Illini State Park
Located about 80 miles west of Chicago in Marseilles, Illini State Park offers visitors a quiet, serene camping experience. Nestled on the banks of the Illinois River, Illini State Park is a popular location because of its proximity to Starved Rock, which is a 30-minute drive to the west. The park has both electric and non-electric camp sites, as well as a shower building with flushing toilets. Boat ramps dot the shoreline, allowing access to the Illinois River for fishing, and hikers can enjoy the beautiful fall foliage on a three-mile trail system.
“A lot of people come here because it’s a quiet, peaceful campground. There’s not a lot of hustle and bustle. We have easy river access with beautiful views. And the fall colors are beautiful,” says Tom Jackson, site superintendent of Illini State Park.
No alcohol is allowed in the park. Electric campsites are $20/night, while non-electric sites are $10/night. Reservations are required at least three days in advance, and can be made at www.reserveamerica.com.
Fish Lake Beach Camping Resort
For those who aren’t quite ready to completely “rough it,” yet still want a camping experience, Fish Lake Beach Camping Resort in Volo might just be the perfect place for your fall weekend getaway. The resort is open for overnight camping until mid-October, and allows tent camping, pop-ups, campers and RVs on its 80 campsites. The campsites offer electric hook-ups, a fire ring, picnic table, wi-fi and water access. The resort has full bathrooms with flushing toilets and hot showers, but also offers luxury cabins for those who would prefer indoor accommodations. Set on 113 acres about 13 miles west of Great America, Fish Lake Beach Camping Resort offers fishing, kayaking and boating on the 80-acre Fish Lake. The beaches and pool are closed, but families can still enjoy the playgrounds located on the beach. The resort offers a plethora of family friendly activities, including live music performances, bags tournaments, crafts and events for adults and kids.
“We’re a unique site. If people want more amenities and entertainment options, they choose us,” says Susan Tiesi, a resort employee. “Our proximity to a lot of attractions, like Six Flags Great America, makes us very popular. We’re also close to a lot of activities like pumpkin farms and fall festivals.”
Reservations are required at least three weeks in advance, and can be made by calling 847-546-2228.
For more information, visit www.fishlakebeach.com.
Apple River Canyon State Park
Folks who are looking for a more secluded, rustic camping experience should look no further than Apple River Canyon State Park, located in Jo Davies Country in hilly northwest Illinois. Campers can enjoy the natural beauty of the park, which features limestone bluffs that line the Apple River. The campsites at the park are non-electric, and there is no shower building. Each site has a picnic table, and fire ring and grill. The main campground is open until Nov. 1, and all of the sites are nestled back in the woods, offering privacy for each guest. Hikers can enjoy six to seven miles of trails, while the Apple River is rife with a variety of fish, including trout, sunfish and smallmouth bass. The park is located about 30 minutes from beautiful Galena, a popular tourist town featuring wineries, antique shops, Riverboat cruises, golf courses and much more.
“It’s very scenic and relaxing here. People can enjoy nature at its best,” says Jamie Dowdall, park superintendent. “There aren’t a lot of city lights here, so we get a lot of stargazers. The fall colors are beautiful, and the terrain is very impressive.”
Apple River Canyon State Park does not allow alcohol, and is about a two and a half hour drive from Chicago. Each campsite costs $8/ night. To reserve a site, go to www.reserveamerica.com.
White Pines State Park
White Pines Ranch is a popular camp destination for kids and teens, but White Pines State Park, just 90 miles west of Chicago in Oregon is the perfect location for a weekend camping adventure for individuals, couples or the whole family! White Pines State Park has a 385-acre forest located in the heart of the Rock River Valley, filled with hiking trails, meandering creeks and moss-covered cliffs. The park has 103 campsites complete with a fire ring and picnic table, but do not have electricity. Guests can use the on-site shower building, which also has flushing toilets.
“People can stay for the day, or camp with us. There are so many things to do here, and people love the fall colors,” says Jolyn Wise, site superintendent. “We have several hiking trails and fishing in the creeks. The geology here is also impressive.”
If you don’t want to sleep under the stars, you can stay at one of the 13 one-room, air conditioned and heated log cabins, complete with showers, electricity, one queen bed and one trundle bed. If you’re bringing the family, you can reserve one of the park’s four-room cabins. Don’t forget to enjoy a homemade meal at the White Pines Inn, located on the park grounds. Guests can relax in the newly-updated log cabin lounge, filled with unique artwork and a gift shop. The cost to camp at White Pines State Park is $10/night and reservations can be made at www.reserveamerica.com. For more information about the White Pines Inn, visit www.whitepinesinn.com.
More information about Illinois’ State Parks can be found at www.dnr.illinois.gov.