Oftentimes when folks plan a camping trip, they opt for heading east or west to a big name national park such as the Great Smoky Mountains, Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite, etc. But there are also some terrific places to camp in the great Midwestern section of America. Let’s look at a few.
Starved Rock State Park
Illinois may not be the first state on a camper’s list, but they’ll love this 2600 acre hidden gem located on the southern bank of the Illinois River about 90 miles west of Chicago. Instead of the usual flat, featureless farmland that covers a majority of the state, you’ll discover steep rock wall canyons and a multitude of cascading waterfalls, best viewed in the spring during the snow melt or after a rainstorm. Explore the canyons as well as the park’s quiet forests along 13 miles of well marked hiking trails.
Other outdoor activities include horseback riding, canoeing, kayaking and rafting. And don’t miss taking a peek at the historic majesty of the Great Hall in the Starved Rock Lodge, originally built in the 1930’s!
The campground boasts 133 Class A campsites with electric hook-ups, flush toilets and showers, including seven campsites accessible to those with disabilities.
Badlands National Park
This scenic and rugged landscape located in southwestern South Dakota may at first seem barren and even other-worldly. But this geological wonder will captivate you with ancient mineral deposits that splash color onto its promontories, pinnacles, and ravines. Lying awake at night, you may even hear the mournful howl of a wolf or the distant sound of neighing, as the park is the home to wild horses as well as bison and big horn sheep.
Hiking trails range from 0.25 to 10 miles long and they let you experience both the current wild life and also the extinct. This area has one of the largest deposits of mammal fossils found in America, so you may run across the remains of one of the park area’s former inhabitants like the rhino and saber-toothed cat.
Camp in comfort at Cedar Pass Campground with amenities such as electrical hook-ups, water and bathrooms. Or try Sage Creek Campground. It only has pit toilets and covered tables, but the camping is free and you may even encounter a majestic bison wandering through! Or if you prefer true solitude and tranquility, try backcountry camping. Permits are not required.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
To experience sand and surf, you need not travel to any of the coastal areas. Sleeping Bear Dunes on the shore of Lake Michigan was named by ABC’s Good Morning America as the “Most Beautiful Place in America”. With its towering sand dunes, sparkling lake shore, incredible sunsets over Lake Michigan, along with the beauty of the surrounding land, this is a place to add to your bucket list. Besides the summer activities of swimming, kayaking or just catching rays on the dunes, Sleeping Bear also has its share of winter activities such as snowboarding, cross country and downhill skiing.
The park’s 100 miles of designated trails will take you on a journey of diverse terrains. Hike the lakeshore and dunes, ramble through meadows bursting with wild flowers, or explore serene forests.
Your camping choices here are special. If you don’t want to rough-it, check in at the Platte River Campground. It has all the services you’re looking for. Or, for the more rough-and-ready, there’s the D.H. Day Campground. Or take a ferry over to either North or South Manitou Island. The thousands of acres of each island are open for hiking, camping and exploring. But there’s no fresh running water, so be sure to bring water filtration equipment with you.
Brown County State Park
Located in south central Indiana is the state’s largest park, just an hour’s drive from Indianapolis. This area is nicknamed the “Little Smokies” because it bears a resemblance to the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. Besides camping, there are extensive horse riding facilities, hiking, mountain bike trails, fishing and swimming. Scenic drives are also popular in the area because historic covered bridges dot the surrounding landscape.
This state park is particularly popular in the fall when the leaves burst forth with spectacular shades of red, orange and yellow. Take advantage of the 10 hiking trails to get up close and personal with this stunning natural wonder. Trails range from easy to rugged, being 0.75 to 3.5 miles long.
Brown County State Park has 401 Class A and 28 Class B campsites, including electric and primitive sites for horseman camping.
No matter where you prefer to camp, whether it be in quiet green forests or near the lapping waves of a lake, on windswept prairies or vast painted landscapes, the Midwest has an abundance of camping choices for you!