Everything you need to know about Champaign County Forest Preserve District’s Homer Lake in Homer, IL
Fishing, Hiking, Nature Play: Homer Lake has everything your family needs to get back to nature in Champaign County
It’s hard to believe, but there’s a water recreation area tucked away in the cornfields of Central Illinois that area families call a true local gem. It’s not just the meandering waterside views, ten miles of hiking trails or gorgeous “playscape” that makes Homer Lake a treat for Champaign-Urbana families of all ages. We think you’ll fall in love with the feeling of “slowing down” when you head east and set foot on Homer Lake‘s property for the day, nestled right among the towns of Homer, Ogden and nearby St. Joseph.
Looking for all the information specifically on the Homer Lake Natural Playscape? We have a whole post for that right here.
Homer Lake, owned and operated by the Champaign County Forest Preserve District, is a true escape for families of all ages. Some of the activities that draw people:
- walking, running or biking on paved trails
- fishing or kayaking/boating
- getting dirty in the playscape and surrounding area
- playing at the playground
- renting a pavilion and/or grilling out or picnicking
- sledding or cross country skiing in the winter
- hunting for wildflowers in the spring
- meandering through the (free) Homer Lake Interpretive Center (we have a whole article just about that!)
Tips For Your Trip From Other Parents
- What are you planning to do while you’re at the lake? Things can be pretty spread out here, so decide where you want to park ahead of time, and if you plan to relocate your vehicle at any point during your visit. There’s really just one main point of entry into Homer Lake and our suggestion is to go park over by the playscape and drive over and visit the interpretive center on your way out (UNLESS you plan to get super wet in the water, then maybe flip flop it).
- Figure out where the closest bathrooms are to where you’re hanging out when you arrive. We’ve had to drive to bathrooms before. There are bathrooms just across the way from the playscape but our recommendation is to make sure they’re unlocked when you arrive BEFORE you need them.
- Bring sunscreen, bug spray, towels and a change of clothes. It’s just a good idea. Trust us. Be prepared.
- Have littles? Homer Lake is a great spot for strollers but if you’re going to be between the playscape, along the lake or over by the playground, you may want to bring an infant carrier for your youngest babes. There are steps, hills and other things that might impede an easy stroller ride.
- Be present! As we said above, we think you’ll fall in love with “slowing down” at Homer Lake, so unplug (except for maybe a photo or two) because your phones likely won’t work great anyways and just enjoy some time in some of the best nature we have just outside Champaign-Urbana.
Is Homer Lake good for toddlers?
Homer Lake is excellent for toddlers! They’ll love watching the water and playing around at the lake. Near the playscape, there’s sand, a “house” you can walk in and other cool features, in addition to the water. They’ll also love the playground! We do recommend you bring water shoes (for gripping purposes) if you’re going to let your littles in the water features. We don’t want your toddler to slip on the rocks.
What amenities are offered?
Homer Lake offers many amenities including:
- Approximately 10 miles of trails. There’s a little something for everyone!
- Lake to fish (review local fishing guidelines and check out our tips here)
- Great location to kayak or paddleboard (if you can bring your own, no boat rentals here)
- Picnic tables, grills and rentable pavilions
- Restrooms throughout the park
- Playground and other recreational areas
- Educational Homer Lake Interpretive Center, free admission
- Hills for sledding
How are the bathrooms?
The bathrooms are usually in great condition but you need to make sure they’re unlocked before you count on them. Check them when you arrive for your visit and figure out where the next closest ones are if the ones near you are closed.
Are there picnic tables and grills?
Yes! And they are everywhere. You’ll find an abundance of them located throughout the park and in recreational areas. The ones in highest demand will be located on the east side of the lake near the playscape and the playground. There will not be as many people on the west side of the lake, generally.
Is there any shade?
Yes! There is an abundance of shade. The trails are especially shaded and the playground offers great shade, too. The playscape is sunny though, so bring your sunscreen.
When is this park open?
Homer Lake is open at 7 a.m. year-round and closing times vary from 5 p.m.-9 p.m. seasonally. Click here for their full list of hours.
What is parking like?
Parking exists throughout the entire park. You’ll see marked, designated areas for it.
How do you get there?
From Champaign-Urbana take I-74 east past St Joseph and to the I-49 SOUTH exit towards Ogden (the I-49 is a different exit miles away and not the one you’re looking for). Head south on I-49 and drive through the town. You’ll drive through some farm land and see a brown “Homer Lake” sign instructing you to turn right. It’s easy to miss so slow down as you’re looking for it! Follow the road down towards the lake and follow the next brown sign instructing you to turn left and you’ll be led right into the park. Stop at the interpretive center as soon as you get into the park or follow it to the left and around until you see the rock features along the right and a gravel parking lot for the playscape.
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