14 Beautiful Places for Winter Camping in Illinois

14 Beautiful Places for Winter Camping in Illinois

Camping is a blast any time of year, but winters can elevate the traditional camping experience to the next level. If you are looking for places for winter camping in Illinois, you are in luck! This state is filled with all kinds of state parks, beautiful woodlands, and recreational areas that remain open all year round.

For outdoor enthusiasts and “Windy City” owners alike, here are 14 of the best places to enjoy winter camping in Illinois!

Winter Camping in Northeastern Illinois

Cook County Forest Reserves

Our first list of winter camping destinations in Illinois is Cook Country Forest Preserve! In Forest Preserves of Cook County, you’ll enjoy a front row seat to view Illinois’ distinct forests, wildlife, and an array of winter activities.

The park includes 5 different camping areas that offer a wide range of camping experiences. Whether you prefer a tent or a large bungalow, amenities include picnic shelters, accessible parking, access to bath/shower premises, and more.

The Cook County Forest Preserve is home to 100 miles of paved trails and more than 200 miles of unpaved trails. Make the most of your camping experience by checking out the hiking trails and snowmobiles, or by playing a few rounds of golf on the snowboard!

Maureen Hills State Park

An assortment of natural lakes, wetlands, and hills, Moraine Hills State Park is a 2,200-acre wildlife-rich paradise tucked away in McHenry County.

Located on the McHenry Dam and on the border of both the Fox River and Defiance Lake, the park offers access to fishing and boating spots. Deer and waterfowl hunting is another popular pastime in the Moraine Hills, and there are a total of 10 miles of hiking and sledding trails scattered throughout the park.

Although there are no campgrounds within Moraine Hills State Park, don’t let that stop you from staying at the nearby campground and enjoying the many outdoor activities in the park all day long!

Adeline Geo-Karis Illinois Beach State Park

If hiking on the snow-laden shores of Lake Michigan sounds like the perfect winter camping experience, then Adeline Geo-Karis Illinois Beach State Park is the place for you.

The 4,160-acre park features 6.5 miles of shoreline, as well as 5 miles of walking and biking trails. One of the highlights of the park is the Camp Logan Trail, a 1.8-mile loop that cross-country skiers can enjoy during the winter.

Furthermore, the park is home to a 241-site Class A campground that provides electricity, hot shower facilities, and restrooms. Keep in mind that campground is only available during part of the winter – closing December 31  and reopening April 1 .

Chen O Lakes State Park

For some of the best winter campgrounds in Illinois, consider a trip to Chain O’ Lakes State Park. This park is open year-round – although apart from fishing, the majority of park activities close between November and January 1 .

At the park’s Honey Suckle Hollow and Fox Den campgrounds, you’ll have access to more than 150 Class A sites for just $25 a night. There are 87 additional Primitive Class B sites at Turner Lake South, Prairie View, and Mud Lake East Campgrounds – available for just $12 a night!

Bordering three natural lakes with thousands of acres of water, the park offers quite a few winter activities, including cross-country skiing and ice fishing opportunities. Additionally, there are 4 trail systems you can take advantage of, including a 6-mile hiking and biking trail that weaves through the park’s picnic areas.

Winter Camping in North Central Illinois

Starved Rock State Park

First on our list for winter camping in north central Illinois is Starved Rock State Park! This is not only the most popular park in Illinois, but also the second oldest in it. This historic park features 13 miles of trails, 18 canyons, and 14 beautiful waterfalls. You might even be able to spot a bald eagle at Eagle Cliff or Lover’s Leap! Certain areas of the park are closed November 30 through  April 1 , but the West Loop and other designated areas are open year-round.

To book a camping site, you must book at least four days in advance and six months in advance. If you prefer camping in comfort, check in to Starved Rock Lodge – a 90-room 1930s cabin style with full amenities!

Luden State Park

In Lowden State Park, there are more than 80 Class A campgrounds that offer all the amenities you could want on a winter camping trip—including electricity, warm showers, and more.

If you prefer a slightly more primitive camping experience, there are 46 other Class B and Class D campgrounds. Lowden offers four miles of hiking trails, as well as multiple picnic areas open year-round.

The park also happens to be home to the second largest monolithic concrete statue in the world. See up close and personal on a trip to Lowden State Park this winter!

Mathiesen State Park

If you love skiing in the winter, plan a few days at Matthiessen State Park. In addition to glacial streams and gorgeous waterfalls, the park is home to 5 miles of cross-country skiing trails!

There are also over 6 total miles of hiking trails accompanied by stunning views of the park’s sandstone canyons and lush forests. You won’t want to forget your winter hiking boots!

It should be noted that there are no camping areas within Matthiessen State Park itself, with the exception of the equestrian camp. However, due to the park’s convenient location, you can easily stay at Starved Rock State Park or another campground nearby – visit Mattiessen by day and enjoy all of its winter activities!

Rock Cut State Park

A visit to Rock Cut State Park is one of your best bets for trying out winter camping in Illinois, thanks to the many campgrounds available throughout the year.

In all, there are more than 210 first-class campgrounds—complete with electricity and other amenities—plus 60 Class B campgrounds best suited to primitive campers.

For outdoor activities, Rock Cut boasts a massive trail system of 40 miles hiking, 23 miles biking, and 14 miles horseback riding. During the winter, these become trails geared for snowboarding. You can even rent cross-country skis at the park’s concession area!

White Pines Forest State Park

The 385-acre White Pines Forest State Park is located in the Rock River Valley and offers stunning views of the park’s mossy cliffs, rock formations, and tree lines.

A little more primitive than some of Illinois’ major state parks, White Pines are home to 103 Class B campgrounds. 3 of these sites have RV hookups, and camping is just $10 a night – allowing you to enjoy winter camping in Illinois on a budget!

During your stay in the park, enjoy access to 7 distinct hiking trails that transform into cross-country ski trails after the snowfall!

Eleni State Park

Just south of the Illinois River and bordering a 1920s barge canal, Illini State Park is famous for its many riverside picnic tables and historical significance.

Today, this popular state park appeals to active campers, with tent and trailer campers scattered throughout the park. Make a reservation online to reserve your place!

Illini State Park also offers a snowboarding pool during the beautiful winter months, as well as steep hills that are perfect for skiing. Finally, there are shelters where cold campers can warm up after a day full of snowy fun.

Winter Camping in Southern Illinois

Benton KOA

The first thing that started winter camping in southern Illinois was Benton KOA! Just off the highway in southern Illinois, Benton KOA (Kampgrounds of America) offers one of the most complete winter camping experiences.

Locations range from tents to cabin camping, while amenities include a maximum of 50 electrical connections, access to cable TV, Wi-Fi, swimming pools, full bathroom amenities, and much more. Furthermore, Benton Camp is within walking distance of all kinds of restaurants and shops nearby!

Finally, Benton KOA is just two miles from the 19,000-acre Rend Lake – a body of water that offers all kinds of sports and fun activities for the whole family!

Wayne Fitzgerell State Recreation Area

If you’re hoping to enjoy winter camping in Illinois over the next few weeks, the Wayne Fitzgerrell State Recreation Area will be one of your best options.

Home to 243 modern campgrounds that cost $20 per night and 17 primitive campgrounds that cost just $6 per night, this park only offers tent sites and RV sites on a first-come-first-served basis. Just come early, pay your fee, and you’ll usually be able to make it to the campsite!

Since approximately 75% of the park’s boundaries are the shoreline of Rend Lake, there are many spots for ice fishing. Furthermore, the park’s pheasant hunting area is capable of accommodating 120 fishermen per day!

giant city park

As its name suggests, Giant City State Park is home to all kinds of massive structures and landmarks – including 12,000-year-old sandstone canyons and 75 species of gorgeous trees.

In total, there are 85 Class A tent and trailer sites that include water, electricity, toilets and other amenities. If you prefer a more primitive experience, book one of the 14 Class C campsites located at the southern end of the park.

In addition to having one of the state’s most impressive hiking trails—the 12-mile Red Hiking Trail—Giant City State Park allows rock climbing and rappelling on multiple slopes. Just remember to bring your own gear!

Dixon Springs State Park

Last but not least on our list of destinations for winter camping in Illinois is Dixon Springs State Park! While camping at this park is limited, you can book a Class B tent or trailer site online or by phone.

During a winter camping trip in Dixon Springs, there are a variety of snow-capped rock formations, waterfalls, and springs that should take some time to explore.

See these incredible structures first-hand by embarking on the 1.7 mile self-guided nature trail or the 1 mile Ghost Dance Canyon Trail!

Try your hand at winter camping in Illinois today!

Winter camping is not for the faint of heart. If you’re ready to brave the outdoors in the cold weather, there’s always a place for you to enjoy winter camping in Illinois. Until your next winter adventure, happy camping!

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