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$8. The staff isn’t always there, so you could end up with a free place to stay (especially if you come late.) Lots of trails nearby, and plenty of beautiful green trees. Outhouse on site. One of the more quiet sites that doesn’t get a lot of action.
This review is for the backpacking campsites within the Sand Ridge forest. The trail is a mix of sand and soil. It’s quite an unexpected discovery in Illinois. We didn’t see anyone else on the trail but we saw cars parked so hikers were out there.
We stopped at 2 different campsites. They are just a short distance off the trail. Each was a small clearing with forest right up to the edge. A fire pit is also available. All the backpacking sites were empty so it seems that lots of options are possible.
We didn’t come across water sources so we asked the ranger. He pointed out a couple spots the have spigots or hand pumps. Be sure to have a water supply before heading out.
The longest loop is just under 15 miles but you can do different loops together to increase mileage. There is prickly pear in this area so be careful where you step. We also were told to avoid a trail because it was sandy and a tough climb. The man said he breaks horses by riding them up the hill. If this is a concern, I recommend asking around to find the best trail for you.
This is a hidden gem right in the middle of Illinois.
It’s a nice get away from the city. I haven’t stayed at any of the backpacking sites, but the main campground. It is located under a bunch of tall pines, and feels fairly open. You’re close to others, and there isn’t a lot of privacy, but it is pretty. There are a lot of trails, but keep in mind a number of them will have you walking in sandy paths (hence the name). You can even spot some cacti out there, which is a site when you’re in the Midwest. There is also a verse camp, which I have walked through. It has a large pavilion, and all the sites have 0 shade. It’s about 3 hours from Chicago, so I like to hit it up for a quick get-away to avoid paying Wisconsin prices. I have never seen it packed.
This is the campground for horses and their riders. Tie up posts are in each campsite along with picnic tables. The campground is one loop so the inner ring of sites are almost like a group site setup. The outer ring sites are more private and up against the woods. A set of vault toilets is commonly located. Along with garbage cans there are multiple spots to pile manure. There were a couple sites occupied the first night but it emptied out on Saturday.
Most trails in this natural area are accessible to horses. Trails head out from camp. The longest being almost 15 miles. Hiking and hunting also happen here so keep an eye open on the trails. If you have an energetic horse that you want to work hard, head into the yellow loop. The ranger said it tires everyone because it’s steep hills of sand.
Across the road is a spot for day use riders to park their trailers. There were a bunch parked when we passed it.
This is a hidden gem and worth giving a chance.