This campground and RV park outside Springfield on Route 66 in Chatham, provides everything a modern RV camper needs. Amenities include free Wi-Fi, full hookups, open rec room, swimming pool, and an on-site store. It’s also conveniently located near the many historic sites and attractions the town of Springfield has to offer, including the Lincoln Library & Museum and the Henson Robinson Zoo.
Hickory Holler Campground provides fun for the whole family in a peaceful country-living atmosphere. Family activities offered at Hickory Holler include paddle boats on a lake, putt-putt, shuffleboard, and a playground. This RV campground also provides coin laundry, a bath and shower house, fire rings, and a camp store. Off-site attractions located nearby include more than one thousand acres for hunting, horseback riding, and hiking.
This DeKalb County resort offers a perfect blend of recreation and relaxation. Visitors can fish the day away in one of two spring-fed lakes within the park, rent a paddle boat, play a game of volleyball, or take a dip at the sandy swimming beach. At the end of the day, enjoy the peace and quiet as the park observes quiet hours between 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. Amenities include Wi-Fi, campground store, restrooms with hot water showers, and a covered pavilion.
Located in the town of Mount Vernon, Archway RV Park is family owned and operated and geared towards family fun. Even the family dog can share the fun in the park’s dog run with exercise field. There are both pull-through and back-in sites available, all with full RV hookups. Among other amenities, the park offers showers with access for the physically disabled, Wi-Fi, laundromat, and pavilion with a fire pit for group activities.
Journey back through history while enjoying the comforts of modern RV camping. Located on the banks of the Ohio River in southern Illinois, Fort Massac and the adjacent Massac Forest Nature Preserve boasts both historic and recreational attractions, all enjoyed from one of fifty Class A vehicular campsites. Visit the replica fort as it was in 1802, or spend the day fishing, boating on the river or hiking the trails.
Just northwest of Chicago in the town of Volo, this cozy RV resort offers RV camping May 1st through October 15th, whether travel trailer, motorhome or fifth wheel. The resort also offers both lake and heated pool swimming, watercraft rentals and boating, fishing, and even putt-putt. Convenient amenities include Wi-Fi access, restrooms with hot showers, concession, and coin laundry. It’s around a 25-minute drive to Six Flags Great America. Tent campers are also welcome.
This top-rated Illinois RV park on the Upper Peoria Lake on the Illinois River boasts 80 full hookup RV campsites, a riverboat launch, showers and bathhouse facilities, and a private spring-fed lake. The park offers not only daily and weekly rates, but monthly rates as well. Campers can enjoy the park and water or venture into Spring Bay Fen Nature Reserve adjacent to the park.
This RV resort near the Quad Cities in Hillsdale is one of the largest, most activity-packed places to go RVing in all of Illinois. Five fishing lakes, tennis and basketball courts, outdoor pool, and a fitness center are just a few recreational attractions at Sunset Lakes. The resort also offers on-site canoes and paddle boats, as well as kayak access. All campsites are full-service.
Best Illinois State Park Camping
Illinois is home to 309 state parks – most with camping. Although we’ve already mentioned a few on this list, we wanted to highlight a few of our additional favorites for the perfect Illinois state park camping experience.
Explore a naturally-occurring, water-carved limestone cave while simultaneously enjoying stunning views of the Ohio River. There are more than 50 campsites for RV and tents as well as four playground areas, five picnic areas, and several parking areas throughout the park. For those interested in boating and fishing, there are two boat ramps or the nearby Golconda Marina to launch from.
This scenic state park has miles of trail systems to explore in the Rock River Valley. It boasts more than 100 vehicle-accessible, campsites plus restroom and shower facilities as well several picnic areas and playgrounds. The campground sits near Spring and Pine Creek, the babbling waterways that meander through the park.
Mississippi Palisades State Park has a wealth of scenic views, historic trails, and year-round recreational activities. The park features more than 200 Class A and B campsites, restroom and shower facilities, picnic areas, and six picnic shelters. Explore 15 miles of hiking trails or rock climb in the Sentinel, Twin Sisters, or Indian Head areas. Bring your camera and visit one of the park’s several scenic overlooks which all boast incredible views of the Mississippi River.
Kankakee River State Park is home to several campgrounds for RVs, tent campers, and even backpackers. Along with fishing and boating on the Kankakee River, the park also boasts many non-river related activities, most notably the extensive trail system for hikers. Trails north of the river are for hiking, cross-country skiing, and biking while those south of the river are equestrian and snowmobile trails.
Starved Rock State Park is one of my personal favorite places for camping in Illinois. In addition to countless campsites with lots of amenities (including RV hookups and flush toilets), I love this Illinois state park because of its fourteen beautiful waterfalls and eighteen sandstone canyons.
At just over 3,000 acres, Rock Cut State Park has a little something for everyone. Most notable are countless hiking and horseback trails as well as fishing and boating in either Pierce or Olson Lake. This state park also offers winter activities, such as cross-country trails and ice-skating on the lakes. Equestrian camping is available in a designated area. Spring and summer campers will enjoy seeing more than 100 kinds of wildflowers.
The Plainview and Lakeside Campgrounds at Lincoln Trail State Park have RV campsites that offer all the creature comforts, including electricity, showers, water, and toilets. Lakeside Campground also has an area set aside for tent camping. Popular activities include fishing, boating, and hiking as well as ice fishing and cross-country skiing in winter.
Jubilee College State Park offers both RV and tent camping from April 15th to November 1st. There is also a winter camping area with electricity. Key features of this state park include more than 40 miles of trail and several large picnic areas. Each area has a shelter equipped with electricity, charcoal grills, and playgrounds.
Where’s Your Favorite Place to Camp in Illinois?
Now, that you know our favorite places to camp in Illinois – we want to hear from you!
What’s your favorite Illinois campground? Is it one we included on our list? Or is it one that we didn’t include this time? Let us know in the comments below!
More Best State Camping Resources
Find awesome camping in other states with our other best state camping guides:
- Best Camping in Wisconsin
- Best Camping in Florida
- Best Camping in California
- Best Camping in Texas
- Best Camping in Washington
- About the Author
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Hey there, I’m Ryan, the face behind Beyond The Tent.
With decades of camping experiences, my journey into the wilderness began on the rustic trails of a farm in southern Minnesota, where my childhood was filled with explorations and camping by a picturesque river.
My family’s adventures across the United States, from the majestic Colorado mountains to the serene national parks and the pristine Boundary Waters Canoe Area of Northern Minnesota have given me a broad perspective. With each journey, whether in state parks or private encampments, and through the homely comfort of our camping trailers, we’ve amassed a trove of stories, experiences, and invaluable camping wisdom.