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Guide to the top parks in Champaign, IL

Parks in Champaign IL | 🌳 State Parks Near Champaign IL + Champaign Park District

Last Updated on: 24th May 2024, 05:34 pm

Famous for its academic campuses and scenic beauty, Champaign, Illinois, is a great place to live for families, young people, and outdoor enthusiasts seeking a rural ambiance with access to amenities. There are just over 650 acres of parklands within the city limits, and even more state parks and nature preserves in the surrounding areas of Central Illinois.

Whether you’re a dog owner looking for somewhere to walk your canine companion or a mountain biker searching for the perfect trail, you’ll find some fantastic parks in Champaign, IL.

Most Champaign parks that are within the city limits are managed by the Champaign Park District, which employs about 65 full-time workers and over 400 part-time and seasonal employees. You can find a full list of all the parks they manage, from Hessel Park to the Human Kinetics Park, as well as community events and other resources on their website.

From small urban green spaces to massive state parks near Champaign, IL, outdoor adventurers will find a variety of parks to choose from. However, with so many options, it can be challenging to know where to begin. So, to help you find the perfect destination for your next outing, here is a list of the best parks in Champaign, Illinois.

West Side Park | A Centrally Located Champaign Park with Interesting Sculptures

West Side Park is a peaceful urban green space in downtown Champaign with a grassy outdoor area and several popular features. The 12.5-acre park is managed by the Champaign Park District and comes equipped with a pavilion, picnic table, walking trails, and a water fountain. 

There are two playgrounds in West Side Park that feature slides, bridges, climbing falls, shades, and other fun features.

Visitors will also find several interesting sculptures around the park, including the Lincoln Megalith, a memorial dedicated to the 16th President of the United States. Whether you’re searching for a quiet place to read a book or the perfect location for a photo shoot, West Side Park is one of the best parks in Champaign, IL.

400 W University Ave, Champaign, IL 61820 (217) 805-4100

Mattis Park | A Peaceful Champaign Park with a Fishing Pond

Mattis Park is another one of the top Champaign-Urbana Parks, with 24 acres of outdoor adventure. Located in Southern Champaign, Mattis Park is near the intersection of US Route 45 and West Windsor Road. The park centers around Mattis Lake, a glistening fishing pond encircled by a 0.5-mile trail. 

Visitors will also find picnic tables, sculptures, gardens, and plenty of open green space to explore or have a picnic. The Decker Piano Garden is a notable attraction in Mattis Park, a small garden beside a piano sculpture. It’s a popular destination for fishermen, bird-watchers, and pet owners searching for a quiet park in Champaign full of beautiful scenery.

601 Devonshire Dr, Champaign, IL 61820 (217) 398-2550

Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve | A Massive Nature Preserve with One of the Best Botanical Gardens in Champaign, IL

Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve is a sprawling 900-acre nature preserve that is one of the top Champaign, Illinois parks for a weekend outing. Located in the nearby communities of Mahomet, IL, and Lake of the Woods, the preserve is managed by the Champaign County Forest Preserve District and features several interesting attractions.

The Museum of the Grand Prairie is a living history museum in the park that features lifelike recreations of Abraham Lincoln’s law practice, a reconstructed blacksmith shop, and several installations for children. The Mabery Gelvin Botanical Garden is also within the park. It features some of the most beautiful flora and fauna in eastern Illinois, as well as a koi pond and Japanese bridge.

Visitors can also explore the multi-purpose trail system, cast a line at the fishing lake, or play a round at the 18-hole golf course. So, if you are looking for a massive public park with no shortage of amenities, Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve is one of the best parks in Champaign-Urbana.

109 S Lake of the Woods Rd, Mahomet, IL 61853 (217) 586-3360


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Robert C. Porter Family Park | A Family-Friendly Park in Champaign with a Prairie-Themed Playground

Anyone with kids will want to pay a visit to the Robert C. Porter Family Park, a 38-acre green space in the southeastern part of the city that the Champaign Park District manages. The park is home to one of the best playgrounds in Illinois, with prairie-themed log slides, climbing walls, swing sets, and more. Visitors will also find plenty of other useful features, including a fishing pond, walking trails, outdoor grills, picnic tables, and so much more. So whether you’re planning a family gathering or just want a quiet place to enjoy the day with your kids, the Robert C. Porter Family Park is the perfect location.

2310 S Rising Rd, Champaign, IL 61822 (217) 398-2550

Kickapoo State Recreation Area | A Breathtaking State Park Near Champaign, IL

For those searching for state parks near Champaign, IL, Kickapoo State Recreation Area is an excellent choice. The massive 2,842-acre state park is located in Vermillion County, about 30 miles east of Champaign near the Indiana border. It’s a popular destination for avid fishermen, hunters, and joggers, with endless trails and open spaces to explore.

The park features 22 lakes and access to the Middle Fork River, which is known to be fully stocked with catfish, bluegills, sunfish, and bass. The park is also a known habitat for deer, doves, quail, pheasant, rabbit, and other critters, which makes it a great spot for hunting.

Some of the best campgrounds in Champaign, IL, can be found in the Kickapoo State Recreation Area, with two major camping and RV areas featuring over 184 sites. If you need to stock up on supplies, the Kickapoo Adventures shop also sells bait and tackle and offers kayak and canoe rentals. Whether you’re searching for the perfect place to go jogging or state-of-the-art campgrounds near Champaign, Illinois, Kickapoo State Recreation Area has it all.

10906 Kickapoo Park Rd, Oakwood, IL 61858 (217) 442-4915

Heron View Forest Preserve | A Peaceful Nature Preserve with Scenic Hiking Trails

Heron View Forest Preserve is a 98-acre nature preserve managed by the Champaign County Forest Preserves District. With its gorgeous hickory and oak trees and beautiful views of the Sangamon River, Heron View is a popular destination for those in search of a scenic hike through the woods. The 1.4-acre trail is an ideal place for hiking, biking, or bird-watching, with a large population of great blue Herons that live in the Sycamore trees along the river.

The preserve is very low-key, and you won’t find as many enticing attractions as some of the other destinations. However, for those looking for a peaceful hike who want to see gorgeous examples of flora and fauna in their natural habitat, the Heron View Forest Preserve is one of the best parks in Champaign Urbana, IL.

399 County Rd 2650 N, Mahomet, IL 61853


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Dana Colbert Park | A Family-Friendly Champaign Park with Excellent Amenities

Dana Colbert Park is another one of the top parks in Champaign, IL. Located in the nearby village of Savoy, the 55-acre public park is situated off S. Dunlap Ave, about 5 miles south of downtown Champaign. Visitors will find an 8-acre lake fully stocked with fish (although it’s catch and release only), as well as walking and biking paths, playgrounds, pavilions, sand volleyball courts, and many acres of open green space.

It’s pet-friendly and features plenty of paved paths, making it one of the best dog parks in Champaign, IL. It also has several state-of-the-art playgrounds equipped with large slides, child-parent swings, climbing platforms, and other unique pieces. Dana Colbert Park offers everything you need to host a family gathering or enjoy a pleasant Sunday afternoon. Plus, its location near Willard Airport makes it one of the best parks in Champaign, IL, to watch planes land and take off.

203 E Church St, Savoy, IL 61874 (217) 359-3550

Walnut Point State Park | A State Park Near Champaign Offering Summer and Winter Fun

For those looking to escape the city for a relaxing weekend, Walnut Point is another one of the best state parks near Champaign, IL. Located about 40 miles south of Champaign in Douglas County, Illinois, Walnut Point is one of the top destinations in eastern Illinois for fishing, hunting, camping, and hiking.

The 671-acre site is centered around a 60-acre manmade lake, which is great for kayaking and fishing. The park also accommodates multiple types of camping, ranging from class A (which features electrical outlets and public showers) to class C (traditional tent camping.) Visitors will also find plenty of hiking trails, picnic tables, playgrounds, and horseshoe pits. 

It’s also a popular destination for ice fishing and ice skating when the lake freezes over in the winter. So, no matter what time of year you’re planning on visiting, Walnut Point State Park is one of the best state parks near Champaign, IL.

2331 East CR 370 N, Oakland, IL 61943 (217) 346-3336

Map of Parks in Champaign, IL

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