Ah, it’s nearly springtime – time to get out into the wilderness for a camping trip. But you live in Chicago and you don’t have a car. What’s an urban camper to do? Get on the Metra, that’s what! Believe it or not, there are campgrounds that are sufficiently wild just a train ride away – Indiana Dunes State Park and Illinois Beach State Park.
Indiana Dunes is accessible via the Metra South Shore Electric line, which departs from Millennium Station at Randolph. The stop for the park is Dune Park, which is a 45 minute ride from the city. Train fare currently costs $6.65 for a one-way trip. From the Dune Park train station, the park is a ¼ mile walk along a road – the route from the station is signposted. For campers that are walking in, the park access fee is waived. Camping fees are $15.00 per night, and the campground is mixed use. The campground has hot showers and modern bathrooms. Most of the hiking trails originate in the campground, so getting to the lakeshore/beach is easy. There are 15 miles of lakeshore to explore as well as inland hiking trails, including trails that wander through bog, interdunal and forest habitats.
Illinois Beach State Park is located near Zion, IL. The park is accessible via the Union Pacific North line, departing from Ogilvie Transportation center and arriving in Zion. One-way fares currently cost $6.50 The trip takes about an hour and twenty minutes. The park is a 1.5 mile walk south along Sheridan Road from the train station. There is no park entrance fee, and campsite range from $6.00 (walk-in, no electricity or showers) – $20.00 (drive-in, electricity, showers) per night, depending upon the type of site you want. There are five miles of hiking trails and plenty of coastline to explore.
If you’re inclined to borrow or rent a car, some worthy parks within driving distance of Chicago are –
– Rock Cut State Park (Illinois)
– White Pines State Park (Illinois)
– Starved Rock State Park (Illinois)
– Big Foot Beach State Park (Wisconsin)
– New Glarus Woods (Wisconsin)
– Blue Mound State Park (Wisconsin)
– Wyalusing State Park (Wisconsin)