Best Day Hikes Near Chicago

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

Easy Day Hikes Near Chicago
Easy Day Hikes Near Chicago, Illinois

Trail Distance: 1.5 miles

Time Estimate: 20 min +

Elevation Gain: 50 feet

Difficulty: Easy

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.

You may also Like: Best Multi-day Hikes in the Canadian Rockies

Deer Grove Forest Preserve

day hikes near chicago
Deers Eating Grass at Deer Grove Forest Preserve

Trail Distance: 8.5 miles

Time Estimate: 1-2 hour

Elevation Gain: 30 feet

Difficulty: Easy

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

hiking trails near chicago
Splendid view of Starved Rock State Park in central Illinois.

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

hiking around chicago
Indiana Dunes National Park on the Great Lakes

Trail Distance: 6.7 miles

Time Estimate: 4 hour

Elevation Gain: 100 feet

Difficulty: Medium

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

places to hike near chicago
Breathtaking view in Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve, Chicago

Trail Distance: 9.3 miles

Time Estimate: 6 hour

Elevation Gain: 200 feet

Difficulty: Medium

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

Best Day Hikes Near Chicago
Amazing view of Devil’s Lake State Park in Baraboo, Wisconsin

Trail Distance: 13.7 miles

Time Estimate: 1-2 hours ( shortest trails),8 hours for longest trails

Elevation Gain:150 feet

Difficulty: Hard

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)

Best Day Hikes Near Chicago
Palos Trail System Orange Loop, Illinois, USA

Trail Distance: 5.5 miles

Time Estimate: 3 hour

Elevation Gain: 130 foot

Difficulty: Hard

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

Best Day Hikes Near Chicago
100-foot stairs known as the Chicago Swallow Cliffs

Trail Distance: 20 miles

Time Estimate: 12 hours

Elevation Gain: 170 foot

Difficulty: Hard

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

Best Day Hikes Near Chicago
Cyclist riding in the longest trail near Chicago

Trail Distance: 20 miles

Time Estimate: 8 – 10 hours

Elevation Gain: 60 foot

Difficulty: Medium

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.

My Recommendations:

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


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.