Hennepin Canal State Park
Guide

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Introduction

Hennepin State Canal Park is located along one of the region’s most important historical waterways, and offers hundreds of miles of scenic biking, hiking, and fishing. The towpath that used to be used by animals gives you 155 miles of hiking along the canal, weaving through marshland, hills, forests, and local farmland. You can also see a series of waterfalls that were created at the sites of the canal locks.

The canal is well stocked with a variety of different fish species, including trout, bluegill, and largemouth bass. There is also a boat launch that lets you easily get out onto the canal. If you want to enjoy the shaded shores of the canal, you can also take a kayak or canoe out onto the water.

There are numerous RV campgrounds dotted throughout the park, giving you multiple different options for waterside camping. The RV sites are all first-come, first-served. If you want to bring a horse along with your rig, there is also an equestrian campground located within the park.

RV Rentals in Hennepin Canal State Park

Transportation in Hennepin Canal State Park

Driving

Located in northwestern Illinois, Hennepin State Canal Park can be reached by RV from a number of cities in the region, including Chicago and St. Louis. The park’s roads are well maintained, and the campsites are easy to access. Wintertime visitors, however, should come prepared for snow and ice.

If you are driving from Chicago, take I-55 and I-80 and you will get to the park in around two and a half hours. From St. Louis, take I-55 north from the city and you will reach the park in around three and a half hours.

The campground is a quick drive from County Road 900, and the sites are just minutes from the park’s entrance. The roads are wide, with few winding turns. However, they tend to freeze over in the winter, and the park does not always completely clear the roads. You should be ready for snow and ice if you visit during the winter, and bring snow chains along with your rig

Parking

Public Transport

Campgrounds and parking in Hennepin Canal State Park

Campsites in Hennepin Canal State Park

Reservations camping

First-come first-served

Hennepin State Canal Park Campgrounds

There are multiple small campgrounds scattered throughout the park at various canal locks. None of the sites offer hookups of any kind. They do have picnic tables and fire pits, and the sites are all dog-friendly. The only drinking water in the park is located near the visitor center, so it is recommended that you come well prepared.

All of the camping sites are located along the canal, so you’ll have quick access to the towpath and all of the park’s hiking trails. Some of the sites are near the visitor center. However, the park is quite large, so not all sites will be within walking distance of the visitor center and park office.

None of the sites can be reserved online, and the campsites are all first-come, first-served. You can call the park office to ask about availability. The spots fill up fairly quickly during the popular summer months, so you should try to get the campground as early as possible.

Alternate camping

Seasonal activities in Hennepin Canal State Park

In-Season

Biking

You're in luck if you pack a bike in your trailer or camper. Hennepin Canal State Trail allows biking, so you can explore the 150-mile long trail at a higher speed. You can also connect to the Great American Rail-Trail, which will give you hundreds of miles to explore along one of the country’s most historic trail networks.

You’ll need to bring your own bike with your rig, as the park does not rent any equipment. The trail is also shared with hikers, so take extra caution along narrow stretches.

Hiking

Hennepin Canal features a towpath that runs alongside the water. You’ll find over 150 miles of trails that lead you along the canal. The landscape ranges from forest and plains to marshes and farmland

There are also plenty of picnic tables on the hiking trails, giving you multiple places to stop and take a break. The trail also connects to the Great American Rail-Trail, a network of trails that extends across the country.

Fishing

The park is a local favorite for fishing. You can fish all along the Hennepin Canal, with over 900 acres of fishable waters. You’ll find fish species such as trout, bluegill, and largemouth bass.

The park does not rent any fishing gear, so you’ll need to visit a local bait shop or fishing store if you need any equipment. There is a boat ramp on the canal, so you shouldn’t have any issues getting onto the water.

You can fish at the canal year round, although anglers often have the most success starting in May and running through September. Trout are stocked by the park in both spring and fall.

Off-Season

Snowmobiling

The canal is also a great place for snowmobiling. You’ll have enough ground to cover to last a full day of exploring. If you want to extend your ride, you can connect to a number of trails that lead through the surrounding area.

The trails are shared with hikers, so do take caution and slow down when coming around corners. The park is also not responsible for any accidents that occur while snowmobiling, so make sure you are wearing the proper safety gear.

Cross-Country Skiing

The long trail network that stretches along the canal is also a perfect cross-country skiing course during the winter. There are over 150 miles of trails that lead you through the park. The varied terrain, from forests and marshes to hills and farmland, makes for excellent cross-country skiing for skiers of all skill levels.

The trails are not always groomed, although the park sometimes does maintain them. If you plan on visiting the park after a heavy snow storm, check with park officials about trail conditions, as they may not be suitable for beginner skiers.

Exploring the Visitor Center

If you are tired from a long hike, you can stop by the visitor center to learn more about the area’s history. The center has exhibits that highlight the canal’s history, as well as the local wildlife found in the park. The canal was one of the most important waterways in Illinois, and was central to the region’s economy. You’ll learn all about this history when you visit.

The visitor center is open year round, although hours may vary by season. Check with the park office to see what operating hours are during your visit.

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