Experience Lake Michigan at Illinois Beach State Park
By: Jonathan Jones
Encompassing over six miles of Lake Michigan shoreline in Lake County, Illinois Beach State Park is a must-see attraction for any outdoor enthusiast. Plus, it’s the only remaining beach ridge shoreline left in the state.
The park offers the best of Lake County’s beautiful landscape. You'll see the expansive shoreline of Lake Michigan, pristine sandy beaches and groves of lush forestland — as well as dunes and swales that contain marshes, forests of oaks and various wildlife.
Joggers, walkers and cyclists alike can enjoy the myriad of trails winding through the park and along the beach.
The 4,160-acre park consists of a "north unit" and a "south unit." See the maps of each unit below.
The "north unit" of Illinois Beach State Park is south of 7th Street and north of Shiloh Blvd.
The "south unit" is south of 29th Street.
Both areas offer ample opportunities for swimming, boating, picnicking, hiking, fishing, camping and more. Keep reading to learn more.
Hike to your heart’s content at Illinois Beach State Park . The southern unit of the park is home to five miles of trails, including a 2.2-mile loop trail with a gravel surface.
The northern unit is home to Camp Logan Trail, a 1.8-mile multiuse loop which is also available for cross-country skiing during the winter months.
If biking is your forte, you can experience the park on wheels via the Zion Bike Trail, which connects 29th
Street at the sound end of the park to 17th
Street at the north end of the park (look for the purple line in the maps above).
Nothing beats swimming along the sandy shorelines of Lake Michigan, and both the park's north and south units provide ample parking for those spontaneous day trips. Note: there are no on-duty lifeguards, so exercise caution when in the water.
Fishing is allowed along the beach area in both units (except in the swimming areas). There are also several small inland fishing ponds, including Sand Pond, where a disabled fishing pier is available. No fishing is allowed in the nature preserve.
You can also bring food and enjoy a picnic with the family. The entire park is home to picnic grounds (tables included).
A campground in the southern unit provides 241 Class A Premium sites with electricity and access to showers and sanitary facilities. Note: you must obtain a camping permit from the park staff, and must have a camping unit upon arrival.
Campsites are available on a first come, first serve basis, but the park recommends that you make reservations online at www.reserveamerica.com. Reservations must be made at least three (3) days in advance. Cancellations must be made three (3) days before arrival or you will lose your first night’s camping fee.
The 96-room Illinois Beach Resort and Conference Center is the perfect place to get away for a weekend or week-long vacation. Amenities include: a handicap accessible restaurant, cocktail lounge, video game room, an Olympic-size indoor heated swimming pool and a giant whirlpool. Fitness fanatics will appreciate the resort’s full-service health club that includes exercise equipment and a sauna.
Conference facilities include fully equipped private rooms for banquets and meetings that can accommodate up to 500 people comfortably.
To make reservations call (847) 625-7300.
Boaters should check out North Point Marina, a full-service marina located just five miles north of Illinois Beach. Featuring 1,500 slips, a boat service center and food concessions, the marina has everything a boater needs to enjoy Lake Michigan.
For additional information about slip rental, call the Department of Natural Resources at 847- 746-2845.
From the South: I-294 north to Rt 173 east (approx 8 miles) to Sheridan Road. Make a right on Sheridan Road to Wadsworth Road, make a left and you will be in the park.
From the North: I-94 South to Rt. 173, east on Rt.173 to Sheridan Road, right on Sheridan Road to Wadsworth Road and make a left on Wadsworth into the Park.
The park is open daily during the following times:
- January through March: 8 a.m. – sunset
- April through Memorial Day Weekend – sunrise to sunset
- Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend – sunrise to 8 p.m.
- After Labor Day Weekend until October – sunrise to sunset
- November and December: 8 a.m. – sunset
If you have a group of 25 or more, register beforehand with the park’s office to avoid crowding or scheduling conflicts with other events.
A few other notes:
- At least one responsible adult must accompany each group of 15 minors.
- Pets must be kept on leashes at all times. While dogs are not allowed on the beach or in the nature preserve, they are allowed in the campground, the picnic area, and the remainder of the trails as long as they are on a leash.
- Natural events such as weather can cause road and other closures. You may want to call the park office before heading to the park.
To learn more, visit the Illinois Beach State Park website