Summer is nearly upon us, which means you’re probably starting to think about ways to enjoy The Great Outdoors! Hiking is one of the most rewarding summer activities – you explore new areas, get in touch with nature, and get great exercise. While the lack of mountains in Northern Illinois may not make it a famous hiking destination, we’ve got a list of awesome hikes you can do if you’re in the Greater Chicago area.
Chicago Lakefront Trail
This one is for beginner hikers or those who don’t have the time or means to travel outside the city. It’s a popular walking, jogging, and biking path along Lake Michigan. You’ll enjoy stunning views of the lake and skyline while passing through various parks and beaches along the way.
While the trail is flat and paved, you can make it as strenuous as you want – there are over 18 miles of trail! Other great trails within the city of Chicago include:
· Lincoln Park Trail: This 5+ mile loop trail is more wooded and includes a section of the Chicago Lake Trail.
· The 606: This nearly 3 miles path is on a reclaimed elevated rail line.
If you want to get out of the city for better scenery and more challenging hikes, read on!
Located about an hour outside the city in Darien, Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve is a beautiful natural area that is home to over 700 native plant species in both prairie and woodland settings. There are 11 miles of trails here, which you can also cross-country ski on in the winter. And the slightly hilly terrain adds manageable challenge. In the spring and summer, the park is a perfect place to spot birds and wildflowers.
You can view the trail map to plan your route here. Make sure not to miss the cascading Rocky Glen Waterfall or the view from the Sawmill Creek bluff overlook.
Indiana Dunes State Park
For a different kind of scenery, drive across the state line to Indiana Dunes State Park (about one hour from Chicago). This wild and primitive landscape features rugged dunes towering 200 feet over Lake Michigan. Hiking trails wind through both the woods and the dune landscape, with overlooks towards the lake. And if you work up a sweat hiking, you can head down to the beach to cool off after!
Starved Rock State Park
You only need to drive an hour and a half outside of Chicago to feel like you’re a world away. Starved Rock State Park in LaSalle County is a stunning wilderness area on the Illinois River. It has many steep bluff and canyons, which have breathtaking waterfalls pouring over their sides in the Spring or after a heavy rain.
Hiking along the bottom of the canyons will get you up close the waterfalls. If you want a view from on high, take the trail to the Lover’s Leap Overlook. This truly is one of Illinois’s most beautiful parks, so if you’re looking to snap some beautiful photos on your hike, this is your spot.
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