In Illinois, there are 324 park and recreation areas that bring in $1 billion in revenue and more than 45 million visits each year. All but one of the parks are free to the public, so get out there and explore what Illinois has to offer out of doors.
Free, Fresh Air
All Illinois state parks are free to the public, with the exception of Wildlife Prairie Park and any park with beach access. However, beach admission within the park is limited to $1 per person.
As long as your pet is on a leash, you can bring him along to any Illinois state park. The only exception is the interior of campground cabins, which are all off limits to pets.
Unlike other states, Illinois offers year-round camping within its state parks. As of 2011, 81 parks and recreation areas offer on-site camping, including primitive, tent, cabin and RV options. Camping fees start as low as $6 per night, while cabins are $25 per night. Thirty-two of the parks offer online reservations through Reserve America (reserveamerica.com) for an additional $5 fee.
In addition to hiking, mountain biking, fishing, hunting, boating and swimming, Illinois' parks and recreation areas offer some out of the ordinary activities, such as spelunking at Illinois Caverns, rock climbing at Ferne Clyffe, Giant City and Mississippi Palisades State Parks and horseback riding at more than 48 state parks. In the winter, cross-country skiing is available in 50 parks and recreation areas throughout all five of Illinois' park regions.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources recognizes that many park visitors are new to the outdoors. To help guide and educate visitors, 18 parks offer interpretative programs, such as wildlife tours, cross-country skiing, hiking, boating and other day, night and weekend courses and excursions. This is your best bet if you are bringing a large group, have an inquisitive youngster or need special services on site. For a list of all parks with interpretive programs, visit the Illinois DNR website.
- Illinois Department of Natural Resources: Frequently Asked Questions
- Illinois Department of Natural Resources: Did You Know? DNR Facts and Figures
- Illinois Department of Natural Resources: Things to Know About Camping
- Illinois Department of Natural Resources: Equestrian
- Illinois Department of Natural Resources: X-country Skiing Opportunities
- Illinois Department of Natural Resources: Interpretive Program