Weekend Backpacker: Chicago
Surrounded by a bustling suburban area about an hour and a half northwest of Chicago, the Chain O' Lakes State Park offers a bit of solitude among the cacophony of nearby shopping centers, amusement parks, cottages, and marinas.
Bordering three lakes and the Fox River, the 6,000-acre state park is home to a surprisingly abundant population of pheasants, waterfowl, deer, and fish.
This popular park also includes 15.8 miles of hiking trails and 5 miles of bike trails, which traverse wetlands, meadows, grasslands, upland forests, the Fox River, and busy waterways.
Plan to spend a weekend at this popular park fishing, camping, biking, and hiking.
Camp at Honeysuckle Hollow, Turner Lake South, Prairie View, or Mud Lake East campgrounds and take day hikes on the park's numerous loop trails. At the northern edge of the trail system, the Gold Finch Trail parallels the Fox River. Nature's Way, a self-guided interpretive trail, is about 2.25 miles long and roams past grassland, Grass Lake, Mud Lake, a cattail marsh, upland woods, and a meadow. On this trail, you can view some of the last remaining American lotus beds, which blossom in only a few places in the world.
Camping: Reservations by mail only for a non-refundable $5 fee. About 35 of the 106 sites at the Honeysuckle Hollow campground may be reserved. Other campgrounds in the park hold another 87 sites.
Getting there: From Chicago, take Route 173 west to Wilmot Road. Head south to the park entrance. The park is open from May 1 to October 31 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and in winter from 8 a.m. until sunset.
Permits: A camping permit (available at the park office) is required, and campers must bring their own firewood.
Maps: A biking and hiking trail map is available from the park office.
Chain O' Lakes State Park
8916 Wilmot Road
Spring Grove, IL 60081
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication