Chicago, IL

Some of the best hiking trails in Illinois are a short drive from Chicago

Jennifer Geer

These five hiking destinations are all less than a two-hour drive from the city.

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Indian Dunes Succession Trail(Ted/Flickr.com)

The Chicago Lakefront has gorgeous views and paved paths for walking. But it's also full of bikers, runners, crowds, and tourists. If you'd like to step off the beaten path, and head into nature, you don't have to drive very far to get there.

Here is a list of five of the best trails around, and none of them is much longer than a two-hour drive.

Starved Rock State Park

  • Location: Utica, Illinois
  • Driving distance from Chicago: 90 minutes
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Aurora Canyon waterfall at Starved Rock State Park(B3thedw/CC BY-SA 4.0/Wikimedia Commons)

You knew this had to be first on the list. Starved Rock State Park is famous for its canyons, waterfalls, impressive rock formations, and 13 miles of well-maintained trails.

If you want to rough it, you can try the Illinois Canyon Trail, which is 9.4 miles out and back. Unlike most of the trails in the park, you won't find bridges, stairs, or boardwalks on this one.

The Morton Arboretum

  • Location: Lisle, Illinois
  • Driving distance from Chicago: 30 minutes
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The Morton Arboretum in Lisle(Bob Simpson/Flickr.com)

Head to The Morton Arboretum for 16 miles of mulched pathways where you can safely walk through nature or you can choose well-maintained, paved paths near the main building.

Note: you must pay for admission and buy timed-entry tickets beforehand. Check the website for details.

Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve

  • Location: Darien, Illinois
  • Driving distance from Chicago: 30 minutes
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Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve(Jovan J/Flickr.com)

Waterfall Glen has 11 miles of scenic trails on limestone pathways. The nature preserve is well known for the Rocky Glen waterfall and Sawmill Creek bluff overlook.

The main trail is a 9.3-mile loop where you can walk past the waterfall, through wooded forests, and over bridges across the wetlands.

Indiana Dunes National Park

  • Location: Chesterton, Indiana
  • Driving distance from Chicago: 60 minutes
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(Photo by author)

Head across the state line to Indiana for some gorgeous beach views along the dunes as you hike through 14 different trails covering 50 miles.

This park offers a mix of easy and more difficult trails. Be sure not to miss the .9 mile Dunes Succession Hike for some amazing views.

Kettle Moraine State Forest South

  • Location: Waukesha County, Wisconsin
  • Driving distance from Chicago: 2 hours
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Ice Age Trail in Kettle Moraine State Forest - Southern Unit(Amy Bayer/Flickr.com)

The Southern Unit of Kettle Moraine State Forest is a closer drive to Chicago than the rest of the park. Here you will find differing lengths of trails winding through pine forests and prairies.

You can also check out the 30-mile section of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, which is a 1,000-mile footpath through the state of Wisconsin. This trail lets hikers view the path that ancient glaciers took through the forests, prairies, and rocky terrain.

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Jennifer covers lifestyle content and local news for the Chicago area.

Chicago, IL
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