Chicago is more than just a big city, it's also a haven for outdoor adventurers, with outstanding hiking trails located off the beaten track all around the greater Chicago area. From serene, wooded trails that end at the bottom of cascading waterfalls to long walks along the shores of the Great Lakes, you can find plenty of different types of trail options to enjoy. Around Chicago, you can even enjoy walks along dunes, across wooden bridges, and through fields dotted with flowers. Options range from paved paths to trails rated difficult and challenging. Check out some of the best hiking trails around Chicago.

    1

    Starved Rock State Park

    Walk 13 miles of trails through canyons with waterfalls

    • Budget
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    Starved Rock State Park offers 13 miles of trails that take hikers all through 18 different canyons with views of waterfalls, rock formations, and wildlife. Amongst the signature sights on the trail is the 125-foot Starved Rock butte for which the park is named. The trails offer a range of difficulties to suit most hikers. Trails are well-trod and established, so they're easy to follow for those who prefer to explore on their own. Still, for those who are novices at the art of outdoor adventuring, you can take a guided hike, which is offered all year long. It's a day trip about an hour from Chicago.

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    Location: 2678 E 875th Rd, Oglesby, IL 61348, USA

    Open: Daily from 6.30 am to 9 pm

    Phone: +1 815-667-4726

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    2

    Bloomingdale Trail (The 606)

    Traverse a trail built on an abandoned railway

    • Budget
    • Adventure

    The Bloomingdale Trail at The 606 is a bit different than other hiking trails, as it's in the heart of city centre near Walsh Park and offers an easy, paved path. It's an elevated trail built on an abandoned railway track and offers lots of green space and great views of the city skyline. The path is built for everything from casual strolls to running. The path is an out-and-back trail encompassing 5.7 miles of surface. It allows visitors and residents an escape from the hustle and bustle and will take you through residential areas and wooded areas. It's also ADA-compliant.

    Location: 1805 N Ridgeway Ave, Chicago, IL 60647, USA

    Open: Daily from 6 am to 7 pm

    Phone: +1 312-742-4622

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    3

    Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve

    Explore 2,500 acres of natural wilderness and a cascading waterfall

    • Budget
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    Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve is located just 30 minutes west of the city and offers over 2,500 acres of natural wilderness passing by the cascading Rocky Glen Waterfall. The preserve offers 11 miles of mapped trails that are used by hikers, cyclists, horseback riders, and even cross-country skiers. Besides the well-mapped trails, you'll also have a wealth of unmapped footpaths to explore that will take you through thick green canopies. Fishermen find this area popular, as there is a range of old quarries that form natural lakes and offer great fishing.

    Phone: +1 630-933-7248

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    4

    Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

    Hike 38 miles of trails within a vast wilderness preserve

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    Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie offers a total of 38 miles of trails located within 19,000 acres of wilderness preserve with serene rolling prairies and wildlife viewing. These National Forest Service lands are located just an hour southwest of city centre Chicago and offer 12 miles of trails reserved for hikers, plus another 22 miles of shared trails in use by hikers, horseback riders, and bicyclists. A major attraction of these trails is that bison were re-introduced to the park in 2015. Hikers come here from all around in hopes of catching a glimpse of the herd in its natural surroundings.

    Location: 30239 IL-53, Wilmington, IL 60481, USA

    Open: Daily from 4 am to 10 pm

    Phone: +1 815-423-6370

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    5

    Kankakee River State Park

    Go hiking, fishing, kayaking, and mushroom harvesting

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    Kankakee River State Park offers around 4,000 acres of nature preserve surrounding its namesake river and includes scenic trails for outdoor adventurers of all types. In addition to the 11 miles of land for hiking, the park is also popular for fishing, kayaking, and even gathering mushrooms. It's about an hour from Chicago. If you want to extend your stay in the park, you can find campsites with fully featured cabinets complete with electricity and other modern amenities. You can spend one day exploring the rocky outcroppings along the river and another getting out on the water in a canoe.

    Location: 5314 W, IL-102, Bourbonnais, IL 60914, USA

    Open: Daily from 6.30 am to 8 pm

    Phone: +1 815-933-1383

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    6

    Morton Arboretum

    Travel a complex landscape with paved and maintained trails

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    The Morton Arboretum nature preserve in Lisle offers a complex landscape with great opportunities to view the local flora and fauna and hike miles of trails. The preserve features over 4,000 species of plants and trees spread over 16 miles of trails, mostly rated for easy hiking. Some of the trails are paved and others are covered with wood chips. Popular events here include the summer and fall Theatre Hikes, which include outdoor plays performed as the cast members walk the trails. These occur frequently, so check the schedule for planned events. It's 28 minutes from Chicago.

    Location: 4100 IL-53, Lisle, IL 60532, USA

    Open: Daily from 7 am to 4.30 pm

    Phone: +1 630-968-0074

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    7

    Matthiessen State Park

    Traverse forests, rocky canyons, prairies, and riverbanks

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    Matthiessen State Park is just south of Starved Rock and offers 1,700 acres of forests, prairies, rocky canyons, and geological formations along the Vermillion River. The park features 5 miles of trails rated specifically for hiking and an additional 9 miles of trails that are multi-use and shared by bikers and horseback riders. The park is home to a large population of white-tailed deer that draws in hikers hoping to catch a glimpse of the animals who enjoy the natural salt licks from the mineral springs. It's about a 1.5-hour drive from Chicago but is a worthwhile day trip.

    Location: 2500 IL-178, Oglesby, IL 61348, USA

    Open: Daily from 7 am to 8.30 pm

    Phone: +1 815-667-4868

    Map
    8

    North Branch Trail

    Tackle a 22-mile trail of beautiful natural scenery

    • Budget
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    The North Branch Trail starts in the city, in Gompers Park, and follows the Chicago River for 22 miles of gorgeous natural scenery with a very easy walking path. The fully paved trail is long, and it winds through woods and lagoons and through the Chicago Botanic Gardens in Glencoe. From Glencoe, you can pick up the Green Bay Trail to the North Shore. Since the trail is fully paved, it also is frequented by runners and bicyclists, so it's important to keep that in mind and be aware of who is around you while you see the sights.

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    9

    Deer Grove

    See white-tailed deer grazing at natural mineral salt licks

    • Budget
    • Adventure

    Deer Grove is the oldest property of the Cook County Forest Preserve District and offers miles of hiking trails through wetland, prairie, and dense woodlands. About 4 miles of trails are paved, with another 10 miles unpaved and more difficult. The unpaved trails are popular with more experienced hikers and mountain bike enthusiasts. These trails offer a wide range of different experiences in the outdoors. You'll walk through wet swamps, rolling green prairies, and deep, shaded, green canopies of wooded areas. It's a serene path that also offers outstanding opportunities for wildlife viewing in the Palatine suburb west of city centre.

    Location: W Dundee Rd, Palatine, IL 60067, USA

    Open: Daily from 6 am to 8 pm

    Phone: +1 800-870-3666

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    10

    Des Plaines River Trail

    Walk along the shores of a rushing river beneath a green canopy

    • Budget
    • Adventure

    The Des Plains River Trail is a continuous dirt and gravel hiking path that stretches 31.5 miles of Lake County along the Des Plaines River. The entire trail is scenic and offers a look at the flowing clear waters. In the north, it crosses through several nature preserves with thick green canopies above. The trail is popular amongst hikers and mountain bikers, and it's ideal for spreading a picnic lunch, looking for local wildlife, bird-watching, and viewing various species of plants and trees. You can pick up the trail right in city centre Chicago.

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