Top 5 Walking Trails in Gurnee

Gurnee, Illinois, is a small town, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an abundance of character. Gurnee is known for its exciting attractions and remarkable outdoor beauty. If you’re in Gurnee and you feel the need to stretch your legs, lace up those running shoes and head out on a few of these best walking trails in the area.

Des Plaines River Trail and Greenway

Image via Flickr by Phil Roeder

The Des Plaines River Trail and Greenway in Illinois is a multi-use trail that follows the Des Plaines River through most of Lake County and part of Cook County. It also has a section that passes through Gurnee. The trail is available for walking, bicycling, horseback riding, and even snowmobiling and cross-country skiing when weather permits. Leashed dogs are also allowed on the trail. If you’re interested in doing some walking on the Des Plaines River Trail, you’ll find several access points at parks throughout Gurnee, such as Gowe Park and Esper Petersen Park.

Unlike most of the rails-to-trails projects around the country, which are typically straight because they follow old railway lines, the Des Plaines River Trail offers a fun and quiet walk as it follows the meandering path of the Des Plaines River. Plus, since the trail is almost completely flat, it provides excellent exercise for all ages and abilities. Along the way, you’ll also come across public facilities that offer restrooms, water, and benches. This makes it easy for you to take a break from your walk and rest whenever you need to.

Independence Grove Forest Preserve

Located about 7 miles south of Gurnee in Libertyville, Independence Grove Forest Preserve is a large park with 7.5 miles of beautiful walking trails worth exploring. You’ll find many trails that circle the 115-acre lake and provide lovely views of the water. Other trails wind through scenic natural areas around the preserve. 

Depending on what type of walking you’re interested in doing, you’ll find trails with a variety of different surfaces in the preserve. The Lakeside Trail and a short section of the Des Plaines River Trail have a gravel surface. For a smoother walk, head to the paved South Bay Trail Loop or Overlook Trail. Or check out the North Bay Trail Loop, which has a combination of gravel and paved surfaces.

You’ll also find a variety of other activities to enjoy in the preserve. If your walk makes you hot and you want to spend some time on the water to cool down, you can rent kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddleboards, fishing boats, and pedal boats at the marina. There’s a cafe where you can pick up snacks, beverages, and ice cream. You can also take the kids to the sensory-rich Children’s Grove play area.

Betty Russell Community Park

The Betty Russell Community Park is a lovely park area near the heart of Gurnee that has something for everyone to enjoy. If you’re interested in playing some sports, the park has a volleyball court, soccer fields, basketball courts, ball fields, tennis courts, and pickleball courts. Young kids love to visit the park to have fun on the playground, and older kids enjoy trying out new tricks at the skate park. You can even visit in the winter to enjoy the hockey and ice skating rink.

If you’re interested in doing some walking, the park’s trail system offers a variety of opportunities. If you choose to park in the Betty Russell Community Park parking lot, you can walk the trail network as it winds around the facilities. There’s also a walking path that starts at North Dilleys Road and extends all the way across Betty Russell Community Park before connecting to Prairie Oaks Park.

Rollins Savanna Forest Preserve

Rollins Savanna Forest Preserve is situated about 6 miles west of Gurnee. At 1,253 acres, the forest preserve is one of the largest in Lake County. The National Audubon Society has named the forest preserve an Important Bird Area because a large number of endangered yellow-headed blackbirds find refuge here. While the preserve is a popular spot for bird-watchers, it’s also a great place to go for a walk.

The preserve has a 7.75-mile gravel trail with boardwalks and bridges that weave through open prairie areas blooming with flowers, large groves of oak trees, and wetlands. This trail is open to hikers, bicyclists, and cross-country skiers. Plus, thanks to a partnership with Gurnee, the preserve was able to extend the trail system across Route 45 and Dada Drive so trail users can safely connect the town’s bike path and extend their walk even farther.

Liberty Prairie Nature Reserve

The Liberty Prairie Nature Reserve is a large swath of protected land about 9 miles southwest of Gurnee that offers plenty of opportunities for scenic walks. The reserve’s purpose is to set aside an open space sanctuary for animals and people in the area. When the reserve was first created, it was called the Oak Prairie Reserve. It was later renamed Liberty Prairie Nature Reserve in honor of the rare native prairie in the area.

This preserve in particular is a great place to start exploring the protected lands in the region because it has a central location and connects to the regional trail system. The Casey Trail is a popular paved path enjoyed by walkers and bicyclists alike. It runs right through the heart of the reserve and connects to the Prairie Crossing Trail in the northwest and the Des Plaines River Trail in the southeast.

As you’re walking on the trail, you’ll pass through a thriving prairie spotted with groves of towering oak trees. If you keep your eyes open, you never know what types of migratory birds and other animals you might spot along the way.

We love to head outside and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature on these top walking trails in Gurnee. We also understand that foot pain can sometimes prevent you from doing the same. If you’re suffering from any pain or discomfort in your legs or feet, contact Dr. Schoene’s office today to make an appointment so you can start enjoying these walks.