Dog-Friendly Hikes Near Chicago

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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!

7.4.09 Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve

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.

Nordic Trail at Kettle Moraine South

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 minutes

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hiking near chicagoThis post is part of the Weekly Postcard blog roundup. Click the photo below to check out other travel blogs this week!

Two Traveling Texans

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21 thoughts on “Dog-Friendly Hikes Near Chicago

  1. I love how short and straight to the point this post is! I would love to travel extensively with my dog, but we often run into the problem of where we are going to go, etc. Thanks for listing some dog friendly hikes around Chicago – will def keep this in mind when we travel with my pup!

    • Haha, yeah, the city is pretty crazy for dogs that aren’t used to it. So many noises and strange smells! (not to mention chicken bones everywhere…ugh!)

  2. You hit two of my favorite spots – Kettle Moraine and Waterfall Glen. I haven’t been to the others but I’m adding them to my list! I don’t have a dog, but I love them and this way I’ll get to see some anyway 🙂

    • Yeah! Definitely check out the Palos area, the terrain is fun! I wish the Kettles were a wee bit closer to the city, but then they’d be even more crowded!

  3. Your dog is adorable! I don’t have any pets, but can imagine it would be fun to hike with your dog. It’s pretty impressive that you almost made it through the 60 hikes! Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

  4. Oh yes, always need a good hike to bring along man’s best friend! I used to take all 4 of my dogs hiking with me when I lived in Montana! Thanks for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard!

  5. Your dog is so cute ! I fully agree with you… getting outside the city for some time with Mother Nature is always a great moment. It’s good to see that you can navigate your way through the stunning areas of the preserve, where you can find a permanent orienteering course.

  6. AAAAAAAAAAAAAH! This is perfect timing! I’m planning to go to Chicago with my little ride-or-die copilot and was researching dog friendly activities for the area. #dogmamaforlife

    • Excellent! Enjoy your visit, let me know if you have questions – Chicago is pretty dog-friendly – I’d hoped to put together a city guide, too, but just ran out of time this summer!

  7. As a dog owner, I’m always interested in finding places that are dog friendly. Unfortunately, Chicago is very far from me. Thank you for joining us for #TheWeeklyPostcard

  8. These are really amazing hikes. I have no dog, but Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve looks very appealing to me. If I ever visit Chicago I would give it a try. Thanks for sharing!

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