When it comes to Illinois state parks, visitors are in for an embarrassment of riches. They offer a huge selection of options that can’t be found anywhere else in the country. Whether you want to spend a few days camping or go for an extensive backcountry hike, you’ll find something to love in these beautiful areas.
Here are a few of the top Illinois state parks to explore this year:
Located in the Shawnee National Forest of Illinois, Garden of the Gods is a place people go when they want to immerse themselves in a wilderness experience. Not to be confused with the park of the same name in Colorado, you won’t find any clubhouses or family-centric activities guided by a campground host here. Instead, simply set up a tent and explore the world around you. From its unique rock formations to its stunning views, this is an excellent place to get lost and find yourself. Spend an evening watching the sunset here, or enjoy a long hike with your friends and family members.
If a beach day is more your speed, head to Illinois Beach State Park. Situated on the shores of Lake Michigan, this sandy beach park offers 6.5 miles of water frontage. It’s a great place to bike, jog, or simply relax in the sun with your friends and family. Grab a picnic basket, and enjoy the sound of waves on the shoreline.
The campground at this Illinois state park offers 241 spots as well as access to electricity and shower facilities. If you’re looking for a way to really enjoy Lake Michigan, this is an excellent spot to start the process. Spend a weekend here to catch a fish or catch some waves – it’s all possible.
Giant City is a well-named park. Known for its veritable field of house-sized limestone, this natural wonder creates a playground for visitors. Explore the chunks of limestone or the little streets between. This is a heaven for people who like to hike or rock climb and has become popular among trail and backcountry runners, as well. It’s also a great place to fish, boat, and hunt.
The onsite campground features spotless grounds, water, electricity, sanitary facilities, and showers, with areas for both tent and trailer camping. There are also horse trails, which make it easy for people with stock to haul in and ride. There’s even a separate horse-friendly campground. Cabins are available for lodging, and the campground offers a gift shop, lounge, restaurant, bar, and an outdoor pool.
White Pines Forest State Park isn’t quite as palatial as some of the others on this list, but it’s worth checking out. A combination of camping and simple accommodations, this Illinois state park offers 103 campsites, although only three of those offer electric hookups. The park itself is 385 acres and is filled with hiking, fishing, biking, and running opportunities. The park has a small selection of cabins available to rent out, which are great for larger groups and parties. If you’re hungry, head to the White Pines Inn Restaurant, which serves up delicious plates of home-cooked meals. A forested place that’s excellent to explore and adventure in, White Pines Forest State Park is truly a must-see.
Gebhard Woods State Park offers primitive, camping-only accommodations that are not for the faint of heart. If you love solitude, you’ll love this place. Car camping isn’t an option, as the campsites are all ⅓ of a mile from the parking area, meaning interested parties must carry their gear in. The campsites each contain fire-rings, grills, picnic tables, and restrooms which are designed to accommodate campers and make sure they have what they need. The onsite hiking and biking trails offer easy access and fun recreational opportunities for adventure lovers.
An excellent option for anyone who likes to hunt or fish, Kankakee River State Park offers various campgrounds ranging from primitive tent-only accommodations to electricity and various other amenities. Wildlife loves this area, and it’s common to see and hear a number of deer, duck, turkey, dove, fox, and rabbits. People come to fish and canoe, although many other outdoor activities are also common.
Spring is a great time to visit some of the Illinois state parks. If you haven’t already spent time outside this year, now is an excellent time to do so. Any of the above park options will be a great place to start and will offer a large number of recreational opportunities for you and your family.
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