Explore the great outdoors in suburbia
You don't have to travel far to sleep under the stars and experience the wonders of the wilderness -- suburban forest preserves and nearby state parks offer plenty of places to camp.
"It's great because no longer do people have to go to Wisconsin and Michigan and Indiana to go camping," said Lambrini Lukidis, spokeswoman for the Cook County Forest Preserve District, which opened five new or refurbished campgrounds last year.
It marks the first time camping has been open to the general public in Cook County.
"They're great spots for people to be close to home and be completely immersed in the wilderness and feel like they're really far away somewhere," Lukidis said.
Here's a look at some of the top camping spots in the suburbs.
Camp Reinberg, Cook County
One of Cook County's new campsites -- Camp Reinberg in Palatine -- is actually an old Boy Scout camp.
It has four heated and air-conditioned year-round cabins that can house up to 10 people; four smaller cabins available spring through fall; 13 tent sites with picnic tables and fire rings; five RV sites; and an organized group campsite for up to 25 people.
Fees range from $20 a night for a tent pad to $100 for a large cabin. Nonresidents pay $10 more. For more information, call (312) 636-9750 or visit fpdcc.com.
Chain O' Lakes State Park, Lake and McHenry counties
One of the most popular places to camp in the suburbs is at Chain O' Lakes State Park, which offers 238 campsites, three cabins, and a youth group camp area.
Adventure-seekers are drawn to the park for its 6,500 acres of water and 488 miles of shoreline -- located at Illinois' largest concentration of natural lakes. The lakes are a destination for fishing, while hunting for dove, waterfowl, deer and pheasant is also permitted, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. There's also eight miles of equestrian trails and a six miles of biking/hiking trails.
Prices range from $12 per night to $35 per night for campsites and $50 per night for cabins. Reservations are accepted at reserveamerica.com. For more information, call (847) 587-5512 or visit dnr.illinois.gov.
Blackwell Forest Preserve, DuPage County
The Blackwell Forest Preserve near Warrenville offers 62 wooded and semiwooded family campsites with fire rings, picnic tables, gravel parking pads, and nearby bathrooms with pit toilets. A shower house with flush toilets is near the campground office, according to the DuPage County Forest Preserve District. Camping is available May through September on Friday and Saturday nights.
There's also 12 semiwooded youth-group campsites open year-round that can accommodate up to 25 campers each.
The forest preserve includes six miles of trails, picnic groves, the 62-acre Silver Lake available for fishing and boating, three archery ranges, and a compass course. For more information, call (630) 933-7248 or visit dupageforest.org.
Big Rock Campground, Kane County
Big Rock Campground opened in the summer of 2013 within the Big Rock Forest Preserve, located west of Sugar Grove. It contains 110 campsites, including 96 with 50-amp electrical service, water access, parking pads and fire rings, as well as 10 primitive, tent-only sites without electricity. There's also four equestrian campsites, according to the Kane County Forest Preserve District.
A milelong trail leads to Siegler Lake, which is available for catch-and-release fishing. Another 3.5 miles of trails within the preserve are suitable for hiking, biking or equestrian use, officials say.
Daily fees for most campsites are $15 for Kane County residents and $25 for nonresidents. For more information, call (630) 444-1200 or visit kaneforest.com.