Illinois in an incredible state full of large forests, rolling hills, and beautiful wetlands. This makes camping in Illinois an incredibly popular activity enjoyed not only by locals but tourists and travelers alike.
With the Mississippi River running along the western border, Lake Michigan on the North West corner, Shawnee National Forest in the southwestern corner, and six large state forests throughout the state, no matter what part of Illinois you are in, you will be able to find an incredible camping experience.
We’ve rounded up what we believe to be the best Tent camping, Free Camping, Lake Camping, State Park Camping and RV camping to help you find the perfect spot for your next Illinois camping trip.
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Best Tent Camping In Illinois
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. Trail-hiking is also available on the Illinois & Michigan Canal State Trail.
Offers primitive campsites accessible only by canoe or boat, making it one of the best campgrounds 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 campsite 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.
A primitive campground 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.
Free Camping Spots in Illinois
Camping can get expensive if you’re not careful. After you’ve bought a camper, tent, sleeping bag and other gear, you still have to pay for the campground which typically ranges from $20 – $100 a night.
With these free camping spots you can save yourself some of that hard earned money! If you’re looking for more free camping locations, check out our guide on Free Camping in the US.
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.
Offers free primitive camping, and 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 a playground for the kids.
With numerous high bluffs and rock faces, this campground is a treat for rock climbers looking for free camping in Illinois. Dispersed tent camping in the heart of the Shawnee National Forest. Hikers and riders 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.
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 sites for those looking for scenic recreation and free camping 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, IL casino allows free overnight RV parking in a designated lot. Although it limits stays to one night, it is a perfect stopover location for traveling camping 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.
Lake Camping In Illinois
With more than 70 acres of water in three separate spring-fed lakes, this RV park has a little something for everyone interested in lake camping in Illinois. From 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 has 328 Class A campsites and 36 Class C walk-in tent-camping sites 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-lake recreational activities, including an archery range, hiking trails, horseshoe pits, basketball and volleyball courts and public pool. Youth group camping welcome at the Osage Youth Group Area.
This campground in Johnston City welcomes both RV and tent campsites for those wishing to enjoy scenic Arrowhead Recreation and Wildlife Area. Fish for bluegill, channel catfish or sunfish in the stocked lake, either from the shore, boat or fishing pier. 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 state park camping destination offers RV, tent, equestrian and youth group camping, and activities. The 40-acre lake within this 715-acre recreation area offers fishing, boating, a swimming beach, and fishing pier. Visitors can also enjoy more than eight miles of trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding and cross-country skiing in winter. Picnic sites all include tables and grills, but call in advance to reserve one of two sheltered picnic areas with electricity.
Although swimming is prohibited, this 318-acre lake is one of the best camping in Illinois sites for fishermen, whether fishing from a boat, shore, or through the ice in winter. The lake boasts more than ten different species of fish in its waters, most notably muskies. 150 Class A 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. Class A camping available in the park’s Honey Suckle Hollow and Fox Den campsites. A further three campsites offer Class B camping. Youth group campers welcome at the park’s Mud Lake West campsite. Other features include seven picnic areas, nature and equestrian trails, showers, and biking trails.
The Twisted Oak, Big Oaks, and Twin Oaks campgrounds within the Argyle Lake State Park offer all classes of campsites, including Class D primitive camping. Nature enthusiasts will love the park’s more than five miles of foot trails in this Northwestern Illinois woodland park. Equestrian campgrounds and a 7-mile riding trail also available. With 200 different species of birds, Argyle Lake is also a treat for birdwatchers.
This park isn’t just lake camping—it’s Great Lake camping! On the shore of Lake Michigan, Illinois Beach has more than 200 Class A sites, all equipped with electricity and located near showers and restrooms. In addition to lake activities, this park also offers biking on the Zion Bike Trail and hiking along the Camp Logan Trail. Visitors can fish from shore or in one of several small, inland fishing ponds.
RV Camping in Illinois
RV camping is a great way to get out into the outdoors while still enjoying modern comforts.
Don’t worry if you don’t own a motorhome, pop up or travel trailer either, you can easily rent a camper for your family camping trip. You can even view our picks for the best RV rentals in Chicago here.
If you plan on purchasing an RV soon, make sure to check out our RV Buyer’s Guide for everything you need to know about the RV buying process.
This campground and RV park outside Springfield on Route 66 in Chatham, IL provides everything a modern RV-camper may need. Amenities include free Wi-Fi, full hookups, open rec room, swimming pool and an on-site store. It is also conveniently located nearby the many historic sites and attractions Springfield has to offer, such as the Lincoln Library & Museum and the Henson Robinson Zoo.
Fun for the whole family in the peaceful country-living atmosphere. Family activities offered at Hickory Holler include paddle boats on a lake, putt-putt, shuffleboard, and a playground. This 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 trail 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, or 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 pavilion.
Located in Mount Vernon, Archway is family owned and operated and geared to 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 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 comfort of modern RV camping. 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 of the original as it was in 1802, or spend the day fishing, boating on the river or hiking the trails.
Northwest of Chicago in Volo, IL, this 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. Around a 25-minute drive to Six Flags Great America. Tent campers also welcome.
This RV park on the Upper Peoria Lake on the Illinois River boasts 80 full hookup campsites, a riverboat launch, shower 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 resort near the Quad Cities in Hillsdale is one of the largest, most activity-packed places to go camping in Illinois. Five fishing lakes, tennis and basketball courts, outdoor pool, and a fitness center are just a few recreational attractions at Sunset Lakes. Don’t feel like fishing? No problem. The resort also offers on-site canoes and paddle boats, as well as kayak access. All campsites are full-service
Camping in Illinois State Parks
Explore a naturally-occurring, water-carved limestone cave while enjoying stunning views of the Ohio River at this Illinois state park camping destination. More than fifty available 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.
Scenic forest with miles of trail systems to explore in Northwestern Illinois’ Rock River Valley. Boasts more than 100 vehicle-accessible, Class B/S campsites, restroom and shower facilities, and several picnic areas and playgrounds along Spring and Pine Creek, the babbling waterways that meander through the park. There are also campsites and a nature trail accessible to the physically disabled.
Offers a wealth of scenic views, historic trails, and year-round recreational activities while camping in Illinois. 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 trail 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 with views of the Mississippi.
There are varied classes of campgrounds available in this state park, from Class A sites in the Potawatomi Campground to Class BE and Class C sites in the Chippewa Campground. Along with fishing and boating on the Kankakee River, the park also boasts non-river related activities, particularly the extensive trail system. Trails north of the river are for hiking, cross-country skiing, and biking, while those south are equestrian and snowmobile trails.
Not only one of the best places to go camping in Illinois, but also one of the most beautiful. Starved Rock boasts fourteen waterfalls among the park’s eighteen sandstone canyons. Breathtaking in the spring, the waterfalls are even more interesting in winter. Continual freezing and thawing during winter months, creates icefalls that are like uniquely beautiful works of art. There are 133 Class A campsites in the park, all with electricity, flush toilets and showers.
Just over 3000 acres, Rock Cut State Park has a little something for everyone, from hiking and horseback riding to fishing and boating in either Pierce or Olson Lake. The park also offers winter activities, such as cross-country trails and ice-skating the lakes in winter. Equestrian camping available in a designated area. Spring and summer campers can enjoy more than 100 kinds of wildflowers.
The Plainview and Lakeside Campgrounds have Class A campsites, offering all the creature comforts, including electricity, showers, water, and toilets. Lakeside Campground also has an area for Class C tent-camping. Concession available for watercraft rentals and bait for boating and fishing Lincoln Trail Lake. Nature trails for hiking both long and short-distance hikes. Ice fishing, skating, and cross-country skiing offered in winter.
Offers both RV and tent camping available from April 15th to November 1st, but there is a winter camping area with electricity. Key features of this 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.
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