The Absolute Best Camping Near Chicago

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Updated: May 29, 2022
Image Credit James Kirkikis/Shutterstock.com
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If you want to enjoy the hustle and bustle of the Windy City (and a slice of the best deep-dish pizza), but you also want to pitch your tent or park your recreational vehicle, there are many fabulous camping spots near the city. There is even a campground right on the shore of Lake Michigan with a beautiful beach. Here is a list of places to have the absolute best camping near Chicago!

1) Illinois Beach State Park

Ilinois Beach Park has lots of trails for hiking.

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If you want to stay along the shores of Lake Michigan, this is the campground for you. The State Park stretches for 6.5 miles of the lake right along the sand dunes. There are showers, restrooms, and access to electricity. They fill up fast, so make your reservations early. Illinois Beach State Park has lots of bike trails and trails for hiking. Check out Sand Pond for some fishing or take a boat out on Lake Michigan for some fishing.

Distance from Downtown Chicago45 miles (1-hour drive)
LocationNorth of downtown, on Lake Michigan
RV/Tent Sites244 sites for RV’s or Tents
AmenitiesShowers, restrooms, electric hookups
ReservationsYes, some are first come first serve
What makes it the absolute bestOn the shores of Lake Michigan!

2) Camp Bullfrog Lake

What Do Trout Eat - Rainbow Trout Bursting from Surface
Bring your fishing gear because Bullfrog Lake is stocked with some tasty rainbow trout.

FedBul/Shutterstock.com

If you want to stay close to downtown, but have an “in the woods” camping experience, head out to Camp Bullfrog Lake. Only a half-hour southwest of Chicago, this camp is right on Bullfrog Lake. There are tent sites, RV sites, and a couple of cabins to rent. Each site has its own picnic table and fire ring. You can rent kayaks right on site for only $10 an hour for a single kayak and $15 for a tandem. The 16-acre lake is stocked with rainbow trout, so bring your fishing gear!

Distance from downtown Chicago22 miles (30 min drive)
LocationSW of downtown, just outside the city
RV Sites26 sites, with electricity
Tent Sites5 sites
Cabins3 large (10 people max), 8 small (8 people max)
AmenitiesShowers, restrooms
ReservationsYes
What makes it the absolute bestSites right on the lake, great fishing!

3) Indiana Dunes National Park

indiana dunes national park
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is a national park on Lake Michigan’s south shore.

Delmas Lehman/Shutterstock.com

Indiana Dunes National Park is a popular spot for Chicagoans to get out of the city and “head to the dunes”. There are two camping options, the smaller Dunewood Campground or the larger Indiana Dunes State Park Campground. A short hike down to the dunes, and you can hike to the top of the tallest one which is 192 feet above the shore. Or try the 3 Dune Challenge where you run (or walk) up and down all three dunes in a 1.5-mile loop. Running on the sand and up the steep dunes is quite the workout! Visit the nature center to learn about all of the birds, cottontails, raccoons, and beavers that call the park home. Also, see if you can spot the unique thirteen-lined ground squirrel that looks like a chipmunk but has black stripes.

Distance from Downtown Chicago50 miles (1 hour drive)
LocationOver the border in Indiana, on Lake Michigan
RV Sites140 sites with hookups
Tent Sites at Dunewood66 sites, restrooms and showers
Amenitiesshowers, restroom, electrical hookups
ReservationsYes
What makes it the absolute bestClimb to the top of a 192-foot sand dune!

4) Camp Sullivan

Blue Catfish
Take a hike to Arrowhead Lake at Camp Sullivan to try to catch some catfish for dinner!

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The large red barn with an outdoor patio is a great place for weddings or family reunions. There is a variety of places to stay which includes tent campsites, RV sites, several large bunkhouses, and a few cabins. Enjoy the Tinley Creek Trail system to get back to nature with paved and unpaved sections that form a loop. Hike out to one of the three lakes to look for waterfowl and try fishing at Arrowhead lake. This lake has largemouth bass, bluegill, sunfish, channel catfish, and crappie.

Distance to downtown Chicago25 miles (35 min drive)
LocationSW of downtown, just outside the city
RV Sites10 sites
Tent Sites15 sites
Large Bunkhouse2 (each can take 36 people)
Small Bunkhouse1 (can take 16 people)
Cabins4 (each can take 8 people)
AmenitiesShowers, restrooms, camp store, activity barn
ReservationsYes
What makes it the absolute bestAmazing Activity Barn with climbing wall.

5) Big Foot Beach State Park

lake Geneva Wisconsin
The Big Foot Beach Park is just 2 hours from Chicago.

Ee Kay/Shutterstock.com

With a name like “Big Foot Beach”, you know you will have to sleep with one eye open. Located on the shores of Lake Geneva, this park is a bit further from downtown but has a wonderful camping feel. There is a nice swimming beach in the park, so you can enjoy the large Lake Geneva which is a popular recreational lake in Wisconsin. Bring your kayak or canoe for a great day on the lake. The park also has 6.5 miles of hiking trails through the forest and grasslands.

Distance to downtown Chicago85 miles (about a 2 hour drive)
LocationNW of Chicago, the nearest city is Lake Geneva
RV Sites 34 RV sites
Tent Sites100 tent sites, some walk-in sites
AmenitiesPicnic tables, vault toilets, restrooms, showers
ReservationsYes
What makes it the absolute bestAccess to the popular Lake Geneva.

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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness and suggesting actions we can all do to help wildlife. As a former elementary school teacher I have a love for learning and teaching. My goal is to get kids fired-up about animals. Learning about the animals we share this earth with makes life better. When I am not writing I am living the good life with my husband and six kids (we are down to two that are still at home...and our giant labradoodle, Tango!).

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