With Chicago hotspots like the Shedd Aquarium hitting capacity during fall weekends, you might want to think “outside” and enjoy some of the great natural areas the Chicago region has to offer. Some quiet time in the woods can help you regain your emotional sanity, and stretch your legs at the same time. Shorter trails can give you a quick escape and the longer ones can give you an entire days’ worth of refuge from the rush and bustle of everyday life.
Here are five great Chicago and Chicagoland trails that you can enjoy some solitude and gain some peace of mind on. The weather is cooling down, and leaf-viewing season is here!
1. Deer Grove, Cook County
As part of the Forest Preserve of Cook County, the Deer Grove trail system offers five major trails to choose from. The trails in this preserve range from a short 1.2 miles to a hearty 5.4 miles. One of the best features of Deer Grove is the fact that most of the trails are loops, so you do not have to backtrack to get back to the parking lot. Also, most of the trails intersect, so you can hike on if you are enjoying yourself. The red trail loop circles a model airfield that can provide additional entertainment if anyone is out flying their model planes. The Deer Grove Forest Preserve is located in Palatine, between Dundee Road and W. Lake Cook Road. http://fpdcc.com/downloads/
2. Ned Brown Forest Preserve, Cook County
More commonly known as the Busse Woods, the Ned Brown Forest Preserve has three major trail systems that range from 1.1 to 7.7 miles. The 7.7 mile red trail circles a lake and gives excellent views of the woods. This forest preserve is unique in both its location and history. The northeast quadrant of the preserve is a registered National Natural Landmark, and the forest itself is one of the last standing fragments of flatwood forest left in the Chicagoland area. Flatwood forests are typically damp and level, making this a very unique hike. The location is unique because the preserve is startlingly close to one of the major shopping meccas in the Chicago area- Woodfield Mall. The Ned Brown Forest Preserve is located between 290 and 90 and bordered by Golf Road. http://fpdcc.com/downloads/
3. Greene Valley Forest Preserve, DuPage County
The Greene Valley Forest Preserve has a lot of different activities to offer. For those with dogs, there is a large enclosed dog park in the preserve, but keep in mind you do need a permit to use it. For hikers and bikers there are eight trails to choose from ranging from .5 to 2.7 miles. For horseback riders, there are six trails to choose from. Beginning in May, there is also a scenic overlook open on the weekends that you can drive to the summit of, and there is also a model aircraft field. The Green Valley Forest Preserve is located in Naperville, off of Route 83 and Hobson Road and spans all the way from Hobson Road to nearly Royce Road. The dog park is located on Greene Road near 75th Street. http://www.dupageforest.com/
4. The Illinois Prairie Path, Cook, Dupage & Kane County
The Illinois Prairie Path spans 61 miles through Cook, DuPage and Kane County. It was constructed over the path that the Chicago Aurora & Elgin electric railroad formerly ran on. The path was built and is maintained by volunteers and provides a unique experience that takes you through many suburban towns. The path begins in Maywood and splits near Wheaton, ending in either Elgin or Aurora. It has spurs that can take you past interesting sights such as Fermi Lab or along the beautiful Fox River. Check out the map located here for more details and to plan your course: http://www.ipp.org/pdf/IPP-
5. Starved Rock State Park, Oglesby, IL
Starved Rock State Park is a bit of a drive for most Chicagoans, but it is worth every moment spent in the car. Starved Rock is full of history, breathtaking views and unique experiences. I’ll do a detailed posting about all of the amenities of this park in the near future, but don’t hesitate to go experience it for yourself. At this time of year, the park has yet to “green up” and fill in with leaves, bushes and brush. This creates a unique opportunity to see things that are usually hidden by dense forest. Additionally, early spring is the best time to view the parks numerous waterfalls, which are widely fueled by rainfall and snowmelt. The park is also one of the best places to view bald eagles near Chicago. http://www.starvedrockstatepark.org/