Stacia R.
Creston , IL
Joined November 2017
off the beaten path

Located on Kincaid Lake in the northwestern edge of the Shawnee National forest. The campground has three small loops. Two are more forested with smaller sites and one is more open on the edge of the forest, and geared up for equestrian camping. There are very basic pit toilets that were fairly new and clean. You can get potable water at the entrance. We camped here mid-April and the campground water spigots had not been turned on yet. Camping is $10 a night - self check in. No need to worry about finding firewood, as it is plentiful within the forest. Listened to owls at night before bed.

We took a short ride to nearby Ava and checked out Scratch Brewery. Delicious and unique little place that is off the beaten path. Only open on weekends, but highly recommend.

Are we in Illinois?

Garden of the Gods is a wonder to behold… especially if you are wondering how this could possibly be in Illinois. The Shawnee National Forest is a geological paradise that remains somewhat off most people's radar (luckily). Garden of the Gods may be considered its crowned jewel, which does cause it to attract a lot of visitors. The campground is small and basic with pit toilets. Campground is clean and with friendly staff but the real campsites are those that you hike into. There is nothing better than hiking in and stumbling onto a perfect cliff overhang that you can call home for the night. The hiking and views are well worth the trip, just watch your footing on some of those cliffs.

One day is plenty of time

The hiking at Starved Rock can be awesome, especially if it has rained recently and the waterfalls are flowing. Camping at Starved Rock, not so awesome. The campground is generally full if the weather is decent, so reservations are frequently required. There are different types of sites from wooded to an open field.None of the sites offer much in terms of privacy. The place has a bit of a run-down feel to it. The campground is not near most of the hiking trails, so you have to drive and park, and it can be crowded. I have been hiking in Starved Rock for years and each year it seems to get busier and more crowded. I highly recommend checking out the trails which can be done in a day, but don't consider it a camping destination.

Boating & camping

Large campground that gets booked up most weekends. Clinton Lake is a boating destination as the waters are unusually warm due to the discharge from the nearby nuclear plant. There are several different loops within the campground, some are alcohol free and others have direct access to the lake. The bathrooms are basic vault toilets but kept very clean. We have camped here several times, and found depending on the crowds, it can feel a little like a party spot or can be quiet and calm. The different loops have very different feels…some are very shaded in the trees, some more wide open with a prairie type view. There is a beach and concession stand, group camping areas and lots of roads to bike around. We enjoy the boating/camping combo.

Popular dispersed camping area

This is dispersed camping within the Shawnee National Forest. The area can be tricky to find if you are unfamiliar with the area. It can also get very crowded on nice days due to its proximity to the college campus. It is also very popular with rock climbers and people on horseback. I found the trails to be somewhat confusing and not well marked. I was here Easter weekend and the weather was great, so there were a lot of tents set up right near the parking area. If you don’t mind hiking in a bit, peace and quiet can be found.

Convenient urban camping

Camped here one night as we prepared to leave Colorado for home. The park is in the city, but surprisingly doesn’t feel that way. The place was busy and no privacy between sites. Bathrooms were clean and well kept. There were a few “interesting” characters in the park. Felt like they came here to party and hangout on the weekend. It was a convenient camping experience.

Favorite Park!

I do my best to cross a few national parks off my bucket list every year, and Grand Teton is my favorite of them all. It is a busy area, and all sites are first come- first serve, so plan accordingly. We timed our arrival so we were there fairly early the day after many Fourth of July campers would be returning home. It worked in our favor, as the sweet woman who checked us in assigned us a spot in a quieter loop away from the RV areas (we are tent campers). Our site was spacious and among the tall pines. Each site has its own bear box which is fantastic and served as a great storage locker for all our gear. It was also in the shade and helped keep the ice in our coolers longer. There are restrooms nearby that are pretty basic, but include an area to wash dishes and get water. There is a fantastic camp store with a pretty amazing variety of groceries, including a fresh deli, ice cream, and quality craft beers! Shower and laundry facilities are available too. Jackson Lake is nearby where we took a boat tour that was educational & entertaining. We were rewarded with seeing some bald eagles and elk while on the ride. We also rented kayaks and canoes there for some afternoon fun. All in all, great camping experience in one of the beat National Parks!

Not my kind of campground

KOAs are not my norm when it comes to camping, but when on a long road trip you often have to find camping based on your location. We gave this campground a shot, and it reaffirmed why I don’t do KOA style camping. There is nothing really wrong with the park, but it did not suit us. Our campsite was a very un-level gravel pad that was within a few feet of the back of cabins. There was little in terms of privacy. The bathrooms were clean and semi conveniently located. I thought the pool would be a treat for my son after spending a couple long hot days of traveling, but it was so cold we couldn’t enjoy the water. The WiFi (another treat for my son) was weak and unusable from our site. The only pro for us was its close proximity to Mt Rushmore, Wind in the Caves, and The surrounding Black Hills sights.

Take in the scenery

If you are camping here, you came for the amazing views of the Badlands, and you have them from your campsite. It is a wide open campground with little to no shade except for the built in shade screen on your picnic table. Expect wind. We struggled a little to get our tent up at first due to the high winds that whip through the campground. There is little privacy due to the lack of trees and no fires are allowed. The visitor center is nearby and has all your last minute needs as well as a diner. There is also an amphitheater close where we caught a concert of new music inspired by national parks. Bathrooms were average with pay showers. Whatever the campground is lacking in amenities is overshadowed by the scenery of the Badlands.

Nice park on the lake

Camped here in July. The campground was very busy with a lot of families. The campsites were spacious, some rather sloped on the backside of the large sand dunes. There was a lot of tree canopy for shade as well, but little privacy between sites. Can’t stop from people watching if you tried. The restroom was large and the showers stay busy with folks washing off the soft sand from the beach area on Lake Michigan. There are wooden stairs to get over the dunes and down to the lake. At sunset it feels like half the campground gathers on those stairs to watch the sunset over the lake. We enjoyed that activity on the beach as well. Although the park was extremely busy, after the sun goes down it was fairly quiet.

Stunning landscapes

We camped at Presque Isle in the Porkies for a long weekend in October. The color change was amazing! This campground is rustic with only vault toilets and no hookups. There is a section that allows generators during certain hours of the day, a non-generator area and a few walk-in sites. There are a few sites which are along the cliff side looking down to Lake Superior, we were lucky enough to reserve one of those, site 2. It was a very large site, equipped with the standard picnic table and fire ring. Many of the sites back up to the woods, which were smaller and a little soggy while we were there. This campground is one of two in the park, Union Bay is the other more modern campground located right on the lake. The sites there are much smaller and crowded. I prefer the more remote Presque Isle campground by far. Less amenities but far less people. The hiking throughout this park is unparalleled in its beauty. The campground is close to the Presque Isle river trail which is waterfall after waterfall. The park has a ski lift we rode to check out the views from the top of the mountain, as well as an 18 hole disc course. It’s the hiking and rugged beauty of the area that is the main attraction, especially catching the fall colors surrounding Lake Superior.

Low key gem

This is a relatively low key park compared to most state parks in Michigan. It is tucked away down an industrial road where unfortunately a power plant of some kind is located, but when you are in the park and on the shores of Lake Michigan, you easily forget about the eyesore you passed to get there. We enjoyed walking the shore and looking for petoskey stones. Found a crab and crawfish while we were looking. The campground was spacious and shaded. Many of the sites were full but it felt mostly private. When we arrived at our site, the previous campers had left us a care package of kindling, newspaper and wood chips to get a fire started, as well as a few logs. We met a woman who was by herself and camping for her very first time. She asked us to teach her how to start a campfire because the YouTube videos she had watched on how to do it weren’t working for her. I hope you keep camping, Molly! The vault toilets were a little run down but clean. Firewood is for sale on the honor system. The wildlife is beyond tame. I know that feeding wildlife is frowned upon, but we had a chipmunk that was relentless. He was bound and determined to eat every Michigan cherry we had, which was a lot. I would return here to camp at any time.

Disappointing rain out

Unfortunately I can’t give this campground the review it may deserve. We tried to camp here In mid- July, but due to recent heavy rains our site was under several inches of water. The campground was crowded and because of the mud, cars were parked anywhere they could to try and not be stuck. The staff were not sympathetic to the fact that our site was under water, and it resulted in our leaving. I don’t mind roughing it out in the rain, but there was no where to put up a tent. We would have needed a houseboat. The Falls were nice but can be enjoyed without camping here. It is the first state park I’ve seen that had a Brew Pub in it. The park seemed overly touristy however with literal busloads of people in and out of the Falls area.

Busy & crowded park

This is a very busy campground that tends to attract mostly RV campers. It is very close to town which is convenient, and has a lot of activities within the campground. There is a playground, swimming beach, firewood for sale, picnic areas, and located on a bike path. For the most part, the park was full of families in RVs that seemed to park in every which way they found convenient. There are a few walk-in tent sites as well. We tent camp, and scored a nice site (#1) right on the water which felt a little bit separated from the mess of large RVs all over the place. The bathhouse was fairly clean, but the showers were always busy. Our site was a little on the small side and trash was left in the fire pit from previous campers. I enjoyed being right on the water, and it was a convenient location as there are not a lot of campgrounds in the nearby area. Unfortunately the park had a very hectic and crowded feeling to it than I usually prefer.

Average campground in an above average area

We camped at Lake Gogebic for one night in July. Park was easy to find, check-in was smooth, and we were able to purchase firewood. Should you need to purchase any other supplies, I would recommend doing so beforehand, as there are not a lot of options nearby. The campground is not particularly large, and less than half the sites were full while we were there. There are 2 bath houses that were clean and had great showers. There is also a boat launch and swimming area within the park. Campsites were a mix of shade and sun. We had a site in the shade, directly on the lake. There were quite a few muddy spots at our & surrounding sites due to a lot of recent rain. We had to move our car to the parking lot to avoid getting stuck. Being on the lake was nice, and we were entertained by a group of baby ducks that liked hanging out near our campsite. Beyond that, there is little to do within the park itself. It is relatively close to Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park & Lake Superior, which is where we hiked in the day time. The campsites were full at the Porkies, so this was a very convenient campground to stay at, but not a destination location on its own.

Unique View from camp

We camped here two nights in July. The campground is very easy to find and is an incredible location if you want to ferry over to Mackinac Island. It is convenient to groceries, restaurants and other amenities if interested. The park appears well maintained with three separate camping areas. We tent camp, and had one of the best sites in the park (in my opinion). Site 1A is in the lower East section of the campground. The site is only a tent site & it is HUGE! It was much more private than the other sites, located on the shore of Lake Huron & has a fantastic view of the Mackinac Bridge. There is a small beach area within the park, a one mile trail to a viewing platform of the bridge, and a playground. The bathrooms were clean. Our campsite had a standard picnic table and fire ring. Campsites were moderately priced, but a Michigan Recreation Pass is also required, as in all MI state parks, so it gets a little more pricey. If I was returning to the area, I would camp here again.

Busy campground for families- not for those seeking solitude

We camped At Harrisville State Park for one night (4th of July) as we headed north to make our way around Lake Superior. The campground was packed as you would expect on the holiday. Our site was right on the shore of Lake Huron which was nice, and had a large fire pit. The bathrooms were immaculate. You purchased firewood from a vending machine. I would have enjoyed this campground a lot more, but it was really busy and loud. One of the noisiest places I have ever camped, although quiet hours were enforced luckily. I learned more about our neighbors issues with garlic making her fart excessively than I ever wanted to know. I’m a single mom that camps with her teenage son, so I don’t generally have an issue with kids, but it felt a little like Lord of the Flies- kids everywhere, especially on bikes tearing through the place in small packs. One kid got knocked off his bike by a person just trying to drive through the busy park road. He wasn’t hurt in any way but it did cause a brief verbal argument between the kid’s dad and the driver.
Taking into consideration that it was a holiday weekend, the crowds and noise were somewhat to be expected. I did really enjoy camping so close to the lake and walking along the beach. Very nice park if you aren’t seeking solitude.

Just passing through...

We stopped to camp here for one night as we headed to the Badlands. We stayed in one of the four designated tent sites. You have to park and haul your gear to the site, but it is a short and easy walk. The 4 tent sites are near each other, yet feel secluded and private. Each site had a picnic table with built in sun shade and a fire ring. The park has a lake with a beach area - looked to have quite a bit of algae while we were there in early July. The area is very busy with boaters, and not a lot more than that to do. It was also a little pricey, as they charge extra fees upon arrival regardless of having paid online at time of making reservation. Overall, it was what we needed for a quick one night stop on an extended road trip, and we lucked out with a killer sunset.

Simply Acadia Style Camping

Blackwoods campground is a very large, very busy, somewhat rustic campground in the heart of Acadia National Park. We camped here 3 nights in July and every site was full. The sites are fairly standard, with a picnic table and fire ring. There are bathrooms generally within a short walk from each site, but no showers. There is a private shower house just outside the campground, bring your roll of quarters with you. You can also purchase firewood just about everywhere outside the campground itself. There is a shuttle bus that runs to the campground and will take you to various other parts of the park including many trailheads. We camped in site A31 which was directly off the campground loop road, but felt more private than many of the sites located in the inner circles of the campground. We could walk a short trail from camp to the ocean. There is no WiFi, and little cell phone coverage at all within the area. Amenities are few within the campground itself, but this is an area people come to explore and take in the beauty of Acadia, not hang out at camp.

Convenient Camping

We camped here for two nights in late June to visit the Niagara Falls area. The park is located on a scenic byway with several state parks along its route and only about 20 minutes from Niagara Falls. The campground is very large and was very busy the weekend we were there. There is a mix of shaded and wide open sites. We camped at site 161 which was fairly shaded and had a large open field with a view of Lake Ontario. Sunsets were beautiful and a lot of campers come to the lake in the evening to watch it. There is a camp store and firewood for sale. Bath houses were clean and had laundry facilities. There is no swimming in the lake at this campground and I would consider it to have few recreational activities such as hiking, etc., but a nice place to camp if you are looking to explore the surrounding region.