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Moraine Hills is an outdoor recreation area near the city of McHenry in the state of Illinois. Much of the area was created by glaciers that filled the area thousands of years ago, leaving behind boulders and other rocky debris. The debris is known as "moraine,” after which the park was named. It was opened to the public in 1976 after taking five years to fully cultivate; the park is centered around Lake Defiance, a glacial lake that is still largely undisturbed and natural as there has been almost no development around it.
A large section of the park consists of lakes and wetlands; the remaining area is mostly forest subdivided by trails plus the McHenry Dam. The dam is where you'll find a concession stand with food and refreshments, bait, tackle, and boat rentals. Renting an RV near McHenry is how your vacation will begin, but where you take it from there is up to you.
Once you have arrived, you'll have your choice of numerous activities such as hiking and fishing. The trails can be used for mountain biking as well as hiking and will take you through a variety of landscapes, all eye-catching and breath-taking. While you're enjoying the trails, make sure you pay attention to the plant life you encounter, as some of the plants you'll find here are not only beautiful but rare as well (it may be your only chance to observe them). The trails are almost all covered in crushed limestone except for one that is paved, making them easy to follow. The park is open year-round and in the winter, you can cross-country ski on the trails. Camping near Moraine Hills will give you the added bonus of being able to retire to warmth and comfort after you've finished skiing for the day.
If wildlife observation is your thing, the park is home to coyotes and red fox, white-tailed deer, and other mammals; many different species of migratory birds rest here such as mallards and Canada geese, but some of the bird species like great blue and green herons live in the marsh areas year-round. You can rent boats at the concession stands and enjoy fishing on Lake Defiance and the Fox River, or fish from any of the piers off of the boardwalk (one of them is ADA accessible). Picnic enthusiasts can make use of the picnic tables and shelters located in the day-use areas, which have drinking water outlets and rustic toilets.
The park is also important for its archaeological value; historians have determined through fossils and other discoveries that the area has been inhabited for thousands of years, long before European settlers began to arrive. Some of the indigenous peoples who lay claim to the land came from as far away as Canada.
The park doesn't have any camping facilities on-site, though there are some campgrounds near Moraine Hills. Fish Lake Beach Camping Resort has RV campsites for rent by the day or month; staying here grants you access to the lakeside beach and all of the park's amenities. This includes a sand volleyball court and fishing or boating on the lake; rowboats, kayaks, and paddleboards can be rented at the concessions area, which sells coffee and ice cream.
Grass Lake Marina and RV Park is a family-friendly campground with a swimming pool and an on-site restaurant that caters to the public as well as campground guests (the pool is for guests only). If you're RV camping at the park, you'll have access to the boat launch located at the next door marina and the town of Antioch is only a few minutes' drive away should you need to gas up your McHenry RV rental, stock up on groceries or supplies, or just take a breather at a local cafe.
Wonder Lake is a small village that takes its name from the lake it is adjacent to; although small in size, it is a charming community and a good source for charter tours of the area. One of the local tour companies rents canoes and kayaks and will retrieve them (and you) once you're finished for the day. The town has a handful of dining establishments, which include a pub restaurant and a pizzeria; for a wider selection of venues, there are more restaurants within a short traveling distance.
Crystal Lake has some good venues for shopping and gift seeking, if the need or urge arises, as well as a landmark Catholic church, a recreation center with a climbing wall, and an urban park with a nature center. The city has a long list of eating establishments, including pizzerias, pub restaurants, Japanese, Chinese and Thai food, cafes and diners, and more. Grab some takeout and head back to your McHenry camper rental, where you can enjoy your meal under a star-filled sky.