In a city famed for its architecture and industrial design, Chicago also has plenty of relaxing green space to discover. After all, the Windy City’s original motto, “Urbs in Horto” (City in a Garden), has been rallying the city’s creation and protection of parklands since the 1830s. Because of our shared love for promoting rich outdoor heritage (and last summer’s Bootmobile shenanigans at the Navy Pier), we’ve decided to put together our own guide to exploring Chi-town’s urban trails.
Chicago Lakefront Trail
While not the most strenuous of terrain, Chicago’s iconic Lakefront Trail connects pedestrians and cyclists with beaches, parks and gardens – all amidst the city’s man-made mountains. The 18-mile trail extends from Hollywood Ave. on the north end to 71st St. on the South Side, with 11 miles dedicated to Chicago’s largest public green space, Lincoln Park. As America’s second most-visited park with 20 million annual visitors, Lincoln Park’s 1,200+ acres include nature reserves, harbors, a zoo and the Lincoln Park Conservatory. Here, visitors can wander through lush horticultural collections including tropical palms and ancient ferns.
For another hidden oasis, head to Hollywood park for a visit to the North Park Village Nature Center. The preserve’s 158 acres of diverse landscape include a forest, prairie, wetland and oak savanna. The park’s serenity coupled with a rare bird or deer spotting will quickly find you forgetting the bustle of the city.
Fullersburg County Forest Preserve
A 30-minute drive outside the city, Fullersburg Woods in Oak Park was opened to much fanfare – so much so, that picnicking was restricted and the park was revived in the 1970s. Today, the preserve is a haven for wildlife and a prime location for local birders to spy migratory warblers and nesting songbirds. Hikers can enjoy six miles of gently rolling to hilly terrain, including the popular Wildflower Trail, and the trail to Graue Mill. Before or after your hike, be sure to stop at the visitor center to see the 13,000-year-old wooly mammoth skeleton!
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
If you’re really looking to lose yourself in nature, the nation’s largest (and first!) forest preserve is only a half-hour jaunt from downtown Chicago. Spanning over 15,000 acres, the Palos/Sag Valley Trails System includes 78 miles of wide and single-track trails covered in softly decaying underbrush. Want to pump up your blood flow? The 126 steps of the Stairs at Swallow Cliff will boost your heart rate –and they lead to one of winter’s best sledding hills.
Ready to check out Chicago’s green spaces? Grab some gear at our nearby Skokie retail location and hit the trails with a friend or the Windy City Hikers. Then let us know what your favorite city spots are in the comments below!