Good Sam RV Travel Guide & Campground Directory

One Tank Trip for Illinois Camping

It’s been said that taking a trip through Illinois is like driving through a smaller version of America as a whole. There’s a small-town sensibility at work here, while at the same time a strong sense of progress and diversity. That is why so many great politicians have had their start in Illinois, not the least of which is Abraham Lincoln. The entire spectrum of American living is at work here, from the smallest family-owned farms to the biggest conglomerates. Illinois is truly a cross-section of American living.

This one tank trip kicks things off in Mount Vernon, where you’ll want to set up camp for a few days at Rend Lake. Fishing, hiking, canoeing, and kayaking are only a sample of the activities available here as far as good old-fashioned Illinois camping goes. You can tour the local wineries around the Rend Lake area, or take in a show at any of the dinner playhouses; there’s nothing like a good dinner and a show. While you’re here, check out the Historic Village, which consists of several buildings from the 19th century, including a church and jail (both made from logs) and a one-room schoolhouse. The village’s museum features exhibits detailing the lives of military personnel from that era, along with their various tools and artifacts. There are two nature trails around the village, one of which winds past a stream, while the other takes you through the grassy areas around town. Each one is equally peaceful, and provides a different perspective of the area.

Head south on the I-57 for 20 miles until you pull into the city limits of Benton. This city is the home of the Antique Auto Museum, featuring interactive exhibits, and a collection of Ford Model T roadsters and various repair equipment. Benton’s downtown area is a historic district in its own right, as its courthouse was built in 1875 and still serves its original purpose to this date. Other historic sites include the Franklin County Jail Museum and Capitol Park, where local musicians get together each weekend and play free concerts for the public. You’ll want to investigate the many antique shops around the Public Mall area; with more than 200 vendors, you’re bound to find that unique article that you just can’t do without.

Back on the road, it’s another 18 miles in the southbound I-57 before you arrive at your next one tank trip stop, Marion. This region is without question the tourism capital of Illinois. There are entirely too many attractions and activities to list here, but we’ll hit the high notes as best we can: along with numerous state parks and other outdoor recreational facilities, Marion is also the home of the Shawnee Hills and Southern Illinois Wine Trails for some more Illinois camping fun. Between these two trails, you’ll be able to tour more than two-thirds of the over two dozen wineries in the area. Fishing doesn’t get easier than at the local lakes, including Crab Orchard Lake, Devil’s Kitchen Lake, and Lake of Egypt, and there are more antique shops and retail outlets than anyone without a Trump-sized wallet can handle.

Now we head east on the IL-13 for the 20-mile journey to Harrisburg. Prepare yourself to be truly awestruck by the Garden of the Gods, a massive 3,000+ acre section of the Shawnee National Forest with a wilderness area that’s over 300 million years old. You’ll see rock formations that can only be described as primordial, and the forest itself has a majesty that must be seen first hand to be truly appreciated. Burden Falls is equally impressive, being the tallest waterfall in the state. The road through the surrounding wilderness area actually takes you across the top of the falls, giving you an unparalleled view of the rivers and the lands below.

Another 10 miles east on the IL-13 brings you to your final stop, Equality. There are plenty of spots where you’ll want to pull over and set up the rig for a few days, including Glen O. Jones Lake, where the fish are plentiful and ready to jump into your boat. You’ll have your pick of catfish, bluegill, and largemouth bass, along with a host of other fishes, and there are plenty of hiking trails for you to enjoy a one-on-one communion with nature.

Illinois has so many adventures for your enjoyment there’s no way to get them all in on one trip. Well, that’s what next year is for. See you then!

Woodall's Recommended Illinois RV Campgrounds