A Little Time and a Keyboard: -Chicago Suburbs Hiking

-Chicago Suburbs Hiking

Forest preserves in the Chicago suburbs

Our list of places to hike in the Chicago suburbs grows every year. We are always exploring new trails--but also love to revisit the old favorites! Here is a list of our favorites. Feel free to add some of your ideas in the comments as well! There are always new treasures to be found!

**Please always confirm the condition of trails before going out. Also, check for any special rules of the forest preserve and for closures. Additionally, some spots may have closures during winter and hunting season.

Cook County

Bluff Spring Fen: Bordering Bluff City Cemetery in Elgin, we found a truly interesting forest preserve that is home to a rare fen called Bluff Spring Fen. Additionally, the glacial landscape includes boulders, gravel and kames left by the receding glaciers. Views are fantastic from one of the kames. Plus, there are plenty of birds to meet!

Crabtree Nature Center: Crabtree in Barrington is easily one of our favorite places to hike. There are many paths, each picturesque and serene. There are several lakes and an outdoor exploration area for kids. The Nature Center has exhibits, live animals and hands-on experience. Plus, kids can pick up scavenger hunts to enjoy when hiking. The preserve is free!

Chicago Botanic Garden: The Chicago Botanic Garden has long been one of our favorites. The garden includes quite a variety of plant collections--each providing a new experience. The Japanese garden in particular provides amazing views. The garden also has an outdoor train garden in the summer where trains buzz around famous landmarks. There is so much to explore--every visit is different. Evenings are particularly peaceful in the summer! Parking costs $30 per car, admission is free but there is an additional fee for the train garden.

Elk Pasture at Busse Woods: The Elk Pasture in Elk Grove Village is one of those treasures just hiding in the suburbs. In fact, it is across the street from a car dealership. However, you will easily find it a peaceful place to walk--and you can even bring along Fido! There are elk in the preserve--which kids will dig. Additionally, you will get some great views of airplanes. Free, fun and healthy!

Izaak Walton Park: Located along Prospect Heights Slough in Prospect Heights, this small preserve may not have a ton of trails but it treats with great birding!

River Trail Nature Center: River Trail Nature Center in Northbrook is a peaceful place to hike right off of Milwaukee! The preserve is heavily wooded and beautiful! In the fall, the trees are exceptionally gorgeous! Another free find!

Trailside Museum of Natural History: Trailside is located in River Forest and has a museum housed in a lovely historic home. We love the rustic and quiet trails. My daughter enjoyed exploring the museum. Another free and fun preserve!

Spring Valley Nature Center and Volkening Heritage Farm: Spring Valley Nature Center is one of our favorite suburban treasures. The farm is a functioning farm from the 1800's so pretty interesting for the family. The preserve is mainly prairie and particularly gorgeous in the summer. If you go, be sure to check the hours for the farm. Visiting the preserve is free, however, some of the events have admission costs.

The Grove: The Grove in Glenview is another hidden treasure. The Nature Center is fun for kids. It houses many animals for them to see and there often is a craft to do as well. The trails are peaceful. There are some historical buildings in the preserve. Their open hours vary, so check with The Grove for details.

Twin Lakes: Twin Lakes in Palatine has two small lakes to walk around making it the perfect size for a nice walk with the family. The playgrounds are fairly large. In the warmer months, there are paddle boats for a fee. Walking and enjoying the playground are free! Plus, it is a good place to see the Fourth of July fireworks!

Village Green: The Village Green in Northbrook is one of those places we head to when we have a spare afternoon and need a change of scenery! There is a large play area that the kids will love! Plus, you are near a few eateries including ice cream and frozen yogurt shops--a little extra treat!

Gallery Park: Gallery Park in Glenview is another of our quick go-tos. There is a lovely lake to walk around. Plus, there is a free splash pad area and playground for kids. It is near the Glen, so a visit opens you up to a nice family day.

Lake Katherine: Beautiful and serene Lake Katherine in Palos Heights has a picturesque lake and waterfall. There are several gardens to enjoy including a vegetable garden and a butterfly garden. Lake Katherine is free and you can bring your pooch! Nice!

Deer Grove: Deer Grove is in Palatine is fairly large with many trails and beautiful spots for picnics. There is a tranquil lake that will have you quickly forgetting the busy suburbs! There also are bike trails for a little family bike ride!

Skokie North Shore Sculpture Park: Mix art with your walk! The free park has over 60 sculptures. Amazing! There are guided walks from time to time, so be sure to check the schedule! The walk provides an intriguing view and a little bit different scenery for a hike!

Chicago Athenaeum International Sculpture Park: Tucked away in Schaumburg, this park provides another way to enjoy nature and art together. It is not as comprehensive as the Skokie North Shore Sculpture Park but still provides a pleasant walk!

Penny Road Pond: Penny Road Pond in Barrington provides for a nice spot for a picnic along a picturesque lake as well as ample space for birding.

Paul Douglas Forest Preserve: Located in Hoffman Estates, Paul Douglas Forest Preserve was a surprise to us. The preserve rests close to a highway yet you would hardly know! We enjoyed exploring woodlands, wetlands and prairie.

Beverly Lake: Located near Barrington, Beverly Lake is one of the newer preserves that we have hiked and found to be spectacular! The views are wonderful but be prepared for rolling trails.

Skokie Lagoons: Skokie Lagoons is a chain of seven lagoons connected by channels crafting a nature paradise. The North Branch Trail System goes through Skokie Lagoons. Plus, a wealth of nature activities are available.

Glenview Woods: Glenview Woods is a portion of the larger Harms Woods along the North Branch of the Chicago River. We enjoyed gentle footpaths through the woods that spiraled off of the North Branch Trail.

Camp Pine Woods to Beck Lake: Camp Pine Woods represents a portion of the Des Plaines River Trail. We hiked through a dense forest to come to the trail to Beck Lake. The Beck Lake trail was a bit more rustic and opened up to stunning Beck Lake. This set of trails is near Mount Prospect.

Bode Lake: Hoffman Estates' Bode Lake Forest Preserve surprised us with a lovely woodland area. The lake does not disappoint. Trails are flat, so this is a great hike for all!

Blue Star Memorial Woods: Located in Glenview, the woodlands of Blue Star Memorial Woods trace the gentle meanders of the North Branch Chicago River.

DuPage County

Blackwell Forest Preserve: The Warrenville forest preserve has trails through a variety of ecosystems. Additional outdoors activities are welcome including a tubing hill for winter! The lake is particularly tranquil and there is a nice spot up above the lake for picnics.

Cantigny ParkCantigny Park is one of our more recent finds and has quickly emerged as a favorite. There are delightful trails through various gardens and landscapes. Plus, there is a tank garden where kids can climb on tanks. Additionally, you can enjoy the First Division Museum and the McCormick Mansion. Admission is free--even to the museums--and parking is only $5. 

Fullersburg Woods: Straddling the Salt Creek in Oak Brook, Fullersburg Woods provides several miles of trails and quite a bit of history. Graue Mill, a gristmill, was a station on the Underground Railroad. The nature education center is home to a mammoth skeleton. A nice treasure!

Herrick Lake: The dazzling lake in Wheaton also provides a tranquil spot for walking through woodlands, marsh and meadow. Trails spur off to other nearby preserves.

Hidden Lake Forest Preserve: Located in Downers Grove, Hidden Lake treats to lake views and river views. 2 miles of gentle trails beckon for exploring.

Knoch Knolls Nature Center: Knoch Knolls in Naperville rests at the confluence of the West Branch and East Branch of the DuPage River which provides a lovely preserve with plenty of outdoor activities including a nice number of hiking trails. If you bring the kids, they will like the nature center. Plus, you can play disc golf!

Lincoln Marsh: Lincoln Marsh in Wheaton represents a remarkable restoration of wetland. The preserve also features woodland and prairie.

Meacham Grove Nature Preserve: Meacham Grove in Bloomingdale is an environmental success story. A construction pit was rehabilitated into Maple Lake and a lovely hill. The preserve has a creek meandering through it and is home to some rare plant species.

Morton ArboretumThe Morton Arboretum is easily one of our favorites especially the sensational Children's Garden! The Tree House Tales is an additional fun area for kids to run around and learn about trees while exploring engaging treehouses! We buy the yearly family membership which covers admission, parking at the Chicago Botanic Gardens and even includes discounts to special events. Check the website for further admission details and more.

Pratt's Wayne Woods: On a sunny spring day, we stretched our legs at Pratt's Wayne Woods in Wayne. We found the preserve to have spectacular views of ponds and wetlands. A significant marshland is in the preserve plus it is great for birding.

Songbird Slough Trail: Songbird Slough Trail happens to be a known birding area. The trail isn't very long but takes you through a lovely prairie, meadow and wetland landscape. A nice little treasure in Itasca!

Springbrook Nature Center: Springbrook Nature Center in Itasca is home to several trails through woods, prairie and wetland. Additionally, it is home to quite a few raptors, reptiles and amphibians.

St. James Farm: St. James Farm in Warrenville is a gem combining nature with art and history. The property once was a retreat of the McCormick family.

Waterfall Glen: Waterfall Glen is a sizable preserve in Darien, so each visit can be quite unique! The waterfall in the preserve is quite beautiful and many-a-hiker will take time to observe its glory! The preserve is free. 

Willowbrook Wildlife Center: Willowbrook in Glen Ellyn is both a native wildlife rehabilitation center and a place for a nice hike in nature. The center is one the best places in the area to learn about our native wildlife and enjoy a nature respite.

Winfield Mounds Forest Preserve: Winfield Mounds Forest Preserve is a sacred site here in Illinois. It is the location of three burial mounds. The preserve includes DuPage River views. The West Chicago preserve does not have a ton of trails but is beautiful in its rustic and spiritual nature

Kane County

Bliss Woods: Located in Sugar Grove, hiking in Bliss Woods was certainly blissful! We enjoyed hiking in a forest along a glacial ridge or esker. 

Bowes Creek Woods: This Elgin preserve features the ambling Bowes Creek which is sure to delight. The preserve also features prairie and some stands of trees. Trails are gentle and great for anyone looking for a nature adventure.

Burnidge Forest Preserve: Elgin's spacious Burnidge Forest Preserve welcomes hikers to explore rolling trails through woodlands and prairies. A campground is available.

Fabyan Forest Preserve: Located in Geneva, the Fabyan Forest Preserve affords hiking along the scenic Fox River. Additionally, there are interesting landmarks including the Fabyan Windmill.

Fox River Bluff West Forest Preserve: Perched on and across the Fox River in St. Charles, Fox River Bluff West captivated us with magnificent views of the Fox River. Crossing the river, there is a fantastic look out point! The preserve does not have a ton of trails but is near other preserves.

John J. Duerr Forest Preserve: Located in South Elgin, John J. Duerr Forest Preserve provides an opportunity to see a waterfall! The preserve has plenty of wooded trails and is perched on the Fox River. It is a major connection point for regional bike/hiking trails.

LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve: Nestled along Ferson Creek in St. Charles, LeRoy Oakes welcomed us with trails up to higher ground in some areas and creekside in others. The preserve also features historic structures.

Peck Farm: Peck Farm in Geneva boasts wonderful surroundings perfect for a hike, a Butterfly House in the summer, a silo to climb and a museum. An amazing place to visit for free. (A donation is suggested to enter the Butterfly House.)

Raceway Woods: Carpentersville's Raceway Woods really was once the location of a raceway! We found the trails to be rolling and enjoyed ravine views.

Red Oak Nature CenterThe Red Oak Nature Center in Batavia sits above the Fox River, affording some truly gorgeous views and perches from which to spot waterfowl. There is a small cave and a Nature Center to explore. This is another free gem! 

Tekakwitha Woods Forest Preserve: Tekakwitha Woods Forest Preserve entranced us with a dense forest, stunning ravines and a wonderful view of the Fox River. The St. Charles forest preserve is across the river from Jon J. Duerr Forest Preserve.

Tyler Creek Forest Preserve: Hiking trails at this Elgin preserve are not long but in the summer we loved walking in the prairie and taking in creek views.

Ferson Creek Fen: We got a little turned around finding this St. Charles preserve but the adventure was worth it to explore the unique environment.

Kendall County

Saw Wee Kee Park: Hugging the Fox River in Yorkville, IL, wanderers will enjoy the dense forest and wetlands of Saw Wee Kee Park. Trails are joint hiking and biking. The trails are rolling but not too difficult. 

Hoover Forest Preserve: Hoover Forest Preserve in Yorkville offers fantastic Fox River views and rolling trails. Campsites are available.

Silver Springs State Park: The dense woodlands and rolling terrain of Silver Springs State Park near Yorkville beckon many hikers. The preserve perches on the Fox River and features a bubbling natural spring.

Lake County

Veteran Acres Woods: Located in Crystal Lake, Veteran Acres Woods contains various ecosystems including woods, prairie and wetland. There is a large picnic area for gatherings and even a playground. A very peaceful place to walk with some extra fun for the kids.

Ryerson Conservation Area: A stunning preserve in Deerfield! The preserve features a magnificent melding of wooded areas and wetland. We were largely in the shade during our walk making it quite pleasant on a warm day. Boardwalks help you navigate wetlands. There is a small farm as well.

Cuba Marsh: Cuba Marsh is located adjacent to Barrington's Citizens Park. So, you really get your bang for your buck here! There is ample space for a picnic or even to fly a kite. Citizens Park has a large play area and restrooms. The hike features wetlands, wooded areas and prairie. There is a boardwalk--which kids will surely get a kick out of!

Chain O'Lakes: The lakes are gorgeous! We found the trails to be well shaded for the most part. Horse riding is available. There is a picnic area right near the Fox River which affords quite the opportunity to get away from it all for a moment.

Independence GroveIndependence Grove in Libertyville has quite a range of options for family fun in nature. Hiking trails, paddle boats for rent, places to fish, a large playground and a beach will keep you busy. There is an admission fee. However, the beach is ideal for little ones--very shallow, a good number of lifeguards, no real waves.

Volo BogThe Volo Bog is a National Natural Landmark and is the only quaking bog in Illinois. Quite the natural wonder! There are a surprising amount of landscapes to explore at the bog and you can actually walk on a boardwalk through a section of the bog! Free fun!

Flint Creek Savanna: Flint Creek Savanna is a rare gem. The preserve is an amazing example of what conservation efforts can do to bring native plant and animal species to Illinois. The savanna is rarely open but will have free self-guided walks the first Sunday of each month this summer. Check with the Citizens for Conservation for more details.

Heron Creek Forest Preserve: This Lake Zurich Forest Preserve has quickly become a favorite because we seem to have good luck birding here. The trails are easy and anyone should be able to navigate them.

Buffalo Creek Forest Preserve: Buffalo Creek in Long Grove is a newly designed forest preserve so many of the trees are still growing in. However, we have found that it has a great number of trails. Plus, birding is decent.

Hastings Lake Forest Preserve: Hastings Lake provides easily navigable hiking trails around a beautiful lake in Lake Villa. There are a number of scenic vistas and rolling trails.

McDonald Woods: McDonald Woods truly surprised us with fantastic lake and wetland views. Located in Lindenhurst, an adventure to McDonald Woods will certainly sweep you from the everyday with forest, lake and prairie views.

Fox River Forest Preserve: Situated along the Fox River in Port Barrington, this forest preserve provides a spot for serene contemplation. Bring your binoculars to see if you can spot waterfowl. There is a heron and egret rookery, For boaters, there is a launch.

Openlands Lakeshore Preserve: Located in Fort Sheridan near Highwood, Openlands Lakeshore Preserve gives incredible views of Lake Michigan both from atop a bluff and along the lake. There is also a beautiful hike in a ravine.  (Not currently open 2021-2022)

Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve: Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve melds nature, hiking and spectacular views of Lake Michigan. We found the trails to be fairly easy. You will also enjoy some ravine views!

Half Day Forest Preserve and Captain Daniel Wright Woods: Located in Vernon Hills and Mettawa, these two forest preserves abut against each other providing hikers with plenty of space to explore. The footbridge over the Des Plaines River adds some extra fun. If you are bringing younger kids, there is a sizable playground area. 

Old School Forest Preserve: Old School Forest Preserve in Mettawa encourages a variety of nature activities including hiking on several trails. One of the trails incorporates other wellness activities.

Reed-Turner Woodlands: This Long Grove preserve features a stunning ravine and a trail tracing the lake. If you are looking for a longer hike, combine this spot with nearby Heron Creek.

Lyons Woods: Located in Waukegan, Lyons Woods treats with trails through an impressive woodland, prairie and wetlands. 

Beulah Park: We discovered a true hidden treasure at Beulah Park in Zion! Nestled behind a field and playground is a stunning ravine along Kellogg Creek.

Lakewood Forest Preserve: Wauconda's Lakewood Forest Preserve features several beautiful lakes welcoming wildlife. We also enjoyed hiking through a grassland spotting birds. Biking and horseback riding are welcome.

Oriole Grove Forest Preserve: This tucked away preserve on the Lake Bluff - Lake Forest border has ties to Jens Jensen! We loved walking along the Skokie River.

McHenry County

Coral Woods: Situated in Marengo, Coral Woods is home to several different ecosystems all within a short walking distance including woods, prairie and wetland. The trails roll slightly but not too much.

Fox Bluff Conservation Area: Bordering on the Fox River, Cary's Fox Bluff Conservation Area treats hikers to rolling trails over rambling brooks. You will enjoy the rush of the water! Plus, there are a couple of small waterfalls that can be found from the trail.

Glacial Park Conservation Area: Hiking upon a glacial kame provides a stunning view at Glacial Park! The rolling landscape adds to the exploration of a glacially sculpted landscape including woodlands, wetlands, and grasslands.

Hickory Grove Highlands: This Cary forest preserve contains deposits left by receding glaciers making for an interesting topography. The preserve also contains a restored savanna and wetlands.

The Hollows Conservation Area: Nestled in Cary, The Hollows provides intriguing trails in a rehabilitated quarry area. Trails lead hikers through prairies, wetlands and woodlands. During our winter visit, we enjoyed discovering a flowing creek despite the deep freeze!

Marengo Ridge Conservation Area: At Marengo Ridge, hikers will enjoy a fantastic view from atop a moraine. Woodlands and prairie combine to make this a lovely preserve. Some trails are paved, some are grass and others are natural and rocky.

Moraine Hills State Park: McHenry's Moraine Hills State Park provides a range of trails exploring Illinois' glacially molded landscape. We enjoyed spotting birds in the wetlands during the summer months! Trails are rolling but not too difficult.

Stickney Run Conservation Area: Our spring visit to Stickney Run treated us to rolling trails, ravine views and a pond full of wildlife.

Pleasant Valley Conservation Area: This Woodstock area preserve sports fantastic views. The pond is particularly beautiful.

Will County

Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve: We found Goodenow Grove in Crete to have a healthy range of trails including some that can be quite rolling. We enjoyed pond views and a trail near the nature center featuring sculptures.

Hammel Woods: Along the DuPage River in Shorewood is beautiful Hammel Woods. The preserve features an interesting ravine system and views of the DuPage River. We spotted many birds including a bald eagle.

Messenger Woods Nature Preserve: Messenger Woods in Homer Glen offers a splendid view of Spring Creek. The woodlands are dense and beautiful. This preserve is great for birding.

Nearby Wisconsin

Grant Park: Grant Park hugs Lake Michigan in South Milwaukee. The spectacular preserve features lake views and stunning ravines. Seven Bridges Trail featuring seven bridges is a favorite.

Kenosha Sand Dunes: Located in Pleasant Prairie, Kenosha Sand Dunes offers a unique environment to explore with spectacular views of Lake Michigan.

Kettle Moraine State Forest Southern Unit: Kettle Moraine treats hikers to rolling trails in a dense forest. Several sections offer jaunts through the grasslands. You can hike part of the Ice Age Trail here.

Petrifying Springs Park: This Kenosha green space features meanders along and over the Pike River. The preserve also includes plenty of spots for picnics, a playground, adjacent golf course and more. In summer, there is a Biergarten!

Warnimont Park: Nestled in Cudahy, we found Warnimonts hike including sand dunes, ravines and lake views spectacular!

Rockford Area

Cedar Cliff Forest Preserve: Located in Stillman Valley, Cedar Cliff Forest Preserve features a prairie, woodlands, picturesque cliffs, and fabulous views of the Rock River.

Kilbuck Bluffs Forest Preserve: Kilbuck Bluffs has amazing creek views. We enjoyed hiking down the old, stone stairs down to the floodplain.

Kishwaukee Gorge North: Kishwaukee Gorge North features delightful views of a rocky ravine. Hikers can descend down to the river bed for more beautiful views. One of our favorites in Rockford!

Severson Dells: This Rockford preserve really wowed us with beautiful dolomite rock formations, a meandering creek, woodlands and a prairie.

Get out there and enjoy nature!

Hiking Trails in the Chicago Suburbs

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