Looking for gorgeous and best spots for day hikes near Chicago? Try these nearby state parks, waterfalls, and more.
When people think of hiking in Chicago, they think of Lake Michigan beaches. It’s the most common destination that comes to mind whenever we think of traveling in Chicago. I am being honest, the first place I traveled when I was in Chicago is Lake Michigan’s beaches. The city is amazing and there’s so much more to Chicago than Lake Michigan, like some of the best day hikes in Chicago.
For me, Chicago is an amazing city to be traveled by foot. It is a great example of American culture, skyscrapers, food, nature, adventure, and hiking.
Best Day Hikes Near Chicago
North Park Village Centre
Trail Distance: 1.5 miles
Time Estimate: 20 min +
Elevation Gain: 50 feet
This is a wonderful option for anyone who wants to hike on quiet paths, boardwalks, and undisturbed hayfields but is not prepared for long hikes. North Park Villiage Nature Centre is the perfect day hike spot near Chicago. This Park contains three trails – one long loop trail that circles the entire area and two shorter paths.
The longest trail is own and half-mile long and could be easily completed with your partner.
The trail will lead you through the wetlands, Lake with small animals like skunks, raccoons, turtles, and if you are lucky enough you could cross paths with the herd of deer. The quiet path covered with trees, animals and at the center, a lake is just mind-blowing and is the perfect option for easy day hikes near Chicago.
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Deer Grove Forest Preserve
Trail Distance: 8.5 miles
Time Estimate: 1-2 hour
Elevation Gain: 30 feet
The trail is the oldest of all Cook County preserves with over eight and a half miles. It consists of two trails – the first trail is for pedestrians and cyclists and the second trail is for hikers and mountain bikers.
You have to pack some gear for hiking if you wish to complete the trail in one go.
The trail itself leads you through the dense forest with ravines and wetlands. It’s gorgeous and makes you feel connected with nature and wildlife. A trail is a good option for cycling in the dense forest and an amazing trail for one-day hikes near Chicago.
Starved Rock State Park
Trail Distance: 13 miles
Time Estimate: 7-8 hour
Elevation Gain: 30 feet
Difficulty: Depends on trail distance ( 3 miles or 13 miles)
The most popular day hike tourist attraction is located on the south bank of the Illinois River in LaSalle County. It offers 13 miles of well-established hiking trails with a scenic view of the majestic bluffs and 18 canyons.
The longest trail is 13 miles long, and the shortest trail is about one and a half miles if you and your partner would like to explore every inch of the Starved Rock State Park you might want to choose the 13-mile trail.
The trail explores the 13 canyons, gorgeous waterfalls including the 125 foot of overlooking the Illinois River.
Hiking is available all year, you can visit at any time and explore the place with your partner and it will be one of the best day hikes near Chicago city.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
Trail Distance: 6.7 miles
Time Estimate: 4 hour
Elevation Gain: 100 feet
Just a 1-hour drive from Chicago city, National Natural Landmark offers spectacular views of Lake Michigan. The trail explores rugged dunes, wetlands, sunny prairies, and peaceful forests.
The most popular trail is 4.7 miles Cowles Bog Trail which include ponds, beaches, swamps, black Oak savannas, and wildlife.
If you and your partner want to explore every inch of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, the 6.7 miles Glenwood Dunes Trail is the best option. It explores the diverse habitats, wildlife, and 360-degree view of beaches and wildlife. You don’t have to go far for a day hike near Chicago, you could just visit Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve
Trail Distance: 9.3 miles
Time Estimate: 6 hour
Elevation Gain: 200 feet
First, let’s get this out of the way, there is no waterfall. It’s a hoax and I fell into this trap. When I was hiking, the first thought in my mind was at the end of the trail there will be a waterfall, but after finishing the 9.5-mile-long trail, there was no waterfall. I felt like I have been a part of a fraud, but the moment I saw a scenic view of natural woods, savannas, hills, and bluffs overlooking the Des Plaines River, the trail is worth hiking.
Hikers could also make their journey, through the narrow, unmarked trails and wore the natural, diverse habitat with your loved one. Fishing is also available in the Waterfall Glen Forest to Preserve if you are into it. It’s a great spot for day hikes near Chicago city with fishing, hiking, and peaceful forest.
Strenuous Day Hikes Near Chicago
Devil’s Lake State Park
Trail Distance: 13.7 miles
Time Estimate: 1-2 hours ( shortest trails),8 hours for longest trails
Elevation Gain:150 feet
This is a great option for not just hiking but also you could enjoy the breathtaking views of the 9217-acre park. Ancient rock formations and a huge glacial lake are worth a day hike near Chicago.
Well, if this doesn’t excite you, then you could enjoy extra recreational activities like mountain climbing, swimming, kayaking, fishing, and camping.
Devil’s Lake State Park has over 29 miles of hiking trails but it’s difficult to explore each one in a day.
For a day hike, you want to visit the most popular trails
- Balanced Rock trail – Magnificent views of Devils Lake and Filled with steep, climbing stone with a half a mile distance, hiking time 1 hour.
- Devils Doorway trail – Glorified view of Devil’s Doorway rock formation. 0.5-mile distance, hiking time half hour).
- Ice Age National Scenic Trail – The longest trail consists of 13.7 miles with a gorgeous scenic view of Devils Lake.
Willow Springs (Palos Trail System Orange Loop)
Trail Distance: 5.5 miles
Time Estimate: 3 hour
Elevation Gain: 130 foot
The easiest and shortest distance from Chicago. If you want a perfect day trip with minimum road distance, there is nothing more suitable than Palos Trail System Orange Loop.
If you are looking for a night stay, the trail has easy access to Bathrooms and water, you could easily enjoy star gazing with an enormous view of the mountains.
Both two trails explore deep ravines, hills, and peaceful nature. Recommended trails are –
- Palos trail – Starting with an old gravel country lane from Country lane woods, it offers a significant path for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing. 5-mile distance, hiking time – 4 hours.
- Orange Unpaved Loop trail – Popular among hikers and biking. Filled with obstacles for hikers, with narrow and rocky unpaved paths.
McClaughry Springs Woods Trail
Trail Distance: 20 miles
Time Estimate: 12 hours
Elevation Gain: 170 foot
If you want a long hiking trail near Chicago, this is the best option. The perfect 20 miles trail takes you far from roads and you have a chance to make your path.
Most popular among adventure enthusiasts and hikers. This trail would easily disconnect you from the World and place you in the center of nature.
Join this trail from Palos Trail System, starting from Country lane woods. It is filled with magnificent views of hills, wetlands, and wild animals.
Another important aspect of this trail is Chicago Swallow Cliffs: 100-foot bluff with a staircase and at the top, you could enjoy an enormous view of Chicago and also beautiful photos for your Instagram.
North Branch Trail System
Trail Distance: 20 miles
Time Estimate: 8 – 10 hours
Elevation Gain: 60 foot
The best day hike near Chicago is a trail where the traveler doesn’t have to go to a certain location for hiking. It is the best option for any resident or traveler who wants to explore the windy city ( Chicago). The 20-mile trail extends all the way from Chicago’s Edgebrook neighborhood to the Chicago Botanic Garden in the northern suburb of Glencoe.
The trail itself leads you through the Chicago River, Skokie Lagoons, and offers a spectacular scenic view of Chicago city across the river.
The trail offers other outdoor activities like river rafting and kayak.
For some people, hiking is just a one-day fun trip but some adventure enthusiasts people just want to pack their bags and go for a hike. It doesn’t matter in which category you belong. The only thing matter is a great destination with an enormous hiking trail. Above mentioned trails are perfect for one-day hikes near Chicago but from my personal experience I would prefer
- STARVED ROCK STATE PARK
- WATERFALL GLEN FOREST PRESERVE
- PALOS TRAIL SYSTEM ORANGE LOOP
All three have massive hiking trails for a one-day hike near Chicago city and the trails themselves led you through the mountains, rivers, waterfalls, and wildlife. If you want to know more about these hiking trails, you could check the above. We have mentioned every detail about the hiking trail which is good for your one-day hike trip near Chicago.