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All of these parks are within two hours of Chicago.

Each of these parks has its own personality and unique qualities.


Because of its proximity to the Chicago Metro Area, these parks can become crowded durnig summer weekends.

Full Review

There are many opportunities for recreation in Illinois. Believe it or not the Illinois State Park system has many beautiful parks right here in Northern Illinois. There are three parks in particular that boast some great amenities, they are: Illinois Beach State Park, Shabbona Lake State Park, and Starved Rock State Park.

Illinois Beach State Park:

This 4,160 acre park located in the northeast corner of the state has the only remaining beach ridge shoreline in the state. There is over six miles of shoreline to explore. There are miles of hiking trails that wind themselves through acres of grassland. visitors that are lucky enough to come in the evening will see herds of deer that come out to graze on the beach grass.

Make sure that while you are here you visit the Illinois Beach Resort and Conference Center. This hotel has 96 rooms, a restaurant, a cocktail lounge, conference center and a heated swimming pool.

Trout are stocked into Sand Pond annually. Refer to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources's website for stocking dates.

Shabbona Lake State Park:

Known as the Muskie Capital of Illinois this park located just south of the town of Shabbona in north-central Illinois. Four state record muskies have been caught out of the 319 acre lake that resides within this state park.

The fishing in Shabbona Lake is second to none. With good populations of muskies, walleyes, largemouth bass, crappies, bluegills and catfish there is something for anglers of all tastes here.

On the grounds of the state park there is a 120 site campground, a full service bait shop, boat rental, and a two slip public boat ramp with ample parking.

Just one look through the trophy fish mounted in the bait shop and the photos that are all over will convince you of the great fishing that is available in the lake.

This is truly a fishermans' lake. With a 10 horsepower limit you will not have jet skis or other forms of recreational watercraft.

Once again, this lake can become very crowded during popular weekends in the summer. If you would like to visit Shabbona Lake, it is best to do it on from Tuesday through Thursday during the summer.

Starved Rock State Park:

This large park located on the shores of the Illinois River just south of the town of Utica boasts some of the most scenic vistas not just in Illinois, but anywhere.

There are endless things to do at this park. You can hike through canyons, venture up to the overlooks of Lover's Leap or you can dine at the Starved Rock Lodge.

While you are visiting Starved Rock State Park you will have to take some time out of your evening to dine at the Starved Rock Lodge. This restaurant has a prime rib that is to die for. If you are not a fan of a huge steak you can enjoy a forest mushroom and smoked pheasant fanfalle. This is a rare dish that the Lodge specializes in. There is a cocktail lounge right next to the restaurant that has a beer garden that overlooks the river.

The Park also has a campground and a hotel with 70 rooms as well as 8 cabins.

Fishing at Starved Rock State Park is excellent. The Illinois River borders the park to the north. Good populations of white bass, saugers and catfish are present right at the wall and can be caught by shore anglers and boat anglers.

Opportunities for nature viewing are endless with majestic bald eagles soaring over the river, whitetail deer bouncing around through the fields, coyotes running around the fields and endless varieties of song birds in the fields and forests.

Make sure that you spend some time on the hiking trails whether you enjoy hiking or not. You will see some unique geological formations in the canyons. Staved Rock has some beautiful bluff that overlook the river and the only way that you will ever see them is by hiking in.

This is the most visited park in Illinois so it can become crowded during peak weekends in the summer.

In Closing

You are missing out on some great summertime entertainment if you don't visit Illinois State Parks. These are just a few of themany parks that this state has to offer.

Make sure that you take some time next summer to visit your state parks.