Hiking in Chicago: Explore the 15 Best Hiking Spots in Chicago

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Famous for its picturesque skyline, miles of sandy beaches, etc., Chicago also encompasses some of the most adventurous hiking spots. Located within an hour or two drive from downtown Chicago these well-maintained hiking spots are perfect for novice and experienced hikers. Just a short drive to the outskirts of the city will take you to some of these hidden gems that are the epitome of adventure and thrill. Are you ready to take on an adventure, explore bountiful nature while hiking along the beautiful trails?

Listed below are the 15 best trails for Hiking in Chicago that you wouldn't want to miss:

1. Chicago Lakefront Trail

Chicago Lakefront Trail
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Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, the Chicago Lakefront Trail features several beaches, recreational facilities. It connects four major Lakefront Parks, which are Jackson Park, Grant Park, Maggie Daley Park, and Garden of the Phoenix. This paved trail is perfect for hikers, bikers, skateboarders, etc., and attracts many residents and visitors all-year-round. Ideal for hikers of all skill levels, the trail is the best way to enjoy Chicago outdoors without leaving the city.
Address: 540 N Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60611
Timings: 6.00 AM to 7.00 PM
Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 2.4 Miles, 10 minutes drive from Chicago.
Length of the trail: 19 Miles
Pet-Friendly: Dogs on a leash

2. Bloomingdale Trail and Park

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Being the backbone of the trail and park network called the “606” and situated on the northwest side of Chicago, The Bloomingdale Trail and Park is an elevated rail trail. Paved with asphalt/concrete, the trail is also ideal for activities like biking, inline skating, and wheelchair accessible. Numerous parks, historical sites are present along the trail route, with coffee shops, bars, and restaurants within the trail’s vicinity.
Address: W Bloomingdale Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
Timings: 6.00 AM to 11.00 PM
Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 5.3 Miles, 10 minutes drive.
Length of the trail: 14 kilometers or 2.7 miles

3. Ottawa Trail Woods

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Spread across 184 –acres of land, the Ottawa Trail Woods features a long stretch of paves trail, single-track forest trail, to crushed stone trail. Visitors can also enjoy kayaking or canoeing at the Des Plaines Res River situated alongside the woods.
Address: 200 W 47th St Illinois and Michigan Canal, Lyons, IL 60534, USA
Timings: 7.00 AM to 7.00 PM
Pet-Friendly: Yes

4. Starved Rock State Park

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The Starved Rock State Park is one of the popular attractions in the state that offers impeccable hiking trails. With a rugged landscape sculpted by glaciers, the park also features several caverns, cliffs, canyons, etc., that welcomes millions of visitors all-year-round. The hiking trails at the park are open all year round, with trail maps located at all access points and easy navigation access points. The different short and long hikes along the park offer several options for hikers of all levels.
Address: 2678 E 875th Rd, Oglesby, IL 61348
Length of the Trail: 13 Miles
Pet-Friendly: Dogs on a Leash.

5. Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

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Spread across 225 acres of land, the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie features over 30 miles of trails. Twenty-two miles of trails are accessible by hikers, bikers, equestrians, whereas over 10 miles of trails for hiking only. Picnic tables and portable bathrooms are available at the trailheads, but there is no drinking water. 
Address: IL-53, Wilmington, IL 60481
Timings: 8.00 AM to 4.30 PM, Sunday: Closed
Pet-Friendly: Yes, restricted to designated trails

6. Indiana Dunes State Park

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The Indiana Dunes State Park has ten trail systems, with the popular ones being the Western Beach Trail, Portage Lakefront, Tollestune Dune, 3-Dune Challenge, Trail 10, Trail 9, and many more. Following the loop through prairies, woods, ponds, and the 250 steps, the Western Beach Trail leads to a spectacular view of the dunes. The other trails include the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk, paved trails for all those who need an accessible hike. With a little history of dunes along the route like the Tollestune Dune and the Little Calumet Trail System, these trails are perfect for hikers of all levels. 
Address: 1600 N 25 E, Chesterton, IN 46304
Timings: 7.00 AM to 11.00 PM
Difficulty: Moderate- Difficult, Easy to Moderate
Length of the trail: 1.5 to 5.5 Miles
Distance: 50.1 Miles, 50 minutes’ drive to the Park.

7. Kankakee River State Park

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Amid the naturalistic setting, the Kankakee River State Park offers several off-road trails. Spread across 4000 acres of land, the park stretches across the north and south side of the Kankakee River. Trails on the north side of the river are for hikers/bikers and are quite scenic. One of the best hikes in the park is the 3-mile loop trail along Rock Creek, with a spectacular view of the limestone canyon and a waterfall. There are ample washrooms and water fountains available along the route of the trail. 
Address: 5314 W, IL-102, Bourbonnais, IL 60914
Timings: 6.30 AM to 8.00 PM
Difficulty: Moderate
Length of the Trail: 10.0 Miles
Distance: 50. 4 Miles, 
Pet-Friendly: Yes, the trails are dog-friendly.

8. North Branch Trail

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The North Branch Trail System is a network of paved and unpaved trails that stretch over 20 miles along the Chicago River. The trail system is vast and features many ecological restoration sites with varied native wildlife along the route. The trail is accessed from several points like the LaBagh Woods, Forest Glen Woods, Bunker Hill, Linne Woods, and many more. These trails are divided into introductory, intermediate, and advanced, with hiking options for all levels of hikers.  
Difficulty: Paved Loop around Skokie Lagoons, Out-and-back between Bunker Hill and Linne Woods,  and an advanced trail from Bunker Hill to Chicago Botanic Garden. 
Address: N Branch Trail, Morton Grove, IL 60053
Time to Complete the Hike: 3.5 to 4 Hours
Length of the Trail: 5 Miles to 15 plus Miles. 
Distance from Chicago: 17.9 Miles, 21 Minutes’ drive.

9. Matthiessen State Park 

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 The Matthiessen State Park comprises canyons, prairie, streams, and forests with hiking trails that lengthen over 5 Miles. These well-marked trails and well-surfaced trails are perfect for a leisure walk, and a challenging hike with trail maps are installed at major intersections. It is advised that hikers stay on the marked trail as the park has deep numerous canyons and cliffs, and it might be dangerous. Rest assured, hikers can enjoy the varied flora and fauna along the route of the trail. 
Address: 2500 IL-178, Oglesby, IL 61348
Timings: 7.00 AM to 8.30 PM
Difficulty: Easy-Moderate
Length of the Trail: 5 Miles
Distance from Chicago: 95.9 Miles, 1-Hour 36 minutes’ drive 
Alcohol is prohibited. 

10. Morton Arboretum

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Encircling the Meadow Lake, the trails in Morton Arboretum are well-tended, covered in mulch, which makes them ideal for hikers and pedestrians. These trails offer scenic vistas, along with a hike among the deep woods, prairies, and wetlands. One such hike trail is the Heritage Trail in Morton Arboretum that allows the hikers to experience nature in new and intimate ways.
Address: 4100 IL-53 S, Lisle, IL 60532
Timings: 6.00 AM to 7.00 PM
Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 27.3 Miles, 36 Minutes’ drive from Chicago.
Length of the trail: 16 Miles

11. Lincoln Park Trail

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Located on the bank of River Sangamon, the Lincoln Park Trail is a moderately trafficked wooded trail. Paved with asphalt, the trail is mostly flat with a few low hills and is accessible for biking, inline skating, etc. Visible from the trail are also some classic old neighbourhoods and old sections of Greenwood Cemetery. 
Address: 500-5700 N. Lake Shore Drive Chicago, IL 60614
Timings: 6.00 AM to 11.00 PM
Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 5.2 Miles, 12 minutes drive to the trail
Length of the Trail: 5.5 Miles of Loop Trail
Pet-Friendly: Yes
Best time to visit: March until October.

12. Ned Brown Forest Preserve

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Popularly known as Buss Woods, the Ned Brown Forest Preserve stretches across 3700 acres of land and feature trails for pedestrians, bikers. The preserve also features upland forest, elk pastor, largest fishing and boating water, making it an ideal spot for hiking in Chicago, amongst other adventure sports. 
Address: Rolling Meadows, IL 60008
Distance: 24.0 miles, 24 minutes drive to the trail.
Length of the Trail: 10.4 Miles, paved and unpaved trails
Pet-Friendly: Dogs on a Leash

13. Glacial Park-Conservation Area

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Spread across 3400 acres of land, the Glacial Park Conservation Area features a heavily trafficked trail along with a lake nearby. Besides hiking, visitors can indulge in recreational activities like canoeing, horseback riding, fishing, etc., along the trail route. Considered one of the famous spots for Hiking in Chicago, the Glacial Park Conservation is open all year round and welcomes hikers of all skill levels.
Address: 6705 State Rte 31, Ringwood, IL 60072
Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 60.9 miles, 1-hour 20 minutes drive to the trail.
Length of the Trail: 2.2 miles, loop-type trail
Pet-Friendly: Dogs on a Leash

14. Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve

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The Waterfall Glen Forest preserve is 2000 acres preserve in DuPage County, which encompasses a waterfall and a varied species of flora and fauna. The preserve features several unmapped and mapped trails paved with limestone and turf. Ideal for hikers, bikers, cross-country skiers, and horseback riders, the trail features a beautiful view of the waterfall and recreational activities like fishing, camping, etc.,
Address:  Lemont, IL 60439
Difficulty: moderate
Distance: 23.3 miles, 25 minutes drive.
Length of the Trail: 11 miles

15. Richard Bong State Recreational Area

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The Richard Bong State Recreational Area features more than 16 miles of trail. Encircled in the bountiful nature, these trails allow visitors to get up and close with nature while traversing in the different topographical trail routes. Some of these trails include the visitor centre nature trail, vista nature trail, and trails to the north and south of Highway 142. The Visitor centre nature trail is a limestone-surfaced trail that runs across a prairie, with a boardwalk that overlooks Wolk Lake. The vista nature trail is a self-guided trail encompassed by hardwood forest and a small pond nearby. The trails in Highway 142, however, are excellent for hiking, biking as well as skiing. 
Address: 26313 Burlington Rd, Kansasville, WI 53139
Timings: 6.00 AM to 11.00 PM
Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult
Distance: 71 miles, 1- hour drive
Length of the Trail: 16 miles
Pet-Friendly: Dogs on a Leash

Things to Keep in Mind While Hiking in Chicago

Amongst other outdoor sports, Hiking in Chicago is a perfect weekend getaway for adventure-hungry souls. Meandering along the trail is housed diverse native wildlife, along with varied species of flora, recreational amenities, and much more. To get the most of your hiking trip, below are some tips that every hiker must follow. 
Plan your Hike
Plan your hike: As the better you are aware of a trail, the better are your chances of enjoying the hike. Know the trail type, the trail distance, parking facilities, and amenities nearby. You can either follow the various websites that carry this information or use the interactive map to understand the route better and fully prepare for it.

Pack all the Essentials
There are over 10 miles of trails with varied trail types and difficulty types. Not every trail might have water and snack arrangements; hence it is best to carry a backpack with light snacks and water bottles. You can also take a map (unless there are trail maps available at the site), GPS unit, sunscreen, flashlights (if you plan to hike at night time), insect repellent, first-aid kit an extra pair of clothing. 

Wear Comfortable Clothing
Chicago is known for its unpredictable weather; hence always pack rain gear or dress in layers while you embark on a hike. You can add or remove layers according to your comfort, and do not forget to carry hats and sunglasses.

Wearing Good Shoes is a Must
As many trail types range from small hikes to longer ones, selecting the appropriate shoe wear is necessary. If you plan to hike on shorter distances or paved trails, opt for running-shoes or cross-trainers. However, if you plan to go for longer hikes on an uneven, unpaved surface, opt for hiking boots. 

Stay Safe
It is advisable to follow the park rules and stay on the marked trail when you head out for a hike. If you are hiking with your family, safety rules are a must to follow. It will help you to enjoy your hike better without any unnecessary hassles. 
Bold architecture, museums, a hub for arts and culture is not just what makes this city popular, but the outdoor adventures are also no less. Next time you visit the “windy city”, don’t forget to put on your hiking boots and traverse along the city's wilderness. 

This post was published by Akshita Dhiman

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