Illinois Beach State Park
Illinois Beach State Park - stretching 6.5 miles along the sandy shore of Lake Michigan in northern Illinois - offers a full range of recreation opportunities at one of the most unique and beautiful natural settings in America.
Illinois Beach is the only remaining beach ridge shoreline left in the state, with dunes and swales, sprawling marshes, forests of oak and vast arrays of animal life and vegetation.
Illinois State Beach is a gem of the Illinois State Park system that seems less utilized and less well known than other state parks in this part of the state. This just adds to the park's charm as its best trails are not over run as our the trails at many other parks. The best trail are in the South Unit, along the Dead River and the lakefront. About 5 miles of trails in this section are not usually crowded and offer some great natural scenery and almost guaranteed wildlife sittings (deer, snakes, I have even seen coyote tracks). The ecosystem of the park is mostly wooded sand dunes. Gives you a feel of what Chicago must of looked like 200 hundred years ago. I like to hike to the far end of the trail system were the Dead River meets Lake Michigan and spend a couple hours swimming in the lake. Beware of the fact that the beach here is very pebbly and the water usually colder than at other beaches south in Illinois, Indiana or Michigan. The wind and wave patterns on the Southern Lake result in sand dunes in Indiana and Michigan but leave a rocky coastline as you head into Wisconsin. You can see this transition in the park. It also means in Summer the water is usually warmer on the Michigan side. That said, the water clarity is usually better in Northern Illinois and Wisconsin. Visitor's should also know that the beach near the Dead River and South was for many years a informal (illegal) nude beach, though this has declined. The reason this was possible is because the beach is usually lightly populated which is a real plus. The facilities and the restaurant in the conference center offer a nice place to eat and rest after a day on the trails and the beach. Unfortunately the nature center seems to be permanently closed. The Northern Unit trails and lakefront are less interesting but also worth a visit. The two sections are separated from each other by the Zion nuclear plant and it takes about 10-15 minutes to drive from one to the other.
We love this place! Such great property. We come camping here whenever we get the time and we can't wait to bring out new little one here!
We tented here while we were in the area. It is a really nice, quietish campground for being so close a major city. Except for the big towers from the big generating station nearby, you could feel like you were out in the woods somewhere. Lots of trees and big campsites.
It's difficult to objectively rate state parks sometimes, so this is more of a description. Splendid lakefront trail, beautiful winding roads in the campground, access to a hike/bike trail, decent bathrooms, spacious campsites, dump station, 30amp service. On the downside, the neighboring power plant (or whatever it is) makes an unearthly racket like a jackhammer the size of a rail car. Its an hour to Chicago, 2 in traffic. All in all a nice place to RV camp.
I live close by and walk there often. It's nice to observe wild nature, and the beaches are great (no beach guards which is awesome as I love to swim far). There are very few visitors, so you can enjoy the nature. The only bad thing is the ugly former nuke plant. Hope they take it down soon.