Whether you live in Chicago, or are just visiting, getting outside the city for some time with Mama Nature is always a good thing. When I moved here, I bought the book 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles and proceeded to work my way through nearly all of them. While Illinois is not known as an outdoor recreation paradise, there is some good hiking near Chicago. There are a few botanical centers and state park areas that do not allow dogs, so I’ve compiled this list of my favorite dog-friendly day-hike destinations near Chicago.
Skokie Lagoons Forest Preserve
The nearest spot to Chicago on my list is Skokie Lagoons. I started visiting Skokie Lagoons with a local kayak club. You’ll find canoe & kayak rentals here if you want to get out on the water. Parking along Tower Road, you can join up with the North Branch Trail for a 4.5 mile loop around the lagoons. Starting on Tower Road, you will head north to Dundee Road and then go East to catch the trail south again. There are many options for loops in this area.
Drive from Chicago: 20 miles / 25-30 minutes
Deer Grove Forest Preserve
My favorite hiking spot in the northwest suburbs is Deer Grove in Palatine. I like to park at the Deer Grove West parking lot on Dundee Road. From here, you can access a network of crushed gravel trails, including the 5.4 mile Yellow trail. Other trails criss-cross the yellow, so you can cater your hike to any length you want. There are a few stream crossings along the way for your pup to grab a sip or cool her paws.
Deer Grove East features a 2.8 mile paved walking loop, as well as a model airplane field!
Drive from Chicago: 30 miles / 45 minutes
Palos Hills Forest Preserve
There are several interconnected forest preserves in the Willow Springs area, southwest of Chicago. I like to enter at Red Gate Woods and hook up to the trail system from there. It’s a great area with lots of hills and trails that are very popular with mountain bikes and hikers. As with many of Cook County trails, there are several different loops that you can combine to design a hike of any length. Each intersection is well marked with trail maps and markers, so you can choose your route as you go. We like the 5.5 mile orange loop as it has a good balance of single-track dirt trails and crushed gravel paths.
Swallow Cliff Woods is also in this area, and you’ll find lots of people training on the steep staircase next to the toboggan area.
Drive from Chicago: 25 miles / 35 minutes
Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve
A bit farther than Palos Hills and just outside Cook County, Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve has the longest single loop I’ve found in the area. The main trail here is 9.5 miles, so it’s a great place to go for those training hikes where you need a lot of miles. Unlike other spots I’ve mentioned, there aren’t a lot of trail options here, so you have to commit to the 9.5 miles. The trail has several water crossings, which are great for the dogs, and even a few waterfalls, which are kind of rare around Chicago!
Drive from Chicago: 25 miles / 35-45 minutes
Nordic Trails – Kettle Moraine South Unit – Eagle, WI
If you are looking for a challenging hike, this is the place. It’s a bit farther from Chicago, but I used to come here often when I lived in the Northwest suburbs because it’s my favorite on this list. The Nordic Trails at Kettle Moraine offer some pretty cool glacial terrain that’s as close as you’ll get to mountain hiking. The Blue Loop is 9.2 miles, but there are many loops within this one and you can shorten your hike at any time. Each intersection is marked with a number corresponding to the maps. As the name suggests, these are used for XC ski in the winter. Across the road, you’ll find the very popular John Muir mountain bike trails.
This is a Wisconsin State Park, so you’ll need to get a vehicle sticker to park at any trailheads. ($11 daily pass for out of state vehicles, $38 annual pass) Now that I live in the city, I prefer to head up and camp the night before so I can get an early start on the trails.
Drive from Chicago: 100 miles / 105 minutesCheck out these #dogfriendly #hikes near #Chicago Click To Tweet
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