Muddy boots, a bulky flannel, and crisp air may not appear as glamorous as the Florida beaches and bars that many spring-breakers flock to. For those of us who can’t afford to travel far this spring break, an excellent and equally restorative travel option may not be so far away. The Midwest may not be sunny and full of drinks with little umbrellas, but we do have some stellar camping, hiking and outdoor-excursion options.
In fact, spending time “forest-bathing” is shown to improve blood pressure and boost mental health. So, if you feel like getting some scientifically-verified relaxation this spring break, here are some budget-friendly woodland exploration options.
1. Walnut Point State Park – Distance from Champaign-Urbana: 1 hour
If you are sticking around campus for spring break, there is still an outdoors reprieve just an hour drive away. Walnut Point State Park offers camping, fishing, hiking trails and more. With nearly 700 acres of space to explore, this is a great local option for those staying in the area over break.
2. Starved Rock State Park Campground – Distance from Chicago: 2 hours
For those of us heading back to Chicagoland over spring break, taking a trip to Starved Rock is a great option, especially for beginners. From hiking, visiting canyons and waterfalls, to taking a rest at the lodge, Starved Rock is a great option for a daytime hike or to reserve a camp spot and enjoy through the night.
3. Fox Ridge State Park – Distance from Chicago: 3 hours
Like Starved Rock, Fox Ridge State Park is a great option for beginners. Hiking trails, camping, canoeing, and fishing are all excellent outdoor activities available at this park. For those interested in something more adventurous, there are equestrian trails available at Fox Ridge as well.
4. Kettle Moraine State Forest – Distance from Chicago: 2.5 hours
If you are absolutely eager to try and get out of Illinois this spring break, checking out Wisconsin is a great option, especially for “forest-bathing.” With over 22,000 acres of prairie restoration, lakes, glacial hills and forest, this is the perfect place to hike and camp if you’re looking to get outdoors and escape Illinois on a budget.
5. Devil’s Lake State Park – Distance from Chicago: 3.5 hours
Not only is this the oldest state park in Wisconsin, but it is the largest and the most visited. Devil’s Lake offers a vast array of outdoor activities. From the basics of hiking and biking trails to fishing and kayaking to swimming and climbing – there is definitely something for everyone’s interests. Since this visit is a bit of a longer drive, there are thankfully many different camping options and accommodations available as well.
Spring break may stereotypically be a time to visit a faraway place with a beach and to get nice and tan, but there is no reason why the alternative has to be staying at home. If you are on a budget but want some refreshing relaxation, spending time outdoors and exploring the forest is an excellent and well-advised alternative.
Photos by Bridgette Jasinski