What Is The Most Popular Park In Illinois
Due to popular search results on Google, the most popular state park in Illinois has been Garden of the Gods AKA Shawnee National Forest for its breathtaking sandstone cliffs, woodlands, hills, and lakes, which make this park spectacular for hiking, walking along the river and lakes, and taking in the beautiful, natural scenery in Illinois
Where To Stay Near Shawnee National Forest
If youre looking to make it a weekend getaway, but dont know what options there are, then definitely consider looking here for some amazing vacation rentals options as well as here for some hotel options!
The vacation rentals seem to be located closer to Shawnee National Forest, however, if you dont mind staying 20-30 minutes away from the forest, you can stay at a hotel in nearby towns such as Goreville and Anna, IL.
Shabbona Lake State Park
The man-made fishing Shabbona Lake is situated 70 miles away Chicago. Nowadays, together with the water reservoir and the surrounding 1,500 acres have been declared as a state park, perfect for a weekend escape from the busy city streets.
If you enjoy water activities, such as fishing, boating and kayaking this is the place for you! There are a few hiking trails, for those who would prefer to explore the park on foot.
To find a hotel or cabin near Shabbona Lake State Parkclick here to check availabilities. For a more home from home feel check out these Airbnbs.
Entry Fee: Free
Working Hours: 08:00 AM 05:00 PM
Address: 100 Preserve Rd, Shabbona, IL 60550, United States
Shabbona Lake State Park Praire
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Chain Olakes State Park
Home to nine connecting lakes, Chain OLakes State Park is the perfect family-friendly destination. Besides the 10 miles of hiking paths trough the forest, visitors can enjoy the wide beach and the cool and peaceful water.
There are a number of picnic spots with barbecue pits, so make sure to bring some food and enjoy a fantastic day by the beach.
To find a hotel or cabin near Chain OLakes State Park click here to check availabilities. For a more home from home feel check out these Airbnbs.
Entry Fee: Free
Working Hours: 08:00 AM Sunset
Address: James Rd, Spring Grove, IL 60081, United States
Would you like to relax by the beach or explore some hiking routes? Which one of these State Parks around Chicago would you visit first?
Incredible National Parks Within Driving Distance
Explore the outdoors with these national parks worth the drive from Chicago.
National parks have always ranked high on family travel lists yet the pandemic has increased our emphasis on exploring the outdoors. While you may have dreamed of visiting Yellowstone or Yosemite, did you know that there are several national parks within driving distance of Chicago? Here are a few that you can get to in a day including a brand-new national park and a couple that you could even make a day trip.
- Distance: 9 hours from Chicago
The countrys newest national park, this is the first national park in the ruggedly beautiful state. Shake off those cooped up feelings with a visit to Adventures on the Gorge, one of the best adventure resorts in the country, adjacent to the national park. Stay in one of the private cabins with a hot tub and kitchen, or rough it at a campsite. Spend your days zip lining, braving it across the worlds highest Bridge Walk, rappelling, mountain biking, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, hiking and more.
Kids ages 4 and up wont forget their trek across the aerial obstacle course. Make it super memorable with a MoonTrek visit, when the course is aglow with thousands of lights at night. Traverse across a 24-inch-wide catwalk beneath the New River Gorge Bridge 850 feet above the New River for stories youre sure to tell for years to come.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee and North Carolina
- Distance: 8.5 hours from Chicago
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Wind Cave National Park
The Wind Cave National Park holds the honor of being the first ever cave to gain national park status anywhere on the globe. Its another of the American reserves dedicated by keen naturalist Teddy Roosevelt, which means it got its tags way back in 1903. The focal point? How about one of the longest and densest underground systems going? A whopping 150 miles of tunnels and chambers exist here beneath the rolling South Dakotan prairie.
Gates Of The Arctic National Park
The nations second-biggest national park clocks up a country-dwarfing 7.5 million acres as it stretches across the breadth of the Brooks Range. Thinking of a weekend visit? Think again. Ice truckers are the only usual passersby. You have to fly out of Fairbanks to a remote town on the edge of the Arctic Circle just to get in. Then, hiking boots, a dog mush or Nordic skis are probably your ticket the rest of the way. There are no marked trails at Gates of the Arctic National Park, only sweeping herds of caribou and packs of howling wolves.
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Effigy Mounds National Monument
- When Is It Open? Sunrise to sunset
- Distance/Time From Chicago: 255 miles/4 hours 15 minutes
- Activities: Hiking trails, visitor center, natural and historical sites, historical mounds
- Pet Friendly? Pets are permitted on leashes
- Nearby Attractions: Harpers Ferry, Pikes Peak State Park, Yellow River State Forrest
Effigy Mounds is a historically significant site to 20 associated American Indian tribes. It preserves over 200 mounds built by pre-Columbian mound building cultures. Some are shaped like animals. Most were built in the first millennium AD. You can see preserved history in front of you with a visit.
Abraham Lincoln Home National Historic Site
Have you thought that you would ever visit Abraham Lincoln Home? Well, thats a reality now! Before he moved to Washington, A. Lincoln Home was located pretty close to Chicago and other neighboring towns.
Here, you will witness a side of Lincoln that they dont mention in history books, so make sure to make a spot on your schedule to go here little kids will learn a lot as well!
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Kankakee River State Park
With history dating back to the 1670s and 1680s, the Kankakee River State Park is one of the most interesting and unspoiled natural landmarks near Chicago.
With the first steps into the woods and the first glimpse of the quiet river waters forming beautiful cascades, you will feel like you have found a peaceful hidden gem.
The 4000-acres park offers opportunities for sports activities such as kayaking, fishing, hiking as well as a few cabins and campgrounds for those who would like to spend the night.
Hit the road and in less than an hour, you will be able to explore one of the 10 best state parks near Chicago. To find a hotel or cabin near Kankakee River State Park click here to check availabilities. For a more home from home feel check out these Airbnbs.
Entry Fee: Free
Opening Hours: 6:30 AM 8:00 PM
Address: 5314 W, IL-102, Bourbonnais, IL 60914, United States
Get To Grand Canyon National Park On The Southwest Chief
Route: Chicago to Los Angeles
The Southwest Chief, which goes from Chicago to Los Angeles, and vice versa, will take you past a variety of landscapes, from nostalgic farmland to the Mighty Mississippi. Depending on the season, you could see leaves changing color or snow sprinkling the trees. But youre about to behold an even bigger sight the 277-mile long, 18-mile wide Grand Canyon National Park. Once there, the only problem will be deciding what to see. If you want expansive canyon views, as well as one of the Colorado River, Lipan Point is a favorite among many visitors. Or you can check out the renowned Desert View Watchtower. Standing at 70ft, its on the canyons South Rim and an ideal place to take in the larger-than-life ambience.
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Virgin Islands National Park
Greek blue and rainforest green are the color palette of the US Virgin Islands, the home of the simply paradisiacal Virgin Islands National Park. Covering the heart and two coastlines of the island of Saint John, it ranges from resplendent coral reefs to bird-tweeting jungles awash with orchids and palms. Do not miss Trunk Bay and its cotton-hued sand, or the uber-romantic Honeymoon Beach. Around the island, meanwhile, is a greater national monument that protects gorgeous underwater habitats filled with turtles and reef fish.
Herbert Hoover National Historic Site
Distance From Chicago: Three hours and 8 minutes via I-88 W & I-80 W.
The National Park Service was originally created in 1916 and one of its earliest supporters was President Herbert Hoover. During Hoovers presidency, appropriations for park operations increased by 70 percent. He also expanded the size of the National Park System by 40 percent.
Visitors can take a self-guided walk of the grounds and historic buildings. You can see the birthplace cottage which was a typical starter home for a young late 19th century family.
Visiting the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site is like stepping into a time machine. You are transported back to a 19th century world where you can see a one-room schoolhouse much like the one in which Hoover was educated.
The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum contains some fascinating exhibits chronicling the life and times of the president who presided over the worst economic calamity in our nations history.
Herbert Hooversland designated for new national parks and monuments increased by 40 percent
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The Wrap Up 9 Incredible And Best National Parks And State Parks To Visit In Illinois
So which one is the next park on your list to visit?
Was there one that surprised you, or a few that youve been to?
The truth is, there are so many beautiful natural sights here in Illinois from beautiful sights and parks in Illinois to some even considered national monuments in Illinois.
Taking a weekend to go hike at one of these beautiful national parks is a great plan, especially in the summer.
This isnt a cumulative list of all the best parks in Illinois, but its definitely a start for those who are wanting to see something a little different,
To more natural escapes that give us what we need, and more
About The Folks Behind More Than Just Parks
You should probably know that we dont just make this stuff up out of thin air. My sons have spent their entire adult lives exploring and filming Americas national parks and public lands.
As for me, Im a retired lifelong educator and proud dad of these two guys hopelessly obsessed with the national parks.
Weve worked with the National Park Service, the Department of Interior, and the U.S. Forest Service for years creating films on important places and issues. Our work has been featured in leading publications all over the world and even some people outside of our immediate family call us experts on the national parks.
Meet The Parks Brothers
Were Jim Pattiz and Will Pattiz, collectively known as the Pattiz Brothers and we absolutely LOVE the national parks.
Our goal here at More Than Just Parks is to share the beauty of Americas national parks and public lands through stunning short films in an effort to get Americans and the world to see the true value in land conservation.
We hope youll follow our journey through the parks and help us to keep them the incredible places that they are. If youre interested in joining the adventure then please sign up below!
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Miles Of Trails And 18 Canyons Wait Your Discovery
We highly recommend you come back to Starved Rock during different seasons of the year. The entire park, including the canyons and trails, look completely different in the fall and winter than in the spring and summer.
Please stay on marked trails at all times. Take out what you bring in and leave no trace that you were here. There is no swimming, wading or rock climbing allowed in the park. Have fun and hike safely.
Illinois Segments Of The Trail
- Trail of Tears State Forest
- Wayside Store and Bridges Tavern
- Crabb-Abbot Farm
The Trail of Tears State Forest in Alto Pass Precinct, IL is a large and rugged area to go hiking as well as experience some of the areas that were traveled. Unfortunately, you wont find much historical information there. There is an official visitor center in Jackson, Missouri at the Trail of Tears State Park.
Pets: Rules vary based on segments
Camping: You can find free dispersed camping and campgrounds with amenities in the Shawnee National Forest.
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Where To Stay Near Matthiessen State Park
Taking advantage of the fact that both Starved Rock and Matthiessen State Park are pretty close, the lodging options are pretty varied in comparison to other parks on the list.
If you want to make it a weekend of exploring both state parks, then you definitely have some good lodging options to do just that!
Reach Glacier National Park On The Empire Builder
Route: Chicago to Portland/Seattle
The Empire Builder will provide you with authentic scenery of the American West while heading through the northern United States it follows several parts of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail from the early 1800s, as well as takes you into Montanas Big Sky country. No matter where you climb aboard the Empire Builder, youll want to get off at Montanas East Glacier station, which is on the periphery of Glacier National Park. Once there, you can explore an endless number of hiking trails more than 700 miles worth as well as more than 130 lakes, all while taking in the glacier-carved valleys.
Getting to the park: The East Side Shuttle goes from the Glacier Park Lodge to St Mary Village, where you can catch the National Park Service Shuttle on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Or you may want to join a historic Red Bus Tour to make your way around the park and its famous Going-to-the-Sun Road. Fun fact: Several of the buses are restored originals from the 1930s.
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D Rocks National Lakeshore Michigan
Distance from Chicago to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore: 380 miles
Located on Michigans Upper Peninsula, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is on the southern shore of Lake Superior.
Unlike any other place on Lake Superior, according to the National Park Service, Pictured Rocks offers the opportunity to explore miles of pristine beaches, hike nearly 100 miles of trails, view towering sandstone cliffs, and experience the serenity of northern woodlands. Its a description as enticing as any.
The highlight and namesake of this beautiful national lakeshore are the Pictured Rocks themselves, a collection of dramatic, colorful cliffs and remarkable sandstone formations, such as the famous Miners Castle.
The best views of the multicolored cliffs are from Lake Superior, whether by kayak or a guided boat tour, while other popular activities are swimming and scuba diving, hiking, camping and fishing.
Other places of interest at this National Park Service site a half days drive north of Chicago include Sand Point, Twelvemile Beach, and the Grand Sable Banks and Dunes.
Reach Channel Islands National Park Aboard The Pacific Surfliner
Route: San Diego to San Luis Obispo
The Pacific Surfliner is the perfect train route to take if youre looking for a scenic journey along the coast youll see palm trees swaying in the breeze one moment and surfers braving the waves the next. Plus, the train will pass plenty of idyllic small towns and vineyards, too, depending on where you get abroad. If youre a cyclist or surfer, you can even bring your bike or surfboard along, then use them on the periphery of Channel Islands National Park bikes are not allowed on the islands themselves. Since the park is made up of islands, many visitors spend time in and on the water, whale watching, kayaking in sea caves or snorkeling around the area or both.
Getting to the park: You can depart the train in Ventura or Oxnard to reach the Channel Islands. Then, to get to the islands themselves, youll take a boat through Island Packers.
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The Best State Parks Near Chicago
There are plenty of amazing Illinois state parks near Chicago to choose from whether you need a little adventure of a little rest and relaxation. Whether you are in the mood for a little camping on Lake Michigan near Chicago, exploring the beautiful parks in Chicago and beyond or booking a cabin within reach of a national or state park, there is plenty of inspiration below.
If you are new to the city you could easily spend a couple of days in Chicago and head out to explore the nearby parks too.