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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.

Zach Long
Written by
Zach Long
Contributor
Lindsay Eanet
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We all know summer in Chicago can be equal parts thrilling and exhausting, with a near-endless list of things to do, festivals and events to fill your calendar. Sometimes, it's nice to get away from the hustle and spend some time relaxing in nature. 

If you're looking for places to go camping near Chicago, there's no shortage of great options within a two-hour drive from the city, from lakeside retreats in Michigan and Wisconsin to densely forested areas nearby 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 tent camping or a place to park your RV (with access to flush toilets!), you'll find your perfect spot to spend the night under the stars among the best places to go camping near Chicago.

RECOMMENDED: The best lakeside Airbnbs near Chicago

Best places for camping near Chicago

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

Although 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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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.

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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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

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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Tucked among the largest concentration of natural lakes in Illinois, Chain O' Lakes State Park offers scenic hiking and 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

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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Note: Camp Sullivan is currently open from Thursday evening to Sunday morning for tents and cabins, and daily 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

This expansive site in Michigan's "Harbor Country" has long been a favorite destination of weekending Chicagoans, and with the three miles of dreamy Lake Michigan shoreline, breathtaking dune views and activities ranging from the chill (bird-watching) to the extreme (hang gliding), we can see why. With 185 modern campsites with electric hookups, 24 rustic sites and three mini-cabins, there's a space for every kind of camper here. Give yourself time on the drive home to sample some of the many tempting restaurants, wineries and breweries nearby. 

Open year round. Reserve a campsite

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As the name might suggest, the 3,200-acre lake is the big draw here. Campers can enjoy lots of opportunities for fishing, boating and swimming, or explore more than five miles of hiking trails through a variety of different habitats. The family campground sports 96 sites (29 with electrical hookups), but Lake Kegonsa's biggest advantage may be for groups—their six group sites can accommodate as many as 20 campers, with fun amenities such as a common area with a picnic shelter, a sand volleyball court and a horseshoe pit. 

Open May 1 - Oct 31. Reserve a campsite.

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