Chicago Camping – Bullfrog Lake

Living in a city as large as Chicago, it sometimes feels impossible to escape the city lights and sounds. Other than the beach and small parks, outdoor green space can feel pretty sparse and the best options for a quick getaway are hours outside the city.

Having recently purchased a fancy new tent, Ben and I wanted to find an overnight Chicago camping adventure to test it out somewhere other than the living room…

Tent Testing

With a bit of research, we found several campgrounds that had been recently renovated or newly opened within Cook County Forest Preserves. We settled on Camp Bullfrog Lake, only 30 minutes from downtown Chicago!

We arrived Saturday afternoon and managed to set up our tent through some gusty winds. The campground has around 30 sites plus cabins for groups. Our site was one of the few non-electronic, tent-only sites on the far side of the campground.

Tent at Bullfrog Lake

Campsites don’t offer much privacy, but the campground sits on the edge of Bullfrog Lake and is surrounded by forest. There were lots of people fishing, and this was our view for the day!

Bullfrog Lake - Chicago Camping

We spent the day hiking trails in the Palos Trail System and even got in a trail run the next morning. The trails are a mix of dirt single track with some wider crushed limestone paths. We passed plenty of other hikers and mountain bikers!

We ended the evening with hot dogs and s’mores (of course) and sat around the campfire. The campground got fairly quiet once it got dark, but we heard stories from the staff that they sometimes get some pretty rowdy groups in the summer.


Overall, I would definitely recommend the surrounding trails in the Palos Preserves for hiking, trail running or mountain biking. You can find a map of the trails here.

If you’re looking for Chicago camping options, Bullfrog Lake provides a good option close to the city. It is pricey ($35/night for Cook County residents), and you may run into some noisy groups, but the surrounding area is beautiful, the staff is very friendly, and there are lots of nearby outdoor activities.

Let us know if you’ve experienced any of Cook County’s Forest Preserves or have your own favorite campsites near Chicago!


Leave a Comment