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Saturday, September 23, 2023

Places To Hike Near Chicago

Garden Of The Gods Observation Trail

Best Hiking Near Chicago | Hoffman Estates Il
  • Location: Garden of the Gods Wilderness
  • Distance: 0.25 mile
  • When to go: This trail is open and accessible throughout the year
  • Dog-friendly: Dogs are welcome but must be kept on a leash
  • Highlights: The ancient unique rock formations

Short description of the trail

The Garden of the Gods Observation Trail is a short and sweet hike that takes you through the Garden of the Gods wilderness area and allows you to see the impressive and interesting rock faces without needing to walk too far uphill.

There are 7 rock formations along the route with names like The Squeeze, The Devils Smokestack, and Monkeys Head.

Make sure to also take the small detour to Camel Point for the best view on Camel Rock.

This trail is fairly popular but if you come on a weekday or simply a day that is not extremely hot and sunny, youll likely get to enjoy some peaceful moments as you hike.

This trail has plenty of impressive viewpoints.

Make sure you have some buffer time so you can enjoy the views and dont feel rushed.


From interstate 24, take exit 16 for IL-146 E . After 0.2 miles turn left onto IL-147 E and follow this road until it merges with IL-145.

Keep going straight until you arrive at the intersection with IL-34, where you make a right.

Follow this road until you pass Harbisons country market and a fuel station. Make a left on Karbers Ridge Rd .

Where to start the Garden of the Gods Observation Trail hike

What people are saying about this hike

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

  • Length: 3.6 miles
  • Distance from Chicago: 50 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy

If its prairie life youre looking for, Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie is the perfect place to go hiking near Chicago. This nationally protected prairie area is a popular place to go biking, hiking, and bison-watching. Yup, you heard that right: Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie is home to a bison herd that you can observe with your own two eyes.

People often forget that the prairie is the landscape of the Midwest, and that it can be beautiful in its own way. While you wont see ton of topography here, Midewin is home to lots of trails that pass through wildflower fields, grazing pastures, and tons of places for bird watching.

Note: As of July 2021, the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie Welcome Center is closed, except for the vestibule. For more information, visit here.

Where To Go Hiking Near Chicago

Chicago never fails to entertain, but from time to time you need a breath of fresh air and change of scenery!

Chicagoans often get so wrapped up in the urban sprawl they forget theres nearby wildlife that is both gorgeous and accessible! Weve compiled a collection of forest and prairie preserves worthy of a day trip.

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Des Plaines River Trail

Wadsworth, IL

Hike, walk, bicycle, horseback ride, winter ski or snowmobile. Just 35 minutes outside the city, this multi-use trail follows the Des Plaines River throughout most of Lake and part of Cook County and remains reliable regardless of the season.

Rollins Savanna Forest Preserve

Grayslake, IL

With more than 1,200 acres, this preserve offers extensive trails, extraordinary wildlife, a unique seed library and snowmobiling in the wintertime. It takes about an hour to get to this preserve.

Glacial Park

Ringwood, IL

Roughly an hour and a half outside of Chicago, this park is set on 3,400 acres of wetlands, prairie & gorgeous glacial, with access to trails, canoeing and fishing.

Liberty Prairie Nature Preserve

Libertyville, IL

Mettawa, IL

Deerfield, IL

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Hikes In Illinois That Will Take Your Breath Away

Are you looking for the best hikes in Illinois? You have come to the right place.

Hiking in Illinois allows you to see the wide variety of natural landscapes found throughout the state.

From rocky bluffs to wooded hills bestowed with waterfalls, there is something to love for everyone. There are quick strolls and all-day treks with plenty in-between to accommodate all skill levels of hikers.

Here we share 12 of the best hiking trails in Illinois for you to explore:

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Top 40 Hiking Spots In Chicagoland

Take one of these great hikes the next time you

Here’s an exhaustive list of places to hike in Chicagoland. Over time, this blog will feature trail profiles for all of the sites listed below. All of these trails are covered in much greater detail in my book, Best Hikes Near Chicago. The starred locations are the ones I personally consider to be the best.


Northern Lakefront Trail A long lakeside walk through Lincoln Park proper.

Southern Lakefront Trail A continuation of the trail above that winds past Chicago Harbor and Museum Campus.

A wooded loop through the South Side’s most beautiful park behind the Museum of Science and Industry.

*Nature Boardwalk at the Lincoln Park Zoo A brief but beautiful, educational path around Lincoln Park’s newly redeveloped South Pond.

*Alfred Caldwell Lily Pond A tiny, hidden gem of nature right behind the Lincoln Park Conservatory.

NORTH OF DOWNTOWN*Crabtree Nature Center Explore 3 distinct ecosystems in this beautiful, isolated greenspace in Palatine.

Shoe Factory Road Woods Two haunted structures once stood near this peaceful prairie.

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Lakefront Trail: Greater Chicago Urban Area

Whether you live in Chicago already or are just there for a visit, don’t overlook the Lakefront Trail. Located within city limits, this surprisingly scenic walking route has a lot to offer, even for those who think they already know it well.

At 18 miles in length, the Lakefront Trail is surprisingly long and diverse. Wandering along the shores of Lake Michigan and through lovely urban parks throughout its length, the route make for a nice escape from traditional urban life. Despite the fact that the towering cityscape makes for a dramatic backdrop, although at times it is easy to forget you’re still in the city at all.

The route is paved and very easy to follow, which makes it highly accessible for hikers of all ages and experience levels. This is a mixed-use trail however, which means you’ll share it with runners and cyclists too. While the trail isn’t as secluded as some of the others on this list, it is easy to reach, offers a variety of landscapes to walk through, and is a great way to explore the metropolitan area on foot.

The 7 Best Spots For Hiking Near Chicago

Its finally, FINALLY summer in Chicago and its time to get outside. While we love Chicago Botanic Garden and the Riverwalk, sometimes you just want a little bit more Mother Nature. Thats why we compiled seven of the best hikes that are easily accessible from Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. Dont forget your bug spray .

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Chicago Botanic Garden Hike

The 23 interior gardens provide acres of manicured rose gardens, aquatic plants, Japanese-style plantings, and greenhouses filled with rainforest and desert plants. While it can be easy to spend a full day exploring the gardens, many miss the trail around the perimeter that goes through prairies and woodlands.

To get there: On the Metra take the Union Pacific/North Metra Line to the Glencoe or walk from the Braeside station. Three long bike trails run into the gardensthe Green Bay Trail, Skokie Valley Bikeway, and the North Branch Trail.

Castle Rock State Park Illinois

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie | Best hikes near Chicago

Nestled in the Rock River Hills region in Illinois, Castle Rock State Park is no less of a paradise for nature lovers with its charming rock formations and dusty sandstone bluffs. It is also a trendy place for hikers and joggers to hop in, thanks to its well marked 6 miles long trail that leads to some most breathtaking vistas in the region. Apart from hiking, there are a couple of other things that one enjoy here. Go Kayaking along the river or click some pictures relishing the sights of the place. It’s a good option to go camping near Chicago, given its brilliant ruggedy topography and cool climate.Distance from Chicago: 108 miles 2 hours drivingHike distance: 5.49 milesDifficulty Level: Moderate

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Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve Trail System

The Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve, located in nearby DuPage County, features 11 miles of mapped and well-marked hiking trails, with many more miles of unmarked routes to explore as well. Those trails pass through lush forests and open prairies with limestone outcroppings dotting the landscape. Rolling hills and ridges formed by glacial movement from the last ice age provide unique topography to wander through, creating a setting that will leave thoughts of Chicago’s urban sprawl far behind.

The park is home to more than 300 species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and other creatures, making it a popular place for those who enjoy spotting wildlife. There is even an onsite orienteering course for brushing up on your navigational skills or learning how to use a map and compass.

Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve

  • Trail Length: 11 miles
  • Distance from Chicago: 25 miles
  • Difficulty: All Levels

Located about an hour outside of Chicago, Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve is a gem of a park for hikers, bikers, and outdoor lovers. The park features a few picturesque waterfalls, and a rocky bluff overlook at Sawmill Creek. Although its not far from Chicago, the park features gravel paths, forested areas, and tons of local wildlife and plant species.

One of the perks of Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve is that it a year-round destination. In the summer, visitors can hike, bike, and bird-watch, and in the winter, people use the area for cross-country skiing. With gentle slopes and beautiful sights, its one of the most fun and family-friendly areas for hikes near Chicago.

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Kankakee River State Park Trail System

The trail system found inside Kankakee River State Park offers plenty of options for hikers . The trails stretch for miles along both sides of the Kankakee River and border a wildlife management area throughout most of their length. This gives hikers ample opportunity to spot deer, raccoon, wild turkeys, and a variety of other creatures while exploring the landscape.

One of the highlights of the hike is passing through towering limestone canyons and spotting multiple waterfalls along the way. The walk isn’t particularly strenuous, but its proximity to the river and the rolling landscape makes it a lovely place to escape from the city for awhile. And since it is only about an hour away, Kankakee is surprisingly accessible, even for urban dwellers.

Starved Rock State Park

Where To Go Hiking Near Chicago
  • Length: 13 miles
  • Location: LaSalle County, IL
  • Distance from Chicago: 100 miles
  • Difficulty: All Levels

Perhaps the most popular place to go hiking near Chicago, Starved Rock State Park is a stunning, family-friendly nature area that boasts several miles of forested hiking trails for all levels of hikers. While here, you can see caves, rock formations, canyons, waterfalls, and more as you tackle some of the most famous hikes near Chicago and in Illinois. It does get pretty crowded here in the warmer months of the year, but when you visit, you can easily see why!

Within the parks grounds, there are over 18 canyons to explore and marvel at. Many of the trails lead through and above these many canyons. Some of the most popular hikes in the park are the Saint Louis Canyon Trail and theLaSalle Canyon Trail. Additionally, the park offers free guided hikes on weekends through late November. We recommend going there in the fall to experience the breathtaking foliage colors.

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Top Places To Go Hiking Near Chicago

Once you leave Chicagos bustling downtown area, youll start to find more traditional hiking opportunities along gravel trails, forested areas, and rocky terrain. These incredible spots for hiking near Chicago boast sand dunes, gorgeous waterfalls, stunning rock formations, unique wildlife, and more.

Des Plaines Trail System

The unpaved Des Plaines Trail follows its namesake river through more than a dozen forest preserves, allowing visitors to enjoy casual strolls, full-day adventures and anything in between.

  • Location: Chicago, Des Plaines, Glenview, Melrose Park, Mount Prospect, Northbrook, Park Ridge, River Forest, Rosemont, Schiller Park & Wheeling
  • Surface: Paved & Unpaved
  • Explore the Little Red Schoolhouse grounds on three unpaved walking trails or the paved accessible garden trail. Connect to the Palos Trail System to extend your walk.

  • Location: Willow Springs
  • The Major Taylor Trail runs from Dan Ryan Woods south to Whistler Woods and includes paved segments, off-street paved segments managed by the Chicago Park District, and on-street segments.

  • Location: Chicago & Riverdale
  • Location: Forest Park, Maywood & North Riverside
  • Surface: Paved
  • The North Branch Trail System offers paved and unpaved trails along approximately 20 miles of the North Branch of the Chicago River, making it a premier biking route in the northern suburbs.

  • Location: Chicago, Glenview, Morton Grove, Niles, Northbrook, Northfield, Skokie & Winnetka
  • Surface: Paved & Unpaved
  • Location: Orland Hills, Orland Park & Tinley Park
  • Surface: Paved & Unpaved
  • The extensive and varied Palos Trail System winds through rolling hills and deep ravines, providing beautiful views of the surrounding landscapes.

  • Location: Hickory Hills, Justice, Palos Hills & Willow Springs
  • Surface: Unpaved
  • Surface: Paved
  • Location: Northbrook
  • Surface: Unpaved
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    Kankakee River State Park

    • Length: 3-12 miles
    • Distance from Chicago: 60 miles
    • Difficulty: All Levels

    To admire the fall colors and enjoy the crisp, cool weather, there are few better places to go hiking near Chicago than Kankakee River State Park. A historic area that was once home to Native American settlements, this lush, forested river area is equal parts tranquil and full of adventure opportunities.

    To explore the park, the best place to start is with the 3-mile Rock Creek Trail. This is one of the most scenic Chicago hiking trails as it twists through rocky canyons, along the flowing river, and past a bubbling waterfall, all with the beautiful forest canopy overhead.

    Indiana Dunes National And State Parks

    Hikers To Blaze New 170-Mile Trail Around Chicago Area
    • Length: 0.5-6.8 miles
    • Location: Chesterton, IN
    • Distance from Chicago: 50 miles
    • Difficulty: All Levels

    As one of the newest official national parks, Indiana Dunes is nothing to sneeze at. While this lakefront state and national park area is known for its golden sand dunes and gorgeous location next to Lake Michigan, there are lots of great hikes to enjoy here, too!

    The park contains a variety of terrain, from wetlands to savannas, and, of course, the sandy beach. During the warmer months of the year, youll find tons of beachgoers here enjoying the sand and sun.

    For hikers, there are 21 trails total 7 in the state park and 14 in the national park. Some of the most popular trails include the West Beach Trail and Trail 10 .

    Note: As of July 2021, the Little Calumet River Trail and portions of the Portage Lakefront & Riverwalk Trail will be temporarily closed due to renovations. For updates on park closures, check here.

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