Camp, Fish, And Go Boating At This Little-Known Lakefront State Park In Illinois

Away from the world-class museums in Chicago and the historic sites of Springfield, the state of Illinois is brimming with plenty of natural beauty and outdoor activities suitable for any type of traveler. Whether it's setting up camp at one of the state's little-known lakeside parks, hitting up some of the best beaches in America, or exploring one of the most haunted trails in the country, Illinois packs a punch. However, sometimes, it's all about the hidden gems and unique experiences that can make pretty much any trip worthwhile.

Tucked away in central Illinois, Sangchris Lake State Park is a one-stop shop for outdoor lovers and nature enthusiasts looking to go back to basics. Located roughly 19 miles southeast of Springfield, the state park has everything from well-maintained campgrounds to hiking trails, fishing spots, hunting acres, and even equestrian trails to explore. With over 3,000 acres and 120 miles of shoreline to take in, Sangchris Lake State Park was first established in 1964. Today, the park welcomes visitors from across the state (and beyond) all year round.

The best outdoor activities to enjoy at Sangchris Lake State Park

From archery to dog training, hiking to boating, and hunting to camping, Sangchris Lake State Park has plenty of activities to keep you and your party busy. For starters, in terms of trails, there are over 20 miles of pathways to explore — some of which double as equestrian trails, but are free for hikers to use. One of the most popular, the Sangchris Lake Loop, is a 6-mile path that's reachable through the parking lot at Pheasant Access.

Over by the water, fishing enthusiasts can cast their line for crappie, bluegill, channel and flathead catfish, largemouth bass, and carp. In terms of boating, Sangchris Lake has three launches available for guest use: the East Ramp, West Ramp, and Strawkus Ramp. While boats with 25 horsepower and under (including kayaks and canoes) are permitted to operate at full speed, larger boats (25 horsepower and up) must travel at no wake speed. As for having a dip, it's worth noting that the lake is not suitable for swimming — so it's best to just leave the trunks at home.

Finally, for visitors hoping to hunt, it's worth noting that Sangchris Lake State Park abides by state regulations and requires that hunters follow a series of statewide guidelines — like displaying a valid windshield card — as well as park-specific and species-specific rules while in-season. A few potential game species that roam through the park include waterfowl, dove, turkey, deer, squirrels, and rabbits.

Spending the night at Sangchris Lake State Park

For guests who want to extend their visit overnight, the park offers two campgrounds with varying amenities like electricity, showers, flush toilets, electric hookups for RVs, and vehicle access: Hickory Point (located closer to the lakeshore) and Deer Run (located deeper in the woodlands). Both campgrounds include a mix of tent sites, RV parking, and cabin accommodations — along with dedicated wheelchair access — that you can choose from depending on your preferences. As for travelers who want to book ahead of their arrival, all campsite and cabin reservations can be made in advance via the Explore More Illinois website.

Other features of Sangchris Lake State Park worth noting include access to picnic tables, dedicated fire pits for campfires, a station for purchasing firewood if necessary (though it can be expensive), and a kid-friendly playground. As for pets, you'll be happy to know that dogs are allowed inside the park and in both campgrounds, but they must be kept on a leash while in the campgrounds and under supervision for the entirety of your visit. Dogs and other pets must also be kept away from the cabins.