Welcome to a landscape that changes on every visit where ice volcanoes, quick sand, and ridge and swales develop and shift throughout the year as you ride onto the youngest land in Illinois and enter Illinois Beach State Park. A beautiful piece of land that lies just 52 miles north of the city of Chicago. This Park preserves the last remaining segments of Lake Michigan shoreline left in the state free of any major coastal engineering, and the last expanse of coastal dunes in Illinois.
What makes Illinois Beach State Park a great place to go bike camping is not just its close proximity to Chicago, or the green bay bike trail which is within two miles of the park, or even that the Zion Metra train station is on the park's doorstep, what makes Illinois Beach State Park a great place to go bike camping is it’s extraordinary natural landscapes and it's rich biodiversity. A dip in that big blue lake is nice treat too.
Illinois Dunesland Preservation Society is the environmental organization that co-founded Illinois Beach State Park in 1948, including the southern 900 acres that in 1964 became the first state Dedicated Nature Preserve in the United States. Their primary goal is to protect the natural beauty and integrity of the park and its surrounding environment, which includes Lake Michigan. Dunesland has been involved in park stewardship for decades in various programs throughout the park to preserve it for the enjoyment of future generations. Since the 1910’s, the nature lovers who eventually founded Dunesland have been the park’s custodians with a unique and special interest in this valuable ecological setting.
Campsites & Lodging
The campground in the southern unit provides 241 Class A Premium sites with electricity and access to showers and sanitary facilities. Or, you can choose to stay at their Illinois Beach Resort and Conference Center. It's the only hotel in the State of Illinois located directly on the shores of Lake Michigan. The Resort offers 96 total rooms, which feature a full bath, TV, telephone and a breathtaking view of Lake Michigan.
Reservations can be had
Bike Tent Camping: http://www.reserveamerica.com/
Hotel on the Beach: http://ilresorts.com/
Nature within the Park
The 4,160-acre park, consisting of two separate areas (North Unit and South Unit), offers ample opportunities for swimming, boating, picnicking, hiking, fishing, camping and simply appreciating nature.
It is one of the richest, most biologically diverse areas in the state and is considered to be Illinois’ “Crown Jewel”. Every month there is different robust show of flowers and colors so even upon a return visit it will feel like a new park. That's one of the beauties of a healthy and diverse ecosystem created by nature.
With firewood, food and refreshments, gift shop/souvenirs, lodge, and a restaurant this park kind of has it all. A cyclists tip for firewood: a gentlemen typically drives around the camp on the weekends selling bundles of wood directly to your campsite so no heavy lifting on your part, but if you're in a crunch for time you can also bike on over to the concession stand for ice and wood if need be.
As a dinner option it was highly suggested to try the rib eye steaks at the hotel. I have to say the deal is worth it, especially when the special is buy one get one half off every Saturday Night. The camp fires and night walks along the beach wrap up a great bike camping night.
Nearby Train Stations
Zion has a small commuter railroad station on Metra's Union Pacific/North Line located in Zion, Illinois, United States. The train station is roughly a 10 min bike ride along back trails to get to the state park. A real treat for any one looking for a quick weekend get away without traffic.
Stops at- Kenosha, Winthrop Harbor, Zion, Waukegan, North Chicago, Great Lakes, Lake Bluff, Lake Forest, Fort Sheridan, Highwood, Highland Park, Ravinia, Ravinia Park, Braeside, Glencoe, Hubbard Woods, Winnetka, Indian Hill, Kenilworth, Wilmette, Evanston Central Street, Evanston Main Street, Rogers Park, Ravenswood, Clybourn, Ogilvie Transportation Center
The Tropics Yacht Bar located in the North unit is a great ride from camp to catch a harbor style drink, play some darts or a game of pool. With it's boat themed decor and fun fair hostess you can easliy relax the day away. In the South Unit you have the beach so of course there is swimming and all other beach related activities. But if you need warmer water to rest those muscles you can jump in the lodge juccizi, even if you are camping with a tent it's just a $5 fee.
Upon Your Visit
If you do visit the Park, take care to ensure whatever you bring in is taken out and not left in the sand or in the preserve. Be sure to stay on the established trails as to not disturb this fragile ecosystem and cause a blowout. Be a part of legacy created by the Dunesland Society and protect this crown jewel.
Take care and preserve this public treasure for future generations as if you are the owner. Why? Because you are.
Illinois Beach State Park
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