Camping is a blast at any time of year, but wintertime can elevate the traditional camping experience to the next level. If you’re looking for places to go winter camping in Illinois, you’re in luck! This state is loaded with all types of state parks, beautiful forests, and recreational areas that stay open year-round.
For the outdoor enthusiast and “Windy City” native alike, here are 14 of the best places to enjoy winter camping in Illinois!
Helpful Winter Camping Gear
Winter Camping in Northeast Illinois
Forest Preserves of Cook County
First on our list of destinations for winter camping in Illinois is the Forest Preserves of Cook Country! At the Forest Preserves of Cook County, you’ll enjoy a front-row seat to signature Illinois forestry, wildlife, and a host of winter activities.
The park features 5 different campgrounds that provide a wide range of camping experiences. Whether you prefer a tent or a large bunkhouse, amenities include picnic shelters, accessible parking, access to bathroom/shower buildings, and more.
The Cook County Forest Preserves are home to 100 miles of paved trails and over 200 miles of unpaved trails. Make the most of your camping experience by checking out the hiking and snowmobile trails, or by playing a few rounds of disc golf in the snow!
Moraine Hills State Park
An assortment of natural lakes, wetlands, and hills, Moraine Hills State Park is a 2,200-acre, wildlife-rich paradise that is tucked away in McHenry County.
Located on McHenry Dam and bordering both Fox River and Lake Defiance, the park provides access to fishing and boating spots. Deer and waterfowl hunting is another popular Moraine Hills pastime, and there are 10 total miles of hiking and skiing trails scattered throughout the park.
Although there are no campgrounds within Moraine Hills State Park, don’t let that stop you from staying at a nearby campground and enjoying the park’s many outdoor activities throughout the day!
Adeline Geo-Karis Illinois Beach State Park
The 4,160-acre park features 6.5 miles of shoreline, as well as 5 miles of hiking and bicycling trails. One of the park’s highlights, Camp Logan Trail, is a 1.8-mile loop that cross-country skiers can enjoy during the wintertime.
What’s more, the park is home to a 241-site Class A campground that offers electricity, hot shower facilities, and restrooms. Keep in mind that the campground is only available during a portion of the winter—closing December 31st and reopening April 1st.
Chain O’ Lakes State Park
For some of the best winter camping in Illinois, consider a trip to Chain O’ Lakes State Park. This park is open year-round—though, aside from hunting, the majority of park activities close between November and January 1st.
At the park’s Honey Suckle Hollow and Fox Den campgrounds, you’ll have access to over 150 Class A sites for just $25 per night. There are an additional 87 Class B primitive sites at the Turner Lake South, Prairie View, and Mud Lake East campgrounds—available for just $12 per night!
Bordering three natural lakes with thousands of acres of water, the park offers a handful of winter activities, including cross-country skiing and ice fishing opportunities. Additionally, there are 4 trail systems for you to take advantage of, including a 6-mile hiking and biking trail that weaves through the park’s picnic areas.
Winter Camping in North-Central Illinois
Starved Rock State Park
First on our list of winter camping in north-central Illinois is Starved Rock State Park! This is not only Illinois’ most popular park, but also its second oldest. This historic park features 13 miles of trails, 18 canyons, and 14 beautiful waterfalls. You might even be able to spot a bald eagle at Eagle Cliff or Lover’s Leap! Certain areas of the park are closed from November 30th until April 1st, but the West Loop and other designated areas are open year-round.
To reserve a campsite, you must book at least four days ahead and as early as six months in advance. If you prefer camping in comfort, check in at Starved Rock Lodge—a 90-room, 1930s-style cabin with full amenities!
Lowden State Park
At Lowden State Park, there are over 80 Class A campsites that provide all of the creature comforts you might want on a wintery camping trip—including electricity, warm showers, and more.
If you’d prefer a slightly more primitive camping experience, there are another 46 Class B and Class D campsites available. Lowden offers four miles of hiking trails, as well as multiple picnic areas that are open year-round.
The park also happens to be home to the second-largest concrete monolithic statue in the world. See it up-close and in-person with a trip to Lowden State Park this winter!
Matthiessen State Park
If you love skiing in winter, plan a couple of days at Matthiessen State Park. In addition to icy streams and gorgeous waterfalls, the park is home to 5 miles of cross-country ski trails!
There are also over 6 total miles of hiking trails accompanied by scenic views of the park’s sandstone canyons and lush forests. You won’t want to forget your winter hiking boots!
It’s worth noting that there are no campgrounds within Matthiessen State Park itself, aside from an equestrian campground. Because of the park’s convenient location, however, you can easily stay at Starved Rock State Park or another nearby campground—visiting Mattiessen by day and enjoying all of its winter activities!
Rock Cut State Park
A visit to Rock Cut State Park is one of your best bets to experience winter camping in Illinois, thanks to the many campsites that are made available year-round.
In total, there are more than 210 Class A Premium campsites—complete with electricity and other amenities—as well as 60 Class B campsites that are better suited for the primitive camper.
As for outdoor activities, Rock Cut boasts an enormous trail system with 40 miles for hiking, 23 miles for biking, and 14 miles for horse riding. During the wintertime, these become groomed trails for snow skiing. You can even rent cross-country skis at the park’s concession area!
White Pines Forest State Park
The 385-acre White Pines Forest State Park is nestled in the Rock River Valley and provides tent campers with stunning views of the park’s mossy cliffs, rock formations, and tree lines.
Slightly more primitive than some of the major Illinois state parks, White Pines is home to 103 Class B campsites. 3 of these sites have electric RV hookups, and camping rates are just $10 per night—allowing you to enjoy winter camping in Illinois on a budget!
During your park stay, enjoy access to 7 marked hiking trails that transform into cross-country skiing trails after a snowfall!
Illini State Park
Located just south of the Illinois River and bordering a 1920s barge canal, Illini State Park is known for its many riverside picnic tables and historical significance.
Today, this popular state park appeals to active campers, as there are both tent and trailer campsites scattered throughout the park. Make your reservation online to book your spot!
Illini State Park also offers an ice skating pool during the beautiful winter months, as well as steep hills that are perfect for sledding. Finally, there are shelters where cold campers can warm up after a day filled with snowy fun.
Winter Camping in Southern Illinois
First up for winter camping in southern Illinois is Benton KOA! Conveniently located just off the highway in southern Illinois, Benton KOA (Kampgrounds of America) provides one of the most complete winter glamping experiences around.
Sites range from tents to cabin camping, while amenities include 50 max amp electric hookups, cable TV access, Wi-Fi, swimming pools, full bathroom facilities, and much more. Furthermore, the Benton campground is only a short walk from all types of nearby restaurants and shops!
Finally, Benton KOA is only two miles from the 19,000-acre Rend Lake—a body of water that provides all types of sports and recreational activities for the whole family!
Wayne Fitzgerrell State Recreation Area
If you’re hoping to enjoy winter camping in Illinois within the next few weeks, Wayne Fitzgerrell State Recreation Area is going to be one of your best options.
Home to 243 modern campsites that cost $20 per night and 17 primitive campsites that cost just $6 per night, this park only offers its tent sites and RV sites on a first-come, first-served basis. Simply show up as early, pay your fee, and you’ll usually get access to a campsite!
As roughly 75% of the park’s border is Rend Lake shoreline, there are multiple spots for ice fishing. What’s more, the park’s pheasant hunt area is able to accommodate 120 hunters per day!
Giant City State Park
As its name would suggest, Giant City State Park is home to all kinds of enormous structures and landmarks—including 12,000-year-old sandstone bluffs and 75 species of magnificent trees.
In total, there are 85 Class A tent and trailer campsites that include water, electricity, toilets, and other amenities. If you prefer a more primitive experience, reserve one of 14 Class C campsites that are located on the south end of the park.
In addition to having one of the more impressive trails for hiking in the state—the 12-mile Red Cedar Hiking Trail—Giant City State Park permits rock climbing and rappelling at multiple cliffs. Just remember to bring your own gear!
Dixon Springs State Park
Last but not least on our list of destinations for winter camping in Illinois is Dixon Springs State Park! While camping at this park is limited, you can reserve a Class B tent or trailer site online or by phone.
During your winter camping trip at Dixon Springs, there are a wide variety of snow-covered rock formations, waterfalls, and springs you should take some time to explore.
Witness these impressive structures firsthand by embarking on the 1.7-mile self-guided nature trail or the 1-mile Ghost Dance Canyon trail!
Try Your Hand at Winter Camping in Illinois Today!
Winter camping isn’t for the faint of heart. If you’re prepared to brave the great outdoors amidst cold weather, however, there’s always a place for you to enjoy winter camping in Illinois. Until your next winter adventure, happy camping!
Looking for more Illinois adventures? Check out more of our favorite Illinois locations below!
- About the Author
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Ben Morgan grew up on the island of Tasmania, Australia, where he discovered a love for outdoor sports, activities, and other pastimes at a very early age. In his adolescence, he was enrolled in a program that taught all kinds of wilderness survival skills, which he has carried with him throughout life and now shares with the camping community.
Now living at the foothills of South Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Ben frequents the mountain range for a dose of the great outdoors. Whether it’s hiking, sightseeing, or exploring, Ben finds few things to be more therapeutic than an impromptu outdoor adventure.