Best Hiking Trails Near Chicago

By Nikita Das on Apr 05, 2017
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While Chicago itself is home to many interesting hiking trails making up for an exciting and daring adventure point, there are some gems lying a little away from the city that are equally irresistible in terms of fun and activities. Some of them are well known to visitors while others are comparatively forgotten, yet each one of them embodies a charm that is worth exploring.

If you want to go hiking near Chicago, we have a list of top trails near the city that offers happening hiking options to adventurers. Check them out!

1. Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve

Waterfall Glen Forest PreservePC:

Spread over an area of 2,500-acres, this vast forest reserve is one of the most popular hikes in the city, owning to its lush surrounding and well-mapped trail path. Perched quietly in the west of Chicago, in DuPage County, it is greatly frequented by hikers, bikers, cyclists and even horse riders. Adorned with beautiful prairies and savannas, the trail is a great way to relieve oneself from the hubbub of the city and immerse in the quietude of nature while strolling through it.

Distance from Chicago: 23.3 miles; 30-45 minutes driving
Hike distance: 9.7 miles
Difficulty Level: Moderate

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2. Glacial Park Trail

Glacial Park TrailPC: Dave Sizer/

The trail is located in the Glacial Park which is a part of Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge. This hiking trail near Chicago is around 2 miles long and follows a deer path trail loop that passes through surrounding wildlife and plants, providing an up and close look at nature. The trail is good for activities like hiking, biking and such. You can even go for a nice fishing session at the Nippersink Creek which is a great way to spend some time here. If you have a doubt in mind, where to go hiking near Chicago that is not too far and yet gets you close to nature, then Glacial Park is for you!

Distance from Chicago: 62.2 miles; 1.5 hours driving
Hike distance: 2.1 miles
Difficulty Level: Moderate

Also Check Out: Best Road Trips From Chicago

3. Trails of Palmisano Park

One of the athlete's favourites, the park is known for its many trails that are nicely perched atop its numerous hills. There is a groomed athletic field in the area too along with a cemented running track for visitors to jog or walk on it making it one of the popular places to hike near Chicago. Those who love challenges can climb up to the park's summit, called 'Mount Bridgeport' to test their strengths. Ensure to bring your camera with you as the views from here known to be some of the most scenic ones in the city!

Distance from Chicago: 3.7 miles; 10-15 minutes driving
Hike distance: 1.7 miles
Difficulty Level: Easy to Tough

4. Morton Arboretum

Morton Arboretum - walking trails near ChicagoPC: willowbrookhotels/

The trail in the Morton Arboretum is popular for its diverse surrounding, boasting of more than 4000 species of trees and plants. Located in the western part of Lisle, it is around 16 miles long and is very well paved, making it a great spot for walking, jogging, cycling and such. Though, open year around, this hiking spot near Chicago is best visited during summers and fall when numerous Theatre-Hikes adorn the place offering mesmerising outdoor performances.

Distance from Chicago: 31.5 miles; 30-45 minutes driving
Hike distance: 16 miles
Difficulty Level: Easy

5. Sauganash Trail (Valley Line Trail)

Valley Line Trail for the beginnersPC:

It is probably one of the easiest hiking trails in the Chicago marking a mere length of 1 mile. Apart from being short, the paved pathway is also famous for being refreshingly beautiful lined by dozens of trees around. Flocked by fitness enthusiasts of all kind, you can always expect a decent crowd of rollerbladers, dog walkers, joggers and bikers hustling their way through the trail. If you have a pet, ensure to give this place a visit at least once.

Distance from Chicago: 14.1 miles; 15-30 minutes driving
Hike distance: 1.1 miles
Difficulty Level: Easy

6. Castle Rock State Park, Illinois

Castle Rock State Park, Illinois - adventure 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 driving
Hike distance: 5.49 miles
Difficulty Level: Moderate

7. Deer Grove

Deer Grove - Scenic trail near Chicago

Wonderfully perched on the northern side of Cook County, this hiking spot near Chicago is potentially one of the best for the city, attracting visitors from all across the world. It has a range of varied and significant trails that are suitable for all kind of activities, be it hiking, jogging, horseback riding or even bird watching. Not to mention the rich variety of flora that is found here. Spread over an area of 1800-acre, Deer Grove is where nature enthusiasts head to on a fine sunny day.

Distance from Chicago: 147 miles; 2.5 hours driving
Hike distance: 3.9 miles
Difficulty Level: Moderate

Check out: Best Hikes Around Los Angeles

8. Des Plaines River Trail

Des Plaines River Trail - go for winter hikingPC:

Just like its name, the trail is a unique recreational route that lies alongside the Des Plaines River and caters to the myriad explorers and adventurers around. Used for multiple purposes, you can literally do everything here, from biking, hiking, jogging to even skiing and snowmobiling (in winters of course!). The trail is one of the longest near Chicago, spanning an area of 31 miles and passes through vivid forest preserves and wetlands. Not only that, it is the least crowded too owinng to its numerous underbridges!

Distance from Chicago: 52.8 miles (to north end of trail); 1-hour driving
Hike distance: 31.4 miles
Difficulty Level: Easy to Tough

9. Trails in West Ridge Nature Reserve

Trails in West Ridge Nature ReservePC:

Going for hiking in West Ridge is like delving into a sea of adventure opportunities which you can easily spend days exploring. And the best thing is, it is family friendly! The15 miles long stretch, well marked and full of natural wealth, makes up for a great place to come with kids, stroll through and enjoy. Even those who are alone can come for a nice bike riding session here. Decked with numerous fishing stations and rich wildlife, trails in this reserve can be a great way to let loose.

Distance from Chicago: 15.2miles; 15-25 minutes driving
Hike distance: 16 miles
Difficulty Level: Moderate

10. Indiana Dunes State Park

Indiana Dunes State Park

Hiking experience in Indiana Dunes State Park is varied and vast, thanks to its range of trails lining the area. Spanning from the easy to more challenging and rigid routes, there is plenty of option for everyone to come here and live it up. It is this quality that has garnered it the title- 'Grand Canyon of Midwest'. Amongst all, the West Beach Loop is the easiest and most frequented one as it passes through the lovely shorelines, dunescape and wetlands. Daring ones can also take routes like Ridge Hollow Lopp and Cowled Bog Loop for a more challenging tryst.

Distance from Chicago: 51.1 miles; 1 hour driving
Hike distance: 3.2 miles
Difficulty Level: Easy

Check Out: Best Cross Country Road Tips in USA

11. Joliet Iron Works Historic Site

Joliet Iron Works Historic trail

It is a short trail and hence, convenient for those looking for a light adventure. It is well paved and passes through the ruins of Joliet Iron and Steel Works. Once the second largest steel mill in the US, the place now serves as a fascinating story to back its thrilling views. Those who wish to go further can meander along the Illinois and Michigan Canal Trail which furthers up to about 10 miles, hence will give you plenty of space to run, walk or hike!

Distance from Chicago: 40.1 miles; 1 hour driving
Hike distance: .59 miles of paved historic site trail; also access to 10.81 miles of crushed limestone/paved Centennial Trail/I&M Canal Trail
Difficulty Level: Easy

12. North Branch Trail

North Branch TrailPC: auntjojo/

The trail starts from Caldwell and Devon avenues that lie on the north-west side of Chicago. From there, it passes through the north branch of Chicago, spanning the beautiful locales and terrains, via Skokie Lagoons and Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe. It is nearly 20 miles long fully paved trail apt for bicyclists, hikers to pretty much anyone who is ready for an adventurous tryst amidst nature.

Distance from Chicago: 31.5 miles; 30-45 minutes driving
Hike distance: 16 miles
Difficulty Level: Easy

13. Matthiessen State Park

PC: David Wilson/

What makes this place an ultimate hiking destination for you? The answer is simple- its accessibility! Beautifully settled in the town of Oglesby in LaSalle County, the place is one of the closest to the city and can be easily visited for family weekends. Its wealth of natural beauty with intriguing rock formations, canyons, streams and long stretches of flora & fauna makes Matthiessen a great choice for recreational outings. It has about 5 miles of hiking trails along with 9 miles of well-paved paths that are specifically carved for mountain biking catering to hikers, bikers or anyone looking for an adventurous detour. On every intersection, you will find various unmarked paths that you can try for a more adventurous experience. It is also close to an another famous park- Starved Rock State Park.

Distance from Chicago: 102 miles; 1 hour 55 minutes driving
Hike distance: 5 miles
Difficulty Level: Moderate to hard

14. Starved Rock State Park

The Starved Rock State Park holds a proud reputation among hikers, owning to its myriad canyons, spread throughout its 2,630 acres of land.It does not matter if you are a hard-core adventurer or just someone who loves to be around nature, you will find plenty of things to enjoy here.There are around 18 canyons, 14 out of which, are home to waterfalls that you can check out during your hiking rendezvous.The most spectacular ones are St. Louis, French, Wildcat and Kaskaskia canyons.The place is located in the south-east of Utica alongside the River Illinois and replete with breathtaking sceneries and overlooks. One interesting aspect about this park is it look different in every season, hence it is always a new experience for visitors. Come for hiking, and if you wish to try something different, there are other activities like picnicking, fishing, boating, camping, horse riding and more!

Distance from Chicago: 98.5 miles; 1 hour 45 minutes driving
Hike distance: 4.4 miles
Difficulty Level: Moderate

Hiking can be a very rewarding experience but you have to be aware of the hikes that suits you the best. Hope our list helped you there!

Also Read about:

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Best Hikes in Washington State

Best Waterfall Hikes In USA

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