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The best places to go camping near Chicago

Sleep under the stars at beautiful parks, expansive lakes and more of the best places for camping near Chicago.

By Zach Long
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Even if you haven't exhausted the best things to do in Chicago, sometimes it's necessary to make a quick escape and spend a few nights amidst nature. Thankfully, if you're looking for places to go camping near Chicago, there's no shortage of great options within a two-hour drive, from lakeside retreats in Michigan and Wisconsin to densely forested areas in Illinois. When you're not lounging in your tent or roasting s'mores by the campfire, you can enjoy boating, fishing and some of the best hiking near Chicago. Whether you prefer rustic walk-in camping in a tent or a place to park your RV (with access to flush toilets!), you'll find a spot to spend the night among the best places to go camping near Chicago.

Note: Keep in mind that many campgrounds have specific restrictions on what you can bring in and may have limited availability based on conditions in the area. If you're unsure about anything before embarking on your camping trip, make sure to call ahead!

Best places for camping near Chicago

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Illinois Beach State Park

Set on 6.5 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, you can enjoy picturesque stretches of sand, dunes, marshes, forests and hiking trails before heading to the campground in the southern portion of Illinois Beach State Park to get some rest. With 241 sites, there's lots of room for tents, RVs, cars and trailers—and they all have access to electricity, restrooms and showers.

Open Apr 1–Dec 30. Reserve a campsite

Starved Rock State Park
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Starved Rock State Park

Most people head to Starved Rock to walk among the park's winding sandstone canyons and snap photos in front of its seasonal waterfalls, it's also possible to spend the night. Each of the 129 campsites at Starved Rock feature room for two vehicles, a picnic table, a fire pit and access to electricity. There are also two showerhouses (with flush toilets, a camping luxury!) and a playground for the kids.

Open year round, weather permitting. Reserve a campsite

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Indiana Dunes State Park
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Indiana Dunes State Park

To most Chicagoans, "a weekend at the Dunes" means a trip to this popular Indiana State Park, about a half-hour drive from the Illinois border. Visitors usually spend time relaxing on the beach or traversing a 1.5-mile trail that allows you to climb atop the three tallest dunes in the park. Campers have a couple of options: the small 66-site Dunewood Campground just south of the park or the larger (and very popular) Indiana Dunes State Park Campground, which is within a mile of the beach.

Dunewood Campground: Open Apr 1–Nov 1. Reserve a campsite.
Indiana Dunes State Park Campground: Open year round. Reserve a campsite.

Couple in camping chairs by lake
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Big Foot Beach State Park

Note: The beach at Big Foot Beach State Park is temporarily closed. 

You probably won't see a sasquatch at this Wisconsin State Park (just across the border from Illinois), but you can enjoy canoeing and kayaking on Lake Geneva before retiring to a cozy campsite. There are 100 sites to choose from—including a lower ring of sites that's just a short walk from a dedicated parking area—and each is equipped with a fire ring and a picnic table.

Open spring through fall. Reserve a campsite

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Rock Cut State Park

Just north of Rockford, Illinois, Rock Cut State Park contains two lakes (the sprawling Pierce Lake and the smaller Olson Lake) and lots of room for hiking, fishing and boating. The campground boasts more than 250 sites with access to electricity, showers and toilets. There's also a single cabin (with room for six people) that can be rented, though you'll likely need to plan well in advance. 

Open year round. Reserve a campsite

Tent in campsite
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Kettle Moraine State Forest

Note: Group campsites remain closed through June 30. 

Situated just over two hours from Chicago by car, this expansive state forest north of Milwaukee is named for the large depressions in the land (many of which later became bodies of water) formed by melting glaciers thousands of years ago. After you hike the Ice Age Trail, spend the night at the Pinewoods, Ottawa Lake or Whitewater Lake campgrounds. Each space offers different amenities (Whitewater Lake is primitive, without a showerhouse) and each boasts a few more secluded walk-in sites.

Pinewoods: Open mid-May–mid-Oct. Reserve a campsite.
Ottawa Lake: Open year round. Reserve a campsite.
Whitewater Lake: Open mid-May–mid-Oct. Reserve a campsite.

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Chain O' Lakes State Park

Tucked among the largest concentration of natural lakes in Illinois, Chain O' Lakes State Park offers scenic hiking, popular fishing spots as well as boat and canoe rentals. After a day on the water, you can pitch a tent in the Class A Honey Suckle Hollow and Fox Den camp areas or one of three Class B campgrounds (Turner Lake South, Prairie View and Mud Lake East), which are about half the price per night.

Open year round. Reserve a campsite

Couple in camping chairs by lake
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Shabbona Lake State Recreation Area

Note: Masks are mandatory on rental boats. 

Drive west of Chicago to this 1,550-acre stretch of prairie, surrounding a 300-acre manmade lake that is popular with fishers. The lake is stocked with large and smallmouth bass, bluegill, walleye, muskie and more—you can also take a boat out on the water if you like. A total of 150 campsites offer a place to rest after a sunsoaked day, each with electricity, a picnic table, fire rings and vehicle access.

Open year round, with some exceptions. Reserve a campsite

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Camp Sullivan

Note: Camp Sullivan is currently open from Thursday evening to Sunday morning for tents and cabins, and every day for RVs.

Set in a Cook County Forest Preserve not far from Tinley Park and Orland Park, this small campground has room for all types of campers, as well as access to the Tinley Creek Trail System and an indoor climbing wall. Bring a tent, park your RV or reserve one of Camp Sullivan's bunkhouses or cabins. Cook County residents get reduced pricing, which is as good of an excuse as any for a weekend away (but not too far away) from the city.

Open year round. Reserve a campsite

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