This Gorgeous Lakeside Park In The Midwest Is A Little-Known Spot Perfect For Camping

There's no denying that the Midwest is as vibrant as it is diverse. Home to an array of charming small towns, underrated state parks, and some pretty spectacular national parks, the region is brimming with opportunities and destinations for travelers looking to soak up some time surrounded by nature. Whether it's hiking, fishing, bird watching, or anything in between, there's no denying that the Midwest's heartland charm is all wrapped up in heritage and simplicity.

Roughly 70 miles west of Chicago, Shabbona Lake State Park is the epitome of serenity and rural living. With its 1,550 acres of prairies, meadows, and woods, and a 319-acre man-made fishing lake, the state park and recreation area is the perfect place for visitors to unwind and go back to basics — and have some well-deserved fun while they're at it.

Open year-round — with operating hours varying from season to season — Shabbona Lake State Park offers guests the opportunity to camp on the premises, rent one of the park's two cabins, or enjoy one of the three picnic areas for an afternoon. Along with these, the park's concession also provides boat rentals, a small grocery and supplies shop, and an indoor and outdoor lakeside dining restaurant with locally-sourced meat and ingredients.

Fishing at Shabbona Lake State Park

One of the biggest attractions at Shabbona Lake State Park is, without a doubt, its hefty man-made fishing lake. Whether you're planning to fish from a boat or from the shore, the lake is stocked with a variety of species that make for a great catch. From large and smallmouth bass to black and white crappie, channel catfish, rock bass, muskie, and perch, the lake offers plenty of opportunities to take home some impressive catches for seasoned anglers and beginners alike.

In terms of boat rentals, Shabbona Lake State Park also offers a variety of options with fees that range from $15 an hour for a single-person kayak to $150 an hour for a jumbo-sized pontoon boat. Walk-in rentals are available; however, the park's staff strongly suggest that people reserve their boat in advance in order to avoid disappointment.

Keep in mind, however, that Shabbona Lake enforces a series of fishing regulations that all guests must adhere to in regard to catch & size limits. Along with this, it's also important to note that the park requires that all boaters return to shore within at least 30 minutes before the park closes. Alternatively, if you're planning to camp, fishing is allowed directly from the shore — and your campsite — throughout the night.

Other activities to enjoy at Shabbona Lake State Park

Outside of fishing, Shabbona Lake State Park also has plenty of other activities that guests can enjoy either solo or as a group. For starters, the park offers a designated hunting area made up of 776 acres where guests can pursue game for doves, deer, turkey, waterfowl, and rabbits. Since special restrictions apply, we recommend you check out the official Hunting Illinois website for more details on specific hunting regulations and seasonality.

Lastly, Shabbona Lake State Park is also a great spot for some scenic trekking. With 8 miles of hiking and cross-country skiing trails to explore, the park's routes include: Arrowhead Trail (2.4 miles one-way), Tomahawk Trail (2.5 miles one-way), Papara Trail (1.2 miles one-way), and a dedicated Snowmobile Trail (7 miles). There's also a 1,000-foot paved trail called Touch the Earth Nature Trail designed for accessibility. Unfortunately, despite a beautiful lake, swimming in the park is prohibited.

With all of this in mind, it's clear that Shabbona Lake State Park can make for a great day out if you're visiting Chicago and need to get away from all the hustle and bustle of the big city. Plus, once you've rested and recharged in nature, you'll have plenty more energy to keep crossing sights and activities off your Chicago bucket list.