Of all the recreation areas in Illinois, one that truly stands out is the vast natural area of Sand Ridge State Forest. This rural getaway is the perfect place for an RV camping experience if you want to reconnect with nature. From hiking and picknicking to hunting and horseback riding, this 7,200-acre wonder is waiting to be explored. What visitors find fascinating about Sand Ridge State Forest is the variety of plants and animals rarely found in other parts of the Prairie State.
Just seven miles from Manito, the park's mesmerizing pine plantations, sand prairies, and oak-hickory forests provide a serene atmosphere for an escape in your motorhome rental. Book an RV in Mason County and let the adventure begin. Sand Ridge State Forest is only a 40-minute drive away from Pekin and Lewistown, so you can choose where you pick up your RV rental.
Spend your day enjoying the sun or the brisk autumn air by going to a picnic with your friends or family. The Turkey Pass Picnic Area is an ideal place to get a glimpse of the untouched nature that is Sand Ridge State Forest. The picnic area is located just north of Pine Campground and is equipped with grills, tables, water, and toilets.
Another great way to explore all the hidden treasures of Sand Ridge State Forest is on the equestrian trails. Horse lovers will have the time of their lives since the area offers 50 miles of equestrian pathways with an additional 120 miles of horse-friendly fire roads. If you decide to wander around the park on horseback, you'll find fire pads, hitching rails, and pit-vault toilets along the way.
There are two other ways to get around the park: hiking and snowmobiling. Over 40 miles of hiking trails combined with more than 120 miles of fire roads will keep every hiker happy for days. As for the snowmobiling, you can take advantage of the 24-mile long snowmobile route, but only if the snow is at least four inches deep.
Big game hunters will be thrilled, as hunting at Sand Ridge State Forest is allowed. The area has a high deer population, but it's also packed with the red and grey fox, coyote, raccoon, pheasant, and other smaller quarry. Be sure to read the rules and regulations listed in the Illinois DNR Hunter Fact Sheet before setting out on your hunt.
Camping at Sand Ridge State Forest
Camping at Sand Ridge State Forest offers plenty of options for both RV campers and tent campers. The maximum site length is 55 feet, and most of the sites feature fire pads, water, and vault toilets. All 24 RV-friendly sites are primitive, without any electric or water hookups, but are equipped with a picnic table and fire pits.
The campground's location among the pine plantation makes it a tranquil place to spend a few nights. Other campgrounds have more open space areas which are suitable for larger groups, as well as special campgrounds for equestrian activities.
Exploring the Area
Take the opportunity to explore the area around Sand Ridge State Forest and you'll find a couple of interesting spots nearby. First things first: if you forget to bring your own food, or you want to take a day off from cooking, take a short 10-minute drive and explore the local delicacies. Expand your horizons and you'll find more dining options within 25 minutes of Sand Ridge State Forest. Whether you're craving classic Italian or your favorite American fare, you won't leave the park hungry. Gas stations are also available within a 10-minute drive if you need to top up the tank.
While you're camping in an RV at Sand Ridge State Forest, visit the nearby town of Pekin to witness the “World’s Greatest” Sundial. Located in Mineral Springs Park, this sundial might not be the tallest in the world, but according to the locals, it's the most accurate. Built back in the 1990s, it's made of three sundials that, apart from the time, also show the date as well as the position of the sun.
There's also a scenic driving route in this area that you simply must explore. If you're passing through the area, drive down a stretch of the Illinois River Road to experience 150 miles of breathtaking views. Winding alongside the river and its valley this road will take you past 100 historic and natural sites
And if you haven’t had enough of equestrian activities at the state forest, there's a chance to combine your love for horses and wine just 35 minutes from the park. The family-owned vineyard hosts fun events throughout the year. Enjoy live music during the summertime, or stand-up shows over delicious meals during winter. Also located on the grounds are horse stables and two picturesque lakes.