Best Hiking Trails in Chicago

Hiking is a great way to get fresh air, explore your local area, and move your body. Though Chicago is home to many businesses and restaurants as well as a bustling downtown scene, there are also many trails to hike, ranging from beginner level to advanced. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or looking to get into the sport for the first time, you can find a trail in the Chicago area for you. Here’s everything you need to know about the best hiking trails in and around Chicago.

Indiana Dunes State Park

Indiana Dunes State Park is a historic park about an hour’s drive away from the center of Chicago. With over 3 miles of beach and large sand dunes, this park offers beautiful vistas you can’t see every day in Chicago. The trails in this park range from easy to rugged and from under 1 mile to over 5.5 miles. When hiking at Indiana Dunes, you can often join events like women’s hikes, grass planting, and the Prickly Pear Promenade, which is a moderate trail that allows you to learn more about the beautiful natural landscape.

Lakefront Trail

Located right in the heart of the city, Lakefront Trail is an iconic Chicago walking, biking, and running trail that stretches from Ardmore Avenue to 71st Street. You can use the trail to commute to work, get some exercise, or take a child in a stroller. The walking and biking sections are separate to alleviate congestion and make the trail experience better. For great views of the city and the water, the Lakefront Trail is a great option.

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

If you’re a fan of nature, wildlife, and bird-watching, the trails at the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie may be perfect for you. An hour from central Chicago, this prairie is located just south of Joliet. The tall grass prairie is the largest island in the Chicago Wilderness and is home to a variety of species, including many birds and bison. When you visit, you can take a self-guided tour while you hike through the area. Be sure to respect the plants and animals in the area to do your part in conserving the prairie.

Moraine Hills State Park

Moraine Hills State Park is home to many biking, hiking, and birding trails. The park is just 3 miles south of McHenry, making it a little over an hour’s drive from the center of the city. With over 10 miles of hiking trails, it’s great for adventurous hikers. Try a 2-mile hike on the Fox River Trail, or for something more challenging, complete almost 4 miles on the Lake Defiance Trail. While hiking, you can admire the stones, boulders, and debris from glacial movement and view the 48-acre lake. Wildlife in the park includes raccoons, opossums, white-tailed deer, and coyotes.

North Branch Trails

Located within the city and along the Chicago River, these trails wind through the city and connect hikers to several locations. With over 20 miles of paved and unpaved hiking, North Branch Trails is a great option for those who want to do some hiking in the Chicago area. The trails connect the city to the Chicago Botanic Garden. This system also provides access to ecological restoration sites and allows hikers to observe diverse wildlife. You can bring your dogs on this trail as long as you keep them on a leash, and the trails are usually open from sunrise to sunset.

The 606

If you’re looking for a unique place to go hiking, look no further than The 606. Nestled within the city, this is another hiking option that doesn’t require you to drive outside Chicago for beautiful views and fresh air.

This park and trail system created and linked many green spaces in Chicago, and you can use the trail system to get from one part of the city to another. It’s built atop the Bloomingdale train line, a track that saw a huge reduction in traffic in the 1990s. When you hike along this trail, you can view the temporary and embedded artworks that make the trail so special. This trail is open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day.

The Morton Arboretum

The Morton Arboretum has a variety of paved paths you can use for walking, running, and biking. As part of the Global Tree Conservation Program, your support for the arboretum helps contribute to the environment and conversation efforts. If you plan to use the trails frequently, consider signing up for a membership to use the trails during members-only hours.

One of the most common trails to use is the 4.5-mile loop on the east side of the arboretum. When you’re done, you can use the West Pavilion to change, use the restrooms, and purchase snacks and water. From the center of the city, you can drive for 30 minutes toward Naperville to reach the arboretum. If you don’t like to drive, the arboretum is about an hour away from the city’s center by public transit.

Waterfall Glen

Located in northern Illinois, Waterfall Glen is an ecologically impressive space that houses popular forest preserves, the Rocky Glen waterfall, and Sawmill Creek bluff overlook. From the city’s center, it takes about 30 minutes to drive to this hiking spot. With 11 miles of trails for biking, hiking, and horse riding, there’s plenty to do in the park while enjoying the scenery. When on foot, you can explore the unmarked footpaths or stay on the trails marked on the maps.

We hope this guide has been helpful if you’re looking for some new trails to explore in the Chicago area. Did we miss a great hiking trail near Chicago? Be sure to reach out to one of our dedicated team members so we can update the list. Hiking can be an intense sport during which injuries happen, and if you experience any discomfort, be sure to reach out to the specialists at Gurnee Podiatry & Sports Medicine to schedule an appointment or learn more about the right treatment for you.