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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.
Great area. Several campgrounds in the preserve, from hook ups to primitive. Sites spaced nicely, with picnic tables and fire rings. Bathroom/showers are clean.
There is so much to do here. They have several maintained trails. They rent kayaks, canoes, Jon boats, even pontoon boats so you can go out on Lake George. They sell fishing tackle and bait at the office, along with powerade, soda, etc. Walmart, Lowes, food, gas, etc is all 5 miles down the road. I came in on a Monday and more than half of the 28 sites were available in white oak campground. It is very quiet, all you really here is nature.
Overall excellent value as it's $22/night and there is so much to do.
We have visited Loud Thunder many times as hikers and kayakers but this was our first time as campers. For our maiden voyage with our new camper we decided to stay close to home and Loud Thunder was the perfect place.
Because of COVID the trails were closed so while normally there are a lot of places to explore most of them were closed while we were there. The boat rentals and Lake George were open though so we decided to rent a small pontoon. This pontoon was very rickety and we did not end up staying out as long as we had planned.
The boat rentals are all on a first come first serve basis so it's the luck of the draw.
The camp site was very nice. Electricity and water hookups. We were in the back and really liked our spot. The campground its self was very quiet and we enjoyed our stay. I'm sure we will be back.
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.
Registering for any site means stopping at the main ranger office. We waited while a line of people rented pontoon boats, canoes and kayaks. We found site 6 in Silva Campground to be nicely set apart.
Silva is wooded and has more seclusion than the other camps. River campground has campers right in a line with no shade around them. Silva was good for us.
Some sites are close together- perfect for a small group. Others are open and along the road. 6 was carved out of the woods- we felt immersed in the forest. One set of 4 vault toilets serves this campground. Water can be found in a couple locations. Our site had full sun during the day so our screen tent saved the day.
A variety of hiking trails are here. Some are used by bikes and horses too. Rock Island is a short drive away and we hiked on Sylvan Island there. Many people are here for fishing.
We didn’t like the large family gathering at the site across from us. They disappeared as soon as the rain came but there was a lot of activity going on. Some of the picnic areas would be perfect for these moments but they didn't move to them. We still enjoyed our stay.
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.
Our site was at Indian Meadows and it is large enough to fit my big 8-person tent, a picnic table, my truck, and all our other stuff with room to spare. The sites are very close to each other. The sites at Riverview and Silva both seemed smaller. The Riverview sites had great shade and a breeze coming off of the Mississippi river but had very little privacy. Each site at Indian Meadows and Silva are surrounded by a wall of trees. Our site had a picnic table and a fire pit with a swing over grill. There was no trash can, though. My plan was to collect the garbage then walk it to the trash point, a dumpster up the road. Unfortunately, while we were at the shower house raccoons got into it. I was better prepared the second day. Just remember to bring trash bags and dispose of your trash often, the raccoons out there are brave. The Loud Thunder office is top-notch. They sell a few necessities like batteries, firewood, ice, and stuff for s’mores. Service was incredibly helpful and nice.
At the center of Loud Thunder is Lake George. Lake George is a boon for kayakers and anglers. For us, it was the highlight of the trip. Loud Thunder rents kayaks, john boats, pontoons, and mini-pontoons. I had never heard of a mini-pontoon prior to this trip; they are amazing and now I want one. For 30 dollars we navigated the lake for two hours. My son loved steering the boat. Even though we were in the sun there was a nice breeze. We could have easily spent another two hours on that lake.
There are also plenty of trails for horses, bikes, and hiking. The trail we went on started as a wide gravel path then narrowed to a single-track dirt path. It had one hard climb. The trail was very nice and led to some great views.
Read about my adventure at https://www.lost13.com/camping/2019/7/26/loud-thunder