Located 10 miles northeast of Rockford, Rock Cut State Park is a 3,100-acre recreation area that encompasses two natural grasslands, a natural creek area, a nature preserve and 162-acre Pierce Lake. The area was designated a state park in 1957 as a way of preserving a local polititian’s favorite fishing hole. Prior to this, the park and wider area has a long history of Native American residence, including the Mascouten, the Winnegabo, and the Chippewa. With abundant water and preserved natural areas, the park now supports a thriving habitat for local birds, fish and wildlife. And with year-round camping and outdoor activities, you can experience the many seasonal sides the park has to offer.
The campground at Rock Cut provides 270 sites that can accommodate tent campers, as well as RV and trailer campers up to 40 feet. Back-in sites are mostly grassy and equipped with picnic tables, cooking grills and electrical hookups. The campground provides water faucets, restrooms, showers, and a dump station; the water and dump station are not available November through April. One of the park’s multiuse trails runs right through the campground, and provides access to the larger trail network. Most of the campground’s facilities are ADA accessible. Dogs are permitted in the park, but must remain leashed; alcohol is not permitted.
For recreating in temperate seasons, more than 40 miles of hiking, cycling and equestrian trails allow you to explore the park’s woodlands and prairies. These are ideal ways to observe some of the local birds, animals, and wildflowers. For fun on the water, paddle around in a canoe or kayak, take a dip at Olsen Beach, or go fishing for some of the lake’s largemouth bass, bluegill, sunfish, pike and walleye. Several picnic areas throughout the park are ideal for group or family gatherings. In the snowy season, many of the park’s trails are open to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, with gear rentals available. For more family fun in the area, check out the nearby Volcano Falls Adventure Park.
We stayed in Hickory Loop at site 19. Almost none of the campsites have much privacy or distance from others.
On Saturday night, the local speedway had races so there was a solid two hours of droning car sounds.
The toilets were very dirty and lacking maintainance.
The rest of the park is lovely, I would highly recommend for day trips, but definitely not for camping.
We took our new to us pop up camper to Rock Cut for a quick 2 night mid-week getaway. Loved the shaded, wooded sites of Staghorn loop and would only book that loop going forward as the others for small RVs are in a huge grassy open area with few trees. The loop was not even half occupied when we were there, and perhaps because of that, the bathrooms and pit toilets near us were great. We had electric only at the site, but water wasn't a far walk. Camping during a pandemic, we were frustrated that most campers didn't feel the need to wear a mask in the camp store/boat rental concessions area despite posted signs. We rented a paddleboat and a SUP board to go out on the lake, which is kind of murky and stinky. Beach was closed at the time due to Covid-19 restrictions, but I am not sure we would have wanted to get in the lake, despite the hot June temps!
We arrived during a downpour, but our site was on a hill and didn’t get too waterlogged. The camp host in the store was an incredibly friendly and welcoming woman. They have lots of gear and products you may need—firewood, ponchos, bug spray, etc, etc…even camping chairs! To escape the rain, we went to Pig Minds Brewing Co, about 5-10 minutes away. The site itself wasn’t too exposed, and the back had tall bushes insulating us completely from the other side. The shower house was a nice 10-min walk from site 24. Not dirty, though there were lots of tube-shaped creepy crawlers in the shower grout lines. Kinda cute. The hiking was decent, you can hike around the large lake.
We tent camped in the staghorn section, less packed that the other options. Nice place, bathroom and showers were decent. Lot of trails, rentals of kayak, great for dogs and kids. Meijer is also close by in case you forget anything.
We stayed in the hickory loop, site 40. On the map there are interior sites which are fairly open and level, not much separating the sites. But the sites on the edge, on the water often have some foliage separating the sites for some added privacy. There are sites near a small inlet, it’s water was a bit more swampy, not as aesthetically pleasing as some of the other shire sites, if that’s a concern. Site 20 is the best and it is almost always reserved, one of these years we’re gonna bag that one. The lake offers some nice fishing, there is a fishing platform near this loop, we got some bites, but the rain moved in and we didn’t land anything. Lots of folks brought kayaks, seemed like a great place for water activities. Hiking trails are nice, not tremendously long or rigorous. Water taste is pretty good, bathrooms are pit, decently clean. There are showers but we did not partake. There is a shopping center about a half mile outside of the entrance in case you forgot something or run out of smore supplies. Cell reception was fair/decent. They have a pay beach with a snack shop with fantastic local ice cream. I think as of the third week in July (2020) it was back open. They have a FB page and it has all the breaking news.
I would probably never stay here again. We stayed in the plum grove electric site because it was close to the lake. We brought our kayaks and were looking forward to this trip. This is a very busy campground and popular on the weekends. But we didn’t think we would have had so many issues. The site was overgrown and hadn’t been mowed in awhile. The fire pit had a huge hole in it and the hot coals kept dropping through to the ground. The bathhouse was dirty and it over flowed so the campground personal had to come out and fix the plumbing. Disgusting. The lake had a lot of green algae and smelled a bit but it’s a lake. There were a lot of boaters and the boat launch was very crowded. The campsite behind us partied all night drinking, smoking weed and playing music until 5am. The campground is in need of some TLC. The only positive remark I can say is that the lake is great for kayaking.
It’s relatively easy to get to as it is close to the interstate. The site for our 30 ft travel trailer was very roomy. (We’re very new to camping with a trailer and we backed it in on the first try) We came here with a friend and booked sites next to each other. There are trees in between! With small paths! My kids loved that part. The fire wood sold at the camp store was very green and had a hard time catching. Electric hookups only. No water except at taps around the grounds. There IS a dump station contrary to what the official site says. All in all, we had a good time. Plenty of hiking, biking, and a swimming area.
Rock cut is only about a 50 minute drive from the far burbs of Chicago. It’s situated a few miles outside of Rockford so if you’re into exploring old industrial river towns, this is a nice one.
The spots are average size. The bathrooms are pretty busted but for what it lacks in amenities it gains in acres to a cool giant stocked lake, bike paths, and being just far away to make a weekend gateway worth it.
The campground was very busy, booked basically full for the weekend. On Sunday afternoon the lake was full of boaters and people fishing. Sunday night a lot of people cleared out leaving us as one of 10 campers in our part of the campground for Monday. The lake is definitely warm enough to swim in during the summer but has a lot of lake weed floating around the edge making it pretty murky.
Tent sites are in hickory hills area. Easy walk to showers/toilets over across from site 100. Tent sites are much more shaded and private than electric sites. We were traveling with another family so had two sites. If you have two parties I'd recommend sites 27 and 31 which have a little private path and potentially 53 and 5 which also appeared to have a path between them. Our sites 47 and 53 were big and shaded but not very flat for sleeping. Boat launch very close if you bring your own kayaks or canoes. There are also some for rent at the other end of the park. Park and ice at concessions.