The 5 Best Campgrounds Close to Chicago
- Erica Zazo-
We know many of you in the Sandhill Coffee community love spending time outdoors. It’s what our brand is all about – supporting, exploring, and enjoying the environment around us.
From throwing a fishing line into the Great Lakes to kayaking a winding water trail to shredding fresh powder on the slopes, there are so many ways to enjoy all the forests, waterways, and pure wilderness across the Midwest.
However, we’d argue that one of the best ways to escape into the wilderness is booking a campsite with friends and family. And when it comes to camping in and around Chicago, it’s not a matter of if you’ll find a campground, but where you’ll choose to go.
To help with your decision, we’ve rounded-up our absolute favorite places to pitch a tent in the Midwest. Our list includes:
- Richard Bong State Park (WI)
- Camp Bullfrog Lake (Chicago)
- Indiana Dunes National Park (IN)
- Illinois Beach State Park (Chicago)
- Kettle Moraine – Southern Unit (WI)
Read on for Sandhill Coffee’s complete mini-guide covering where to camp – and what you’ll find along the way.
Total campsites: 217 campsites (54 with electric hookups)
Best campground for: Family or group camping trips
Highlights: Molinaro Visitor Nature Center and seasonal hunting permitted
Richard Bong State Recreation Area, a former World War II jet fighter base, is now home to Richard Bong State Park – a campground just north of the Wisconsin/Illinois border. Two full-sized modern and family-oriented campgrounds can accommodate up to 225 campers. There is also a cabin designed specifically for people with disabilities. Most sites are separated by trees and shrubbery, which makes for a more “private” camping experience.
Total campsites: 32 campsites (26 with electric hookups)
Best campground for: Campers looking for a quick-escape from the city
Highlights: Palos Trail System hiking, modern cabins, and lake-side camping
Lake-side camping in Chicago?! Yes, it exists. Camp Bullfrog Lake is a unique campground situated in the heart of the Palos Trail System southeast of downtown Chicago. Rent one of the campground’s 11 modern cabins, pitch a tent, or pull up your RV to an electric site next to the 16-acre lake. Make sure to pack your boots or bring your mountain bike, as the trails in this area are some of the hilliest and prettiest to hike and ride in Chicago.
Total campsites: 66 campsites (53 electric sites)
Best campground for: Epic dunes climbing
Visit this National Park right in our very own backyard. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is a must-take adventure from the city – with access to Lake Michigan and some of the best dunes climbing you’ll find in the region. The park hosts tons of guided hikes and free public programming which offers visitors the chance to learn about local wildlife and native plant species from National Park rangers and naturalists. Not to mention: there are 14 distinct trail systems and over 50 miles of trails to explore.
Total campsites: 241 campsites (all electric)
Best campground for: Easy Lake Michigan beach access
Highlights: 2.2-mile gravel loop trail
The 4,160-acre Illinois Beach State Park and campground sits along a 6.5-mile stretch of sandy shoreline – and it happens to be one of the closest campgrounds near the beach in the Chicagoland area. Walking around the main 2.2-mile gravel loop trail (5 miles of trail total at this park) is a great way to see native plant species and lots of birds. You might even find some prickly pear cactus in the dry spots between the wetland and marshy landscape.
Total campsites: 264 campsites – across three campgrounds (65 electrical sites)
Best campground for: Long day hikes and heavily-wooded campsites
Highlights: Access to the Ice Age Trail and
Have your pick of three different campgrounds (Ottawa Lake, Pinewoods, or Whitewater Lake) at the Kettle Moraine – Southern Unit. The campsites range from rustic, primitive sites with pit toilets (away from the crowds) to modern sites with electric hookups, access showers, and flush toilets. And you can’t leave without a segment of the Ice Age Trail
– a 1,200-mile, long distance trail stretching across Wisconsin – that cuts right through the park and campground loops.
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