The Ultimate Guide to RV Camping in Illinois

Travel Inspiration

Planning to go RV camping in Illinois? Good call! Illinois is a beautiful state that is well worth exploring, especially if you have an RV and are able to immerse yourself in the beautiful natural areas the state has to offer. Of course, the many historic sites, museums, and other attractions are also worth visiting, as is the big bustling city of Chicago.

All that said, you will need to do a bit of planning before you go, and planning an RV trip can be overwhelming. This is where our state travel guide comes into play. Read on to learn everything you need to know before RV camping in Illinois. 

Preparing for RV Camping

The first thing you’ll need to do? Make sure you have everything you need for a successful camping trip. This includes finding an RV that suits your needs and then packing it with all the odds and ends that come along with an RV camping trip.

If you have an RV of your own, this is easy enough, but if you don’t own an RV, you will need to find an Illinois RV rental

Choosing the Right RV for Your Needs

Wondering how to go about choosing the right rental RV for your trip? We would recommend starting by deciding whether or not you’d like to drive an RV. If you don’t feel comfortable driving a motorhome or towing a trailer, finding an RV that can be delivered may be the right move for you.

Perfectly happy driving the RV yourself? In that case, you will need to think about whether you prefer a driveable RV or a towable rig. Want a trailer or fifth wheel? You’ll need to make sure your vehicle can handle towing it. 

With those things figured out, the last things to consider are size, floor plan, and amenities. Make sure whatever rig you choose can fit into the campground you’d like to visit and offers the comforts that you need to have a happy and relaxing trip. 

Packing Essentials for a Successful Trip

Once you have the perfect RV rental booked, you will need to consider packing for RV camping in Illinois. Obviously, you will need things like clothes, soap, and toothbrushes, but you’ll also need to pack camp chairs, linens, and a whole host of other things that you wouldn’t normally pack for a trip. 

The basic list below is a great foundation to work with. Add more as you see fit and take off anything that will be included with your RV rental:

  • Clothes
  • Toiletries
  • Medications
  • First aid kit
  • Bug spray and sunscreen 
  • Tools
  • Entertainment (books, games, movies, toys for kids)
  • Outdoor recreation gear
  • Electronics and chargers
  • Pots, pans, and dishes
  • Paper towels
  • Groceries
  • Flashlights
  • Folding chairs
  • Bed sheets
  • Pillows
  • Blankets
  • Pet gear
  • RV leveling blocks
  • Sewer hose and adapter
  • Freshwater hose
  • RV surge protector

Don’t know what else you might consider adding to your packing list? This comprehensive RV packing list will help. 

Road in Illinois

Considerations for Camping in Illinois

Renting an RV and packing it up are just the first steps. The next thing you need to do? Make sure you understand the ins and out of RVing in Illinois. Generally speaking, things are pretty much the same from one state to another when it comes to camping, but there is some info you should have that is specific to RV camping in Illinois. 

For instance, in Illinois, no rig can be longer than 60 feet total (including the tow vehicle). Trailers must be 53 feet or shorter, and motorhomes can not exceed 45 feet in length. In all cases, RVs must be no more than 8.5 wide and 15.5 feet tall. 

Towing a trailer behind your bumper-pull or fifth wheels is allowed in Illinois as long as the total rig length doesn’t exceed the aforementioned 60 feet. All trailers over 3,000 pounds must have brakes.

It’s also important to note that trailers are not permitted on boulevards in and around the city of Chicago.

Finding Campgrounds

Obviously, you will need a place to park your RV. This is where Illinois campgrounds come into play. From luxury parks to rustic campgrounds, and from RV parks in the middle of the city to state park campgrounds in the middle of nowhere, there truly is a campground for everyone in this awesome state. 

Exploring Public Campgrounds in Illinois

First, let’s discuss the public camping options in Illinois. These include state park campgrounds and national forest campsites, which are some of the more affordable options for RV camping in Illinois. Just don’t go in expecting a lot of amenities and you’re sure to be pleased with these beautiful camping spots. 

National Forest Camping

Curious about the national forest in Illinois? Shawnee National Forest is a beautiful place where you can escape the city and reconnect with Mother Nature while hiking, camping, and more. 

RV camping in Shawnee National Forest includes both dispersed campsites and developed campgrounds. The best place to park your RV while exploring the forest is the Oak Point Campground at Lake Glendale Recreation Area. Located in the center of the forest, the campground boasts lake access, campsites with electricity, a boat ramp, and flush toilets. 

State Park Camping

State park camping is also an excellent choice. The state parks in Illinois feature lakes, caves, waterfalls, and more. They are ideal places to hike, swim, kayak, fish, and enjoy the great outdoors. They are also perfect for camping. 

Our favorite Illinois state park camping is found in Starved Rock State Park. This park features unique waterfalls, lovely hiking trails, and a campground with potable water, a dump station, and electric hookups. 

Other great Illinois state parks include Pere Marquette State Park and Giant City State Park

Exploring Private Campgrounds and RV Parks

Private campgrounds are another great option for RV camping in Illinois. Some are basic, with simple amenities such as showers and dump stations. Others are gorgeous resorts with luxurious glamping opportunities. This means you can choose an RV park that perfectly suits your camping style. 

One of our favorite RV parks in Illinois is Sunset Lakes Resort in Hillsdale. This beautiful campground has been around since the 1970s, and once you visit, you’ll understand why people keep going back. Here you’ll find a lovely lake with plenty of opportunities for water recreation, sports courts, a fitness center, and more!

Sycamore RV Resort is another great pick. This DeKalb County park is quiet and peaceful, with an onsite store, clean showers, laundry facilities, and friendly staff. You can fish, enjoy the sunshine at the swimming beach, or play sports while visiting this campground. 

Boondocking in Illinois

Are you RV camping in Illinois on a budget? One of the best ways to save money is to choose Illinois boondocking instead of paid campgrounds. The state has a few awesome boondocking spots. 

One of our favorite boondocking spots in the state is Jackson Falls Dispersed Camping in Shawnee National Forest. This spot is really only for very small trailers and campervans, but it is beautiful, free, and near some amazing hiking and climbing. 

Researching Campground Options and Making Reservations

The options listed above are awesome, but they are far from the only places to camp in Illinois. For even more excellent options and to book online, try searching sites such as RoverPass, BookOutdoors, Campspot, and The Dyrt. You might also check out Harvest Hosts and Hipcamp for some seriously unique campsites that you won’t find anywhere else.

Chicago, IL

Planning Your Itinerary

Alright, now it’s time to start planning your itinerary. There is so much to see and do in Illinois, you definitely won’t have any trouble finding cool things to add to your to-do list. Whether you’re soaking up the fast-paced city life of Chicago or relaxing in one of the state’s many rural areas, you’re going to have an amazing time. 

Features and Attractions in Illinois

Every trip should include at least one scenic drive. Taking such a drive really puts you in touch with the beautiful and unique features of that place and allows you to find hidden gems. Our favorite scenic byway in Illinois? The absolutely gorgeous Great River Road.

Whether you stop by them while taking a scenic drive or make a point of traveling to them, you’ll also want to add some of Illinois’ iconic landmarks to your itinerary. Willis Tower in Chicago is a great one, as is the aforementioned Starved Rock State Park. 

Illinois’ national sites are also must-see attractions. One of our favorites is the Lincoln Home National Historic Site where you can learn all about our 16th president with a fun and informative tour. 

Festivals, Fairs, and Events in Illinois

Looking to add a bit more excitement to your Illinois adventure? Why not check out a local event? Illinois hosts a number of excellent festivals, performances, and fairs throughout the year.

Not sure how to choose an event? Some of our favorites include Lilac Time in Lombard in May, Edwardsville Route 66 Festival in Edwardsville in June, Great River Tug Fest in Port Byron in August, and Popeye Parade and Picnic in Chester in September. 

Exploring Outdoor Activities

Exploring the great outdoors is probably the best part of RV camping in Illinois. Therefore, you will want to make sure to build time for it into your schedule. Whether you prefer hitting the trails, enjoying the water, or watching local wildlife, you’re in for a treat while in Illinois. 

Hiking, Biking and Nature Trails

One of the best ways to really see the beauty of Illinois is to head out on one of the state’s many trails. Hiking is one way to go about this, but many prefer riding a bike. Either way, you’re sure to enjoy your time exploring Illinois natural areas. 

Hikers will love the trails below:

Meanwhile, cyclists might prefer one of the following:

Don’t think any of these trails is right for you? That’s okay! Head to AllTrails and use the search function to find the perfect hike or bike ride for you. 

Fishing, Boating, and Water Activities

Obviously, you must take advantage of all of the beautiful water found in Illinois. Whether you prefer boating, fishing, swimming, or seeking out waterfalls, there is an Illinois water-based activity that you’re going to adore. 

For all the anglers out there, we have to recommend seeking out a few of Illinois’ amazing fishing spots. Rend Lake near Mount Vernon is one of our favorites, but we also appreciate that the state offers access to Lake Michigan and all of the fish found there. 

Hoping to head to the beach? Despite not being near the ocean, Illinois actually has a few awesome beaches to choose from. Our favorite is located within Illinois Beach State Park on the shore of Lake Michigan, but Sunrise Park in Lake Bluff also happens to be an excellent beach for watching the sunrise. 

If waterfalls are what you’re after, you’ll be happy to learn there are several of those as well. We’ve mentioned Starved Rock State Park a few times as a great place to find falls, and the aforementioned Jackson Falls in Shawnee National Forest are wonderful as well. We also love Thunder Bay Falls and Giant’s Bathtub Falls. 

Wildlife Viewing and Photography

Thanks to all of the beautiful natural areas scattered across the state, Illinois is home to a lot of wonderful wildlife such as foxes, deer, raccoons, and many types of birds. You can head to any of the many state parks or the Shawnee National Forest to see some of these friendly critters.

Other great places to do some wildlife watching include Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, Cache River State Natural Area, and Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. 

Family-Friendly Activities and Attractions

Looking to visit Illinois with kids? Rockford and Springfield are both excellent places to check out as a family. Of course, there are the many family-friendly attractions found in Chicago as well, and the parks and other natural areas we listed above are awesome for kids too. 

Here are some of our favorite attractions for kids in Illinois. 

Historical Sites and Museums

We love adding an educational aspect to our trips, especially when we travel with kids. One of the best ways to do this is by visiting NPS sites. In Illinois, the Pullman National Monument is one such site and a great way to learn a bit of super interesting history. For more history, you could also visit the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, which we mentioned before. 

Another great way to squeeze some learning into your getaway? Museums, of course! Illinois is home to tons of good museums. Some of our favorites include the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, the Field Museum in Chicago, and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield. 

Amusement Park, Zoos, and Wildlife Refuges

You could also choose to visit one of Illinois’ awesome amusement parks. Six Flags Great America outside of Chicago offers tons of thrills, as well as some kiddie rides for the younger set. Meanwhile, Raging Waves Waterpark in Yorkville is the biggest waterpark in the state and gives guests a great way to cool off in the summer. 

Even more family fun can be found at the zoos in Illinois. We especially love Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo and the Shedd Aquarium, but Brookfield Zoo in Brookfield is also nice, as is Cosley Zoo in Wheaton.

Lightning storm in Illinois

Safety and Preparedness when RV Camping in Illinois 

Obviously, you will want to be prepared for any issues that may come up while RV camping in Illinois. For this reason, we highly recommend familiarizing yourself with the type of severe weather that you could see during your visit. It’s also good to know what kinds of wildlife you might come across. Knowing these things will allow you to properly prepare. 

Weather Conditions and Natural Disaster Preparedness

If you visit in the summertime, you won’t have to deal with any of the winter weather that Illinois can see. That said, you will still want to be prepared for the midwestern storms that can hit in the spring and summer. These thunderstorms can bring dangerous lightning, large hail, strong winds, flooding, and even tornadoes. 

The best ways to prepare for these weather events include using a weather app with push notifications, packing a “bug out” bag with flashlights, a radio, and other essentials, and always knowing where the nearest storm shelter is. It’s also a good idea to avoid parking your RV in areas that are known to flood. 

Wildlife Encounters and Precautions

Fortunately, Illinois doesn’t play host to a whole lot of dangerous wildlife. That said, you will want to watch out for rattlesnakes, copperhead snakes, and black widow spiders. Additionally, if you happen to see a skunk or a river otter, be sure to keep your distance, as these super adorable critters can actually be quite dangerous. 

In addition to wildlife, you will also want to actively avoid poisonous plants found in Illinois. These include poison ivy, poison oak, and other similar plants. 

More Inspiration for Your Illinois Travels