By Wade Ellett, LMQC Outside Adventure Blogger
I love to camp. Getting away from the hustle and bustle of normal life, spending a day or 2 without a clock, and sitting next to a campfire rejuvenates me. I think it’s something that everyone could benefit from, and we have some great places to visit in and around the Quad Cities, whatever your skill level.
Don’t worry if you’ve never camped before; most of these campsites have running water, showers, and indoor plumbing in the bathrooms. So ice down the cooler, get yourself a tent, find a site you like, and spend an awesome night or two away from home.
To help you get started, here are a few of my favorite campsites in the area that feature fun activities for the whole family.
Part of the Rock Island County Forest Preserve, Loud Thunder offers a number of different camping opportunities. There are 5 different campgrounds to choose from. You can tent camp near the banks of the Mississippi River, or surrounded by the woods. There’s a site just for those of you who want to bring your horses for the equestrian trails, as well as an RV site for those who prefer to bring along the comforts of home.
You’ll find flush toilets and showers at most of the sites, and drinkable water at all of them. While you’re here, check out their trails, or rent a kayak, canoe, or john boat and spend some time on Lake George. It’s a beautiful place, and you’re sure to have a good time!
Boasting 1280 acres, and tons to do, Scott County Park is a great place to visit! You’ll find hiking, mountain biking, trails for horseback riding, a heated Olympic sized swimming pool with lifeguards on duty, and fishing on Pride Lake.
Five different campgrounds accommodate whatever you’re looking to do. Whether you want to pitch a tent, haul your trailer, or pull up in your RV, Scott County Park is ready. Modern restrooms and showers are available throughout the park, and there’s enough to do and see that you’re not going to get bored!
They don’t take reservations here, so sites are first-come, first-serve.
If you’re looking for a spot nearby to camp right on the bike path, Illiniwek might be for you! In Hampton IL, and right along the Mississippi River, this site is close to home, but still offers plenty of fun.
There are spots with water and electric hookup if you’re looking to bring your RV or trailer, but there are plenty of spots to pitch your tent facing the river. You’ll have access to flush toilets, showers, and drinking water during your stay.
Illiniwek has hiking trails, mountain biking, some great spots for fishing, and boat ramp access to the Mississippi River. Additionally, the Great River Trail goes right through the site, so that entire path is available for you to walk or ride. You could even bike to the site! Check it out!
Although it’s a bit farther away from the QC, the panoramic river views make Palisades worth the trip. There are over 200 campsites at Palisades, so you’re not going to find much solitude, but you’ll have access to water, flush toilets, and showers.
While you might have a lot of camp neighbors, you’re going to find lots to do as well! There’s great hiking, spots open to rock climbing, boat ramp access to the river for boating and fishing, and incredible views!
This is a really unique Iowa gem, and it holds a special place in my heart; it’s the first spot my wife and I ever camped together! It’s a great place, with electric and non-electric sites for both tents and RVs. Some reservations are available, but they also hold one quarter of their sites as first come first serve.
The trail system is absolutely beautiful and will take you along rock formations, an experimental oak savanna restoration, as well as a restored prairie.
The trails will also take you to the park’s most notable feature, the caves!
You don’t have to be an experienced caver or spelunker to check out the Maquoketa caves; Dancehall Cave is large enough to walk most of the way standing straight up, and has lights and a walkway. It’s a great way to see a really cool feature, even if you’re not ready or able to get on your hands and knees.
The park’s other caves vary in size; you can hike right through some of them, but others will require a crawl through! If you plan on doing that, make sure that you bring clothes and shoes you won’t mind getting muddy, and don’t forget to bring a flashlight as well. A helmet wouldn’t hurt if you’re inclined to bump your noggin’.
If you plan to explore the caves, you will first need to attend a short program about White Nose Syndrome. This is a deadly disease affecting bats and while it has no direct effect on humans, we can spread it. Interpreters will be available at the caves to educate visitors on White Nose Syndrome and how we can prevent its spread.
Looking for something a little different? Willing to take a bit of a drive? Head down to Sand Ridge State Forest. It’s about 2.5 hours from the QC and southwest of Peoria, IL, near the Illinois River. With 7,200 acres, it’s the largest state forest in Illinois, and home to desert-like sand prairie, native oak and hickory woodland, and wide open grasslands.
Sand Ridge is a bit more of a rustic camping setting; you can drive in and park, but there are only pit-vault toilets, and access to drinking water, no showers. They do offer equestrian camping as well, but I love Sand Ridge for it’s back-country primitive sites. There are twelve available along 55 miles of trail. If you decide to give this a try, you’ll have to pack everything in, pack everything out, and you won’t have access to the toilets or the drinking water, not without a bit of a hike anyway.
This is where I took my most recent solo trip, and I really enjoyed this forest. If you’re looking for a bit more of a challenge, and don’t mind a bit of a drive to get there, Sand Ridge State Forest might be for you!
|Meet Wade Ellett, Let’s Move Quad Cities Outdoor Blogger. Wade is a John Deere Digital Archivist and an outdoor adventurer who shares his passion for QC outdoor adventures here! Read his other posts by clicking here.|