Found in the midwestern United States, Illinois is surrounded by Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky, and Indiana. It is well-known for its largest city, Chicago, as well as being part of the greater St. Louis Area. The state is also the birthplace of the first McDonald’s and Twinkies, two of the most iconic fast foods in the world, and is 80% farmland, beating out all the other states. It was also home to Bob Newhart, Michelle Obama, and Ronald Reagan.
Illinois has hot summers in the upper 80s and lower 90s, so outdoor fun is popular during that time. Winters are cold but many residents spend their time outdoors then too, ice skating, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. You may not expect a midwestern state like Illinois to have any beaches but you can find more than 40 of them along Lake Michigan as well as some major rivers, lakes, and creeks. We found 17 beaches in Illinois that allow pups so you can visit them with your fur baby.
Horseshoe Lake State Park Beach
In the southwestern section of Illinois, Horseshoe Lake State Park is located off Highway 111 in Granite City. The historic park has evidence of inhabitants dating back to 8000 BC around the same time the Cahokia Mounds were built nearby. The whole park, which has almost 3,000 acres, is dog-friendly as long as your pupster is leashed at all times. Boating, swimming, fishing, and camping are the most popular activities here, and it is quite busy during the summertime.
If you do plan to stay overnight, get there early because they do not take reservations so it first comes, first served. And with just 26 sites, they fill up before noon. There are also several picnic areas with barbecue grills and two playgrounds for the little humans. The huge lake is full of carp, crappie, bass, and catfish, but you will need an Illinois fishing license. And be sure to bring extra dog waste bags for cleanup.
Eldon Hazlet State Park
An hour to the east of Horseshoe Lake in Carlyle, Eldon Hazlet State Park can be found on Carlyle Lake, which is the largest lake in Illinois at 26,000 acres. And you are welcome to bring along your pupster with you whether you are going for the day or for the whole week. There are over 360 campsites to choose from, and you can reserve your favorite one online. Do it early, though, because this is a popular lake for locals as well as visitors.
With such a huge lake, boating is an obvious pastime for anyone who visits including sailing, which is very popular here. But you and Fido are welcome to swim anywhere along the miles of the lakefront as long as you keep him leashed and clean up after him. There are also eight large picnic areas with dozens of tables and grills to use as well as nine miles of hiking trails.
White Oak Park
White Oak Park is much smaller but is the largest park in its city at 75 acres. It is just 150 miles to the north of Eldon Hazlet and 44 miles from Peoria in Bloomington. The fishing here is awesome in what used to be a gravel pit many years ago. And your fur puppy can play all day around the lake as long as he is leashed. He can even get in and cool off if he wants to but do not let him get too close to the anglers.
The park also has picnic areas and a shelter with tables, grills, and restrooms. If you have any human kids with you, they will love the fun playground with swings, slides, and climbing equipment. There is a one-mile paved walking path around the lake or you can have a seat and toss in a line to try and catch a whopper. Do not forget your fishing license and doggie bags.
Heading east, you can reach Detweiller Park in about 45 minutes just north of Peoria. This popular park has 760 acres filled with redbud trees, oaks, and mighty maples as well as lakefront space to play on the Upper Peoria Lake with your leashed canine companion. Many people come here from all around to float on the lake, do some fishing, and go kayaking. Hiking is also popular here with several trails throughout the park totaling more than five miles.
They even have a BMX track in the southeastern corner of the park for biking enthusiasts. Even if you cannot bike with your dog, it is always fun to watch the others. Across from the track, there are playgrounds and sand volleyball as well as restrooms and a picnic shelter. On the other side of Highway 29, there is about a mile of waterfront for you and Fifi to enjoy. Just keep him leashed and pick up anything he drops.
Delabar State Park
In Henderson County, about one and a half hours west of Detweiler Park, Delabar State Park is situated on the Mississippi River across from the Iowa border in Henderson County. This is a popular pup park, especially for those who want to get out on the water for some rafting or tubing. Put a doggie life vest on your pup, and you can float all day. Even if you did not bring a tube or raft, you can rent one here.
With almost 90 acres, you and your cuddly companion can explore the woods and waterfront on the two trails that total nearly two miles. It is a well-known spot for birders with over 50 species of feathered friends including red-wing blackbirds, finches, waterfowl, and quail. You may also see deer, turkeys, raccoons, rabbits, and squirrels. Picnic areas can be found in the north, south, and middle of the park. Bring some food to eat or barbecue and plenty of water and pup waste baggies.
Starved Rock State Park
Two hours to the east in Ogelsby, Starved Rock State Park is part of the Starved Rock Nature Preserve along the Illinois River. It was the second state park in Illinois, opening way back in 1911, and it boasts 18 canyons, sandstone bluffs, and 13+ miles of trails. Your leashed pooch is welcome to join you along these trips, where you can find waterfalls, overhangs, and overlooks with incredible views. The forests are thick with cedar, pine, hickory, maple, and oaks.
Fishing and boating are both popular on the river, and although you cannot swim due to dangerous currents, you can let your pup cool his paws in the shallows as long as you keep him on a short leash. Starved Rock State Park also has eight picnic shelters and many picnic areas with tables and grills. To camp here, you have to reserve your space, and it is recommended that you do so at least six months in advance because there are only 129 spots that fill up quickly.
Jackson Bark Park
Located in Jackson Park, Jackson Bark in Chicago is about 100 miles from Starved Rock State Park. This pup popular off-leash dog park is packed with fun things to do like jumping through tires, climbing on ramps, running through tunnels, and splashing in the doggie pools. There are also weave poles, bridges, and hoops for your fur puppy to enjoy. Bring along some tug toys, his favorite ball, and a frisbee because there is tons of space to run around.
Your pup also has access to Lake Michigan here so you can take him out there to let him swim around. You can even join him if you like. The water is great from June through August so pack a swimming suit along with extra doggie cleanup bags. The park has dispensers, but you should bring your own anyway just in case. It was named one of the top dog parks in Chicago and has been listed in magazines, shown on CBS News, and even has a Wikipedia page of its own.
Fred Anderson Dog Park
Just a few minutes from Jackson Bark Park, Fred Anderson Park may be small, but it is packed with fun things to do. And nobody needs to wear a leash! There is a long lazy river where your fur baby can run and splash with the other pups and several fountains they like to try to bite into. There is a tunnel to run through as well as lots of extra space on the turf where you and your pooch can play ball.
There are two sides, one for small pups and another for big dogs. Your cuddly canine will have fun climbing on the structures, and there is even a pool to cool off in. Who needs the beach when you have all this and water too? The dog park is located in the south loop of the 1.2-acre community park. You will have no trouble finding it. Just look for all the dogs.
Northerly Island Park
Not even two miles from Anderson Park, Northerly Island Park is just across the water from Soldier Field on a peninsula that is part of the Museum Campus. Along the southern end of Lake Michigan, Northerly Island is not actually an island but a peninsula that is over 90 acres. Leashed dogs are welcome to join their pup parents at the waterfront and in the surrounding park area with the exception of the designated swimming beach and the nature preserve at the southern end of the park.
But there is plenty of beach space along the lake where you and your pup can swim. If you have the little humans with you, there are a couple of playgrounds they can enjoy, and the park also has several trails you can explore. You will need to bring your own plastic bags to clean up after your pooch and extra water for both of you.
One of the most well-known parks in the world, Lincoln Park is the largest in Chicago with close to 1,200 acres along southern Lake Michigan. There are actually a few beaches in this park, including North Avenue, Fullerton, and Oak Street Beach. Your fur puppy is welcome in the park as long as you keep him on a lead at all times. There are a few places in the park that do not allow dogs, like the Lincoln Park Zoo, the museums, and the conservatory to name a few.
Although there are some places in the park where dogs cannot go, like the museums, the zoo, and some of the shops, your pup is welcome on the trails and in the general public areas of the park as long as he is on a leash. And there are several dog-friendly sections of beach here, including Belmont Harbor and Montrose Dog Beach, which are mentioned above. Be sure to take a walk on the trails, where you can see some awesome art installations.
Wiggly Field Dog Park
What a cute name for a dog park! Wiggly Field Dog Park is less than two miles from Lincoln Park inside Noethling Park. It got this adorable name from Wrigley Field, the home of the Cubs baseball team, which is only about a mile to the north. It is one of the most popular and well-known dog parks in the state, and it has been featured in Bark Magazine, on Animal Planet, and in Dog Fancy, as well as other magazines.
You may not get the sandy beach here at Wiggly Field, but you will get six dog swimming pools for your pooch to play in. Summertime is the perfect time to visit with all the pools open and the other water features your fur baby can cool off in. But even if you come in the winter, there is still plenty of fun to be had here with agility equipment like ramps, hoops, and tunnels. There is also lots of room to play catch and a separate section for small and shy dogs.
Belmont Harbor Beach
Next up, directly across from Wrigley Field, Belmont Harbor is a great place to bring your fur puppy to play in the water without restraints. There is a small patch of soft golden sand, about a quarter of an acre, in Belmont Harbor on Lake Michigan. Because it is one of the only fenced off-leash dog beaches around, Belmont Harbor Beach can get crowded during the summer, so get there early to get a good parking spot.
Luckily, the main people who visit the beach are pup parents and their pups so your canine companion will have plenty of furry friends to play with. And you can sit back and watch the boats going in and out of the harbor or play in the water along with your pooch. Although there are no restrooms, you can go to one of the nearby harbor restrooms. Also, make sure you have enough dog cleanup bags to clean up after your dog.
Montrose Dog Beach
Right up the coast along Lake Michigan, Montrose Dog Beach was the first official off-leash beach in Chicago. It is also fenced-in, so you do not have to worry about your wagtail buddy getting distracted and running off. The large sandy space for pups is perfect for spending hot summer days cooling off in the water, and you will see many of the local pup parents here too. Bring along a cooler with snacks and drinks for a picnic on the sand if you plan to stay all day.
Besides swimming, your cuddly canine will love being able to play ball and frisbee without being held back by a leash so bring some toys. Also, remember that dogs are not allowed in the other area of Montrose Beach, so stay in the dog beach section. They do supply puppy poo baggies, but it helps if you bring your own because sometimes they run out when it is crowded. And it is almost always crowded.
Two miles from Montrose Dog Beach, also known as Edgewater Dog Park, or Hollywood Beach, this fun woofers beach was named after a local alderwoman and President of the Edgewater Community Council, Kathy Osterman. The rules here are simple. Keep your pooch in the pooch park area on South Dusable Lake Shore Drive and West Bryn Mawr Avenue. The rest of the beach is off-limits for fur babies. But the rest of Osterman Park is dog-friendly if your dog is on a lead.
There are concession stands here during the summer months, so you can grab some grub for both of you to enjoy on the beach or at one of the picnic tables in the park. You can also take a walk on the Lakefront Trail that goes all the way to South Shore Park past Jackson Park, Lincoln Park, Soldier Field, and Grant Park. It is 18 miles long if you want to walk the whole thing. But you better have on some comfortable shoes and pack plenty of doggie bags and water.
Centennial Park Dog Beach
Go five miles to the north up the coast of Lake Michigan from Osterman Beach, and you will find Centennial Park Dog Beach. It is right next to Evanston Beach right before you get to Clark Street Beach. This is a fenced stretch of beach where pups can play in the water and on the sand without having to be leashed the whole time. If you are worried about your dog running off, you can keep him on a leash of course.
If you get hungry, grab something from one of the local eateries or bring something with you. There is a nice picnic area called Arrington Lagoon at Dawes Park just south of the beach where you and your fur puppy can have a meal before going back to the water. You will need to bring your own dog waste bags for cleanup, though, because there are no dispensers here.
Gillson Dog Beach
Gillson Dog Beach is at the southern end of Gilson Park, about three miles from Centennial Park, where Wilmette Harbor meets Lake Michigan. It is north of Lighthouse Beach and south of Wilmette Sailing Beach. One thing to note, the price of visiting this beach if you are not a resident is high. You will need to pay $229 for a permit to use the beach. It may seem expensive, but it is good for a whole year if you are going to be in Chicago for a while.
If you plan to visit the rest of the park and the other part of the beach, your canine compadre is welcome but has to be on a leash no longer than 10 feet long. But that is plenty of length for playing and swimming. The park also features sailboat rentals, an outdoor fitness course, tennis courts, kayak and canoe launching, and picnic tables with grills.
Beck Lake Dog Beach
Last but not least, Beck Lake has an off-leash dog area that will blow your mind! It has 40 acres of open space for dogs with a good recall to run around without being on a leash. And it is right on a large pond just for dogs where your furry friend can swim as much as he wants. Beck Lake is also a nice place to let your pooch cool his paws off, but make sure he does not get too close to the anglers. It is a popular fishing lake.
In fact, Beck Lake is almost 40 acres as well, with a maximum depth of over 18 feet. It even has an island in the middle of it that you can reach by boat. Or you can just enjoy the banks of the water with your pooch, letting him sniff all the new scents, or you can play a game of fetch or frisbee. Do not forget to get an Illinois fishing license if you plan to fish, and always bring lots of waste baggies to clean up after your dog.
The Final Woof
There are not too many boat tours that allow your furry friend to join you. But Mercury’s Canine Cruise is special because they have a tour just for dogs and their pup parents. In fact, they even have a private potty room lined with newspaper for pups that gotta go. Seadog Cruises in Chicago by Hornblower is another pooch popular boat ride you can enjoy. Afterward, take your cuddly canine shopping at the Navy Pier where many of their shops welcome dogs. When you are done shopping, you and Fido can go grab some tacos and a beer at Broken English Taco Pub at one of their three Illinois locations.