CHI: Bikepack to Illinois Beach State Park near Chicago

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A trip up to Illinois Beach State Park is a classic Chicago outdoor experience. But one of the most coveted ways to experience a trip up to Illinois Beach is by bike – with all of your camping gear attached. Bikepacking is growing in popularity. The concept is simple: Pack up and attach your camping gear on your bike, and set off on your own adventure on two wheels. 

North of Chicago’s city center (25-min by car), Illinois Beach State Parks spans just over 4,100 acres and is full of beautiful sandy ridges blanketed by black oak and an open, savanna-like landscape. Within the park, you’ll find more than 650 species of plants and wildflowers across the dunes area. (Psst…keep an eye out for prickly pear too!)

This overnight trip comes recommended for many reasons. For starters, bikepackers on this route get the benefit of riding on mostly bike and foot traffic-only trails for a solid portion of the ride. This route clocks in at an approachable 43 miles – and riders will travel on several sections of paved bike paths including the Lakefront Trail (6 miles) and Green Bay Trail (9 miles).

We also love this trip because you can:

  • Pit-stop around the halfway point in Evanston for a beer at Sketchbook Brewing Co. or a coffee at Colectivo.
  • Explore 5 miles of trails through native prairies and along the beach – like the 2.2-mile state park loop trail and 1.8-mile Camp Logan trail.
  • Fall asleep at your campsite hearing the sound of waves crashing on the Lake Michigan shoreline.

Long-time Mappy Hour Chicago member, Matt Moy, recently wrote about their bikepacking journey to Illinois Beach State Park for our blog. 

He shares what you should consider when prepping for the trip, what to pack, and what you’ll likely see and experience along the way.

Prefer to have a guided experience? 

You can also tag along with local bike camping guiding group, Out Our Front Door, on one of their guided, Illinois Beach State Park bikepacking group rides.

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