For budget-minded folks living in the Windy City, finding cheap campgrounds near Chicago can be a chore. This weekend, I found one and headed to Gebhard Woods State Park, which offers nightly camping for just a few dollars.
It was a mixed bag, for sure. Being able to see the stars was nice, but it wasn’t a full-on nature experience. Read on for my review.
Cheap campground: Gebhard Woods State Park details
Gebhard Woods is located in the town of Morris, Illinois, which is not immediately near Chicago but is only about an hour away. The nightly rate is just $6 per tent, so it’s extremely affordable.
The campground is not like most; you cannot pull directly into your site. Instead, you must hike about a half mile into a grassy designated camping area. I like that – the walk keeps away the meek and keeps the site relatively uncrowded.
The camping area has grills, picnic tables and fire pits. The park has fishing ponds and streams throughout, as well as a hiking and biking trail.
Gebhard Woods: Negatives
So, about that hiking trail… I love a good hike, but the problem is that this one runs right past a sewage plant. Really! We tried to hike and were overcome by the stench, and cut short the hike.
There isn’t any wildlife here. We saw a groundhog or some sort of small mammal run past and became excited, because that was it for animals in the park. It certainly didn’t have the appeal of camping in Death Valley with coyotes.
It rained this weekend, and our tent leaked, which isn’t the park’s fault, of course. It leaked around one of the zippers, but not too severely. So now I know to get that sealed up before heading out on any serious backcountry excursions.
The worst part of the experience was the guy who went around collecting the camping fee at 8 am, rustling tents and waking everyone up in the process. Not cool at all. I guess you get what you pay for, sometimes.
Gebhard Woods Camping: Conclusion
I’m not sure if I would be eager to return to this Illinois state park. But if the stars aligned as they did this past weekend, where I just want to get out of the city and find a cheap campground near Chicago to relax and take in a bit of nature and see the stars without busting my budget, I’d consider going back.
Check out Gebhard Woods’ official website.
For Chicago-area folks who are willing to drive much farther for a camping experience, consider Voyageurs National Park, Isle Royale National Park, Mammoth Cave National Park, or, closer to home, Illinois Beach State Park.