It is a drive from Chicagoland, but worth the drive. Try Red River Gorge in the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky. From I-65/I-80/94 junction to the exit East of Lexington is about 7 hours (give or take, on a good day
), but it is some of the most beautiful terrain around. Cave Run Lake is about 45 min N/NE, so that may incentive itself. There is excellent fishing for trout along the Red River and Indian Creek, and in Mill Creek Lake in Natural Bridge State Park there are bass, trout, catfish. If you have a canoe or small boat, bring it – you will need it for Mill Creek Lake, as it gets a lot of pressure along the shoreline at the ramp, but due to the terrain surrounding the lake itself, that’s about it. There are signs for no camping along the lake, but once you get back in it, no one would even know you are there. You can camp in Natural Bridge State Park, but it is organized camping (ie, lights out at 11 pm and no alcohol – period
), so I would not recommend it.
There is a $3/night parking fee to park in the Gorge area, but if you find the right spot, you would be hard-pressed to see anyone else the entire weekend. Even if you did, It has the most geological formations per sq. mile anywhere in the world, has rock climbing, rappelling, hiking, etc, and it is all free, minus the overnight parking fee, groceries, firewood, etc. I make 2 trips a year there and it is definitely worth it, in my opinion. If you want more info, drop me a PM.
http://www.fs.fed.us/r8/boone/districts ... orge.shtml