W Bloomingdale Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
The abandoned rail line is now nearly three miles of recreational respite right in the city. The elevated Bloomingdale Trail connects to six neighborhood parks at ground level and there are a dozen access points every quarter-mile as well as 17 ramps, making it accessible to those with disabilities. Poplars, evergreens, maples and sumacs add a pastoral note to the urban trail that offers an overlook at historic Humboldt Boulevard overlook and public art at the Damen Plaza. Dogs on leashes are welcome, and be sure to tote your own bags for Fido’s waste.
Ned Brown Forest Preserve
E. Higgins Rd. and Arlington Heights Road
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007
Walk the loop in a couple of hours amid a peaceful wooded setting. The wide, paved trail attracts lots of outdoor enthusiasts on foot and wheels who champion its safety, beautiful surrounding woods, well marked signage and proximity to the city. You won’t believe you’re in Cook County walking through a canopy of maple and oak trees, alongside meadows and a lake and even a herd of elk. Look up, too — Busse is a favorite place for kite-flying and model airplane pilots.
Greene Valley Forest Preserve
Greene Rd and 79th St
Naperville, IL 60565
Get your hamstrings ready for Greene Valley’s dozen miles of marked crushed-limestone trails including a one-mile self-guided “Tree Trek” hike. Learn a little Dendrology as signage along the route notes more than 10 different tree species with descriptions of various seeds, bark and leaves. Be sure there’s room on your phone for pictures because Greene Valley also features a 190-foot-tall scenic overlook (the county’s highest public perch) providing a commanding DuPage County and the Chicago skyline. Bring a picnic and binoculars to refuel and spot birds like hawks, herons and egrets. The overlook is open Saturdays and Sundays May through the end of October.
Cass and Northgate Roads
Darien, IL 60561
The 9.5 mile multi-use, crushed limestone Waterfall Glen loop trail offers an elevation shift here and there, water features, space to accommodate hikers and bikers Sights include ponds, Midwestern wildlife, thick forest and open views. Bring your pup as long as you bring the leash. The waterfall is no Niagara by any means, but it’s pretty and a nice shot of nature via prairies, savannahs and shaded, oak-maple woodlands very near Chicago. Waterfall Glen also features a permanently marked orienteering course (navigating an outdoor area with a map and a compass) near the trailhead.
Herrick Lake Forest Preserve
3S580 Naperville Rd
Wheaton, IL 60189
Hikers can discover more than five miles of trails including a section of the Danada and Herrick Lake Regional Trail, an official “National Recreation Trail” under the federal National Trails System. Bring food and drink because the path around the lake connects both parking lots (for super easy vehicle access) to picnic grounds and the trailhead, and additional trails cut through central and southern parts of the preserve. The lake trail loop is perfect for shorter hikes and there’s a Civilian Conservation Corps-built shelter at the south end of the lake. Expect scenic lake views, native tree species, plants and animals, access to fishing and rowboat, canoe and kayak rental from the Forest Preserve District facility. If your energy level is high, consider getting onto the longer trail system that will take you to open meadow, wetlands and savannah.