Located just outside of Elgin, Burnidge Forest Preserve is a challenging, but approachable ride at a good price point. I like the ride out here a lot. The staff at this particular site are some of the nicest people I have encountered in the park ranger profession. The forest preserve itself is lovely. You’ll be able to walk or ride around on a number of trails through the trees and prairie (mostly mowed grass trails). With rates at $25/night for electric sites, $15/night for primitive sites, and a grocery store within 5 miles, Burnidge Forest Preserve provides an affordable and enjoyable bike camp experience.
The campground itself is pretty average. There are no showers, but if you’re adventurous, you can take a bath at one of the well-water pumps. There are flush toilets for you fancy folk, pit toilets near the primitive sites. The sites are spaced slightly further apart from one another than what is standard in Illinois; however the bulk of the sites are occupied by RV goers. A gigantic moving house really gets in the way of feeling like you’re actually in nature. The RV folks are typically nice though and willing to lend you starter fluid (more on that to follow).
Thankfully, Burnidge also has primitive campgrounds available. While the primitive campgrounds don’t have electric, forcing you to go without your iPhone for up to 8 hours of not sleeping time, they are noticeably more private than their smartphone-charging electric friends. The primitive sites are slightly larger, owing to the lack of a driveway. Primitive and electric sites are equally well-equipped with actually usable and clean picnic tables and fire rings with grates. You should note that Burnidge does not cover its firewood. If it has rained in the last few days, count on having some trouble getting your fire started or spending a lot of time digging through the pile to find the least soaked pieces. This campground should consider a communal can of Kingsford, a tarp, or both.
Do you have planning anxiety? GREAT. This campground doesn’t take reservations, but with over 100 sites, you should be just fine. The grounds at the campground seem to always be half-full at best, but I still haven’t been out here on a day without a downpour. Additionally, the campground, as with many campgrounds in the area, has a 6 person/2 tent per site limit. I have successfully put 3 tents on one site, but only with a large degree of sad faces and discussing the unfairness of this to people who aren’t car camping.
The ride to Burnidge is pretty pleasant, mostly on trails, some of which are even paved, but DO NOT listen to Google Maps about how to get here. I created a map of the preferred route for arrival for a BFF Club ride I did in 2015. While I’m sure you can figure out your own way out of the city, I highly recommend using my directions from Elgin. It’s also worth noting that the entire last 5 miles of this route is uphill. It blows EVERY TIME. Some of the hills are not insignificant, so you’ll also want to make sure you have your load well balanced on your bike, especially on the return trip. I frequently hit 30+ mph fully loaded on the way out. Even rolling 700×32 felt a little precarious with road quality also taken into consideration.
Overall Score: 3.5/5
Ride Quality: 4/5
Proximity to grocery: 3/5