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.
Awesome pine forest, not much traffic and great for primitive camping/bushcrafting…very few sources of water
Great little spot for some primitive camping and/or backpacking trip training.
Great trails within this park and tons of unique terrain for IL!
Trails are long and well maintained. All sand! this is my go to state forest since it’s so close to my home. campgrounds are clean and it’s never super busy!
A friend and I were looking for somewhere to spend a weekend backpacking that wasn’t a 4+ hour drive away from central IL. This fits the bill but does leave some to be desired. The terrain is an interesting change from most IL hiking since the trails are incredibly sandy while the forest itself is mostly pine. Watch out for cacti along the trail! My only real complaints are the lack of water sources, and the inconsistencies between the trail map and the actual trail. Each trail is marked very clearly with directional sign posts as often as necessary, however, the first night we were hiking in to find BC1 and according to the map we should have passed it in our hike but never saw any sort of campsite at all. We ended up setting up camp off the trail in an unmarked clearing that worked quite well. The next day we moved on to look for site BC7. After hiking much farther than the map indicated, we finally stumbled on BC7. It turned out to be a pretty picturesque little clearing among the pines with an actual fire slab and a signpost marking the entrance trail. Overall it was a good trip, just don’t be fooled by how close things look on the map! Also, the bugs (of all kinds including ticks and mosquitoes) are pretty terrible and I would recommend going either in the early spring or late fall. Not June.
The forest grounds also have an equestrian campgrounds and the trails would be perfect for riding.