No matter if you're an experienced hiker or someone who only heads outdoors when they need to run errands, it's hard not to appreciate natural beauty and a sunny day. And although Chicago may not boast features like Colorado's Rocky Mountains or New England's endless hiking routes, it does include many trails and state parks close by. While some of these spots may require a bit of a drive on your end, we promise you—it's worth it. So, fill up your water bottle, lace up your shoes and learn to take the path less traveled.
4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle
Established in 1922 by Joy Morton, the arboretum set out to create a museum of the outdoors. Now, more than 1,700 acres and 222,000 plants fill the space, and visitors are encouraged to learn about and appreciate our natural surroundings we so often seem to take for granted. To better educate the community, programs are available for both children and adults that cover the current research methods on tree health and the preservation tactics to keep plant life in tact for time to come.
For those interested in exploring the Arboretum on their own, there are plenty of trails for hikers to walk through and bikers to cycle through. A wide variety of exhibits and activities are offered. Some of the current exhibits can be seen below:
- Acorn Express tram tours: An hour-long tram tour takes you throughout the arboretum as a narrated guide teaches you everything you need to know about the woodlands surrounding you.
- Children's garden: Allowing kids to get in touch with nature, the Children's garden provides daily learning programs and exhibits for kids and their parents to enjoy.
- Gateway to tree science: Provides an up-close look of tree biology, where you will learn all about caring for and cultivating trees, as well as the challenges trees in Illinois face.
1600 N. 25 East, Chesterton, IN
Okay, yes, this is located in Indiana. However, at only 47 miles east of Chicago, Indiana Dunes State Park is a short one-hour drive from our downtown Chicago apartments and well worth the trip. More than 16.5 miles of trails will take you through over 2,000 acres of marshes, dunes, swamps and more. Three miles of Lake Michigan's southern shore are available for you to explore, along with a large variety of plant and animal species to see.
If you're ready to work up a sweat, Indiana Dunes State Park grants you access to Calumet Trail, which boasts over 9 miles of hiking to get your heart racing and your blood flowing. Afterwards, cool off by taking a dip at the beach or relaxing in the shade of the trees. For those interested in making this a weekend trip, there are various camping sites to suit your needs. Likewise, there are many upcoming events for you to enjoy, including:
- June 23 - Turtle Time
- June 26 - High Dunes Hike
- June 29 - Ant Lion Safari
To see additional upcoming events, be sure to check out their calendar.
Parking lot located on the east side of Lemont Road at 101st Street
Any place that has a waterfall is a winner in our eyes. To top it off, the Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve offers so much more to suit its visitors, that is's a no-brainer to make the hour drive from Chicago. Located in northern Illinois, the Preserve includes more than 11 miles and 2,500 acres. This beauty will take you through gently rolling terrain and natural woods, where you'll see hikers, equestrians and bicyclists enjoying the fresh outdoor air. For those with a keen eye, there are more than 700 native plant species to identify and more than 300 species of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and more.
The preserve is open daily from sun up to sun down. Make sure to check the weather for the next sunny weekend, and head on up. For those interested in bringing their four-legged friends, don't forget their leash!
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