You may not think of Chicago as being synonymous with hiking but there are many great trails near Chicago. Enjoy quiet forests, waterfalls and river-sculpted canyons within easy driving distance from town. Lace up your hiking boots, get your hiking gear ready and set out to enjoy one or more of the following five-day hikes.
Edward L. Ryerson Conservation Area
This hike is a 35-minute drive from town and the trail begins at the Edward L Ryerson Conservation Area. Although the area is surrounded by highways and busy roads, you will experience peace and quiet in the conservation area.
Portions of the quiet trail follow along the Des Plaines River, with pleasant views and sounds. Boardwalks and winding trails meander through 361 acres and you can make up your own route. It’s a lovely place to take a slow stroll or a brisk hike, surrounded by lovely, old trees.
Bluff Trail – Matthiessen State Park
The park is a one hour 40-minute drive from town, a little further but well worth the trip. Experience well-marked trails with lots of great views from the top of ledges and waterfall drop-offs. One of the treats of hiking in the summer heat is to cool off under the Cascade Falls.
In the wet season, you will hear the sound of waterfalls in the distance. You can even do a little off-trail hiking here, traversing rocks and walking against canyon walls. The park is home to wildlife such as raccoons and flying squirrels as well as a rich array of mosses and ferns.
Openlands Lakeshore Preserve
Openlands Lakeshore Preserve is a 38-minute drive from Chicago and the trail starts at Patten Road. This is not a typical hike with its quirky signs along paved paths and an over 20-foot underpass mural.
As a combination of art, nature and community, it is a quintessential Chicago experience. Enjoy the quiet prairie land and the serenity of the Lake Michigan shoreline.
Canyon Hike - Starved Rock State Park
Starved Rock State Park is about an hour and a half drive west of downtown. The trail begins at the Starved Rock State Park Visitor Center or the parking lots found at the eastern edge of the park.
The hiking trails weave in and out of canyons and over ridges along the Illinois River. Most of the canyon rock walls are made of sandstone, giving you the surreal feeling of being miles away from the Midwest.
The LaSalle Canyon is a beautiful sight, especially when the river is flowing. You will also see animals such as snakes, herons, owls, deer, coyote and otters. You may even spot bald eagles from the top of Starved Rock.
Ice Age National Scenic Trail - Kettle Moraine State Forest
Two hours Northwest of Chicago is the Kettle Moraine State Forest. The trail starts at the Pinewoods campground. Within the state forest runs several segments of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Mixed trail surfaces, grasslands, forests, hidden lakes and more – the Ice Age Trail has it.
The entire trail covers about 1,200 miles and you’re surrounded by evergreen forest and a thick canopy of trees. You can camp in the Pinewoods campground and go on various trails for a day hike. There are hikers who have backpacked the whole length of the trail.
Enjoy one or all of these great hikes no more than two hours away from Chicago. If you live in the area, they should be on your to-do list and if you’re visiting the area, make sure you enjoy a hike or two while you’re there.
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