It’s Time to Take a Hike in Spectacular Chicago!
The best way to experience Chicagoland is by hiking it! Get outdoors with Illinois author Ted Villaire as he helps you find and enjoy the top hikes within 60 miles of the city. A perfect blend of popular trails and hidden gems, the selected trails transport you to scenic overlooks, wildlife hot spots, and historical settings that renew your spirit and recharge your body.
Go bird-watching at Goose Lake Prairie. Immerse yourself in history along the I&M Canal Trail. Experience breathtaking views from secluded Lake Michigan beaches. Marvel at the awe-inspiring sand dunes in Northwest Indiana. With a highly accomplished outdoors writer as your guide, you’ll learn about the area and experience nature through 60 of Chicago’s best hikes!
Each hike description features key at-a-glance information on distance, difficulty, scenery, traffic, hiking time, and more, so you can quickly and easily learn about each trail. Detailed directions, GPS-based trail maps, and elevation profiles help to ensure that you know where you are and where you’re going. Tips on nearby activities further enhance your enjoyment of every outing.
Whether you’re a local looking for new places to explore or a visitor to the area, 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Chicago provides plenty of options for a couple hours or a full day of adventure, all within about an hour from Chicago and the surrounding communities.
About the Author
Ted Villaire is the author of Best Bike Rides Chicago, Best Rail Trails Illinois, Road Biking Illinois, and Camping Illinois (all for FalconGuides) in addition to this guidebook. He has worked as a reporter for numerous daily and weekly newspapers and is currently communications director for the Active Transportation Alliance, a nonprofit organization that advocates for better biking, walking, and public transport in the Chicago area. He also frequently gives presentations about local biking and hiking opportunities. Ted holds a bachelor’s degree from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and a master’s degree from DePaul University in Chicago. He and his wife, Christine, live on Chicago’s Northwest Side. Visit his website, tedvillaire.com, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read an Excerpt
PRATT’S WAYNE LOOP
AS THE LARGEST forest preserve in DuPage County, Pratt’s Wayne Woods has no shortage of marshes, ponds, and prairies to explore. The western section of the preserve hosts sprawling open spaces, interrupted now and then with picturesque wetlands and groves of elm and cottonwood.
DISTANCE & CONFIGURATION: 6-mile loop
SCENERY: Ponds, lakes, prairies, savannas, marshes, and woodland
EXPOSURE: Mostly exposed
TRAIL TRAFFIC: Mostly light; moderate on the Prairie Path section
TRAIL SURFACE: Crushed gravel, mowed grass
HIKING TIME: 2.5–3 hours
DRIVING DISTANCE: 37 miles from Millennium Park
ACCESS: Daily, 1 hour after sunrise–1 hour after sunset; no fees or permits
MAPS: Available in the parking lot and at the website below; USGS Geneva, IL, and West Chicago, IL
FACILITIES: Restrooms, water, picnic tables and shelter, fishing piers
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: None on main route
CONTACT: 630-933-7200, dupageforest.com/places-to-go/forest-preserves/pratts-wayne-woods
LOCATION: 6N179 Powis Road, West Chicago, IL 60185 (West Entrance)
COMMENTS: Dogs must be on leash no longer than 10 feet except in the preserve’s off-leash areas. Although Army Trail Road is not terribly busy, use caution while hiking a short segment along the road. Also proceed with great care through the equestrian area if horses are present.
Located in the far northwestern corner of DuPage County, this 3,432-acre forest preserve was pieced together with the help of an assortment of landowners. Some grew corn and grain here, some mined gravel, while others used the setting for a hunting and fishing club. After the preserve got its start in 1965 with the donation of 170 acres by the state of Illinois, a couple of the parcels were sold to the county by George Pratt, a local township supervisor and county forest preserve commissioner. The preserve is named after both Pratt and the nearby community of Wayne.
The hike begins by circling tree-fringed ponds on the northwest side of Pickerel Lake. Find the trailhead by heading right (west) along the lakeshore and looking for the crushed-gravel path at the far edge of the last parking lot. Once on the trail, you’ll pass the east end of Catfish Pond on the right and then pass a paved wheelchair-accessible trail on the left that leads to one of two fishing piers on Pickerel Lake. After the trail to the pier, follow the next trail left, which brings you to the shoreline of Beaver Slough. Many banks of the slough are reinforced with stacks of limestone that sometimes serve as steps leading to the water’s edge. All three of these ponds, as well as Pickerel Lake, were gravel pits about 50 years ago.
Keep straight ahead at the connector trail on the right that divides Beaver Slough and Horsetail Pond. At 0.3 mile, the trail takes a sharp right onto the metal bridge spanning the west end of Horsetail Pond, then passes a pleasant picnic area and connector trail dividing Horsetail and Catfish Ponds on the right. Just beyond the connector trail, turn left on the two-track. Be sure to take the trail to the right of the sign for Pratt’s Wayne Woodsdon’t take the fainter trail to the left of the sign.
Leaving the woods behind, the trail enters a wide-open savanna bordered by groves of oak. Follow the next junction left (west), and you’ll begin to see dozens of obstacles for horse jumpingeverything from small logs to wooden fences to giant tree trunks stacked 5 feet high. The 100-year-old Wayne-DuPage Hunt Club organizes equestrian events here during the warmer months.
After you hike 0.7 mile through the horse-jumping area, the trail veers right through the trees and then turns left before passing through a gate (you may have to duck under a cable stretched across the gate). At 1.5 miles into the hike, turn left (southeast) onto a lovely slice of rail-trail known as the Illinois Prairie Path; this sectioncalled the Elgin Spurruns for about 15 miles between the towns of Wheaton and Elgin. Once you’re on the path, keep to the right.
For the first 0.3 mile on the Prairie Path, the route shoots straight as an arrow behind a few houses, alongside dense woods, and next to a sizable cattail marsh. Soon the cattails on the left give way to open water, much of it covered in algae. Wooden railings mark the spot where Brewster Creek passes under the path. After the creek, open water comes and goes on the left, and eventually shrubs rise up on each side of the trail.
To the left, over the wooden railings at the Norton Creek crossing, is a wide, treeless swath of marshland and wet prairie. Farther along, thick woods and a dense, leafy canopy turn the trail into a shadowy tunnel. You’ll pass an elementary school on the right and then cross Powis Road before arriving at Army Trail Road at 3.4 miles into the hike. Here, you’ll find a portable restroom, a water pump, a bench, and a map board showing the entire 55-mile route of the Prairie Path. The hike continues less than 100 yards to the left (east) along Army Trail Road; then you take the first mowed path on the left, just after the train tracks.
Following the mowed path as it enters grassland and then swings around the back side of the farmhouse on the right, you’ll encounter wet prairies, stands of shrubs, and occasional savannas. After returning to Army Trail Road for a short sweep, the trail heads back into the grassland, takes a dip, and then rises to meet a trail on the right that heads to Munger Road. Turning left (north) at the fork takes you through a grove of smaller trees and next to a wetland on the left. Keeping left (north) at another spur trail, you’ll cut through a grove of elm, cottonwood, and cherry trees on your way to a high spot with the best view so far of this sprawling open space. Except for the big cluster of homes off to the east, you can see for nearly a mile in every direction.
As you approach the 23-acre off-leash dog area, you’ll pass a cattail-fringed pond with open water on the left. For the next 0.3 mile, the trail follows the dog fence straight ahead and then to the right. At 5.5 miles into the hike, use caution as you cross the train tracks. On the other side of the tracks, you’ll see the horse-trailer parking lot as you approach the park road. Take a left on the park road; then cross Powis Road into the forest preserve’s main entrance. Stay to the left, heading toward Pickerel Lake, and follow the lakeshore 0.15 mile back to the parking lot.
Those interested in exploring more of the Illinois Prairie Path either on foot or on a bicycle can connect to the Fox River Trail, about 5 miles north of Army Trail Road in Elgin. To the south, the Great Western Trail is about 4 miles away, and downtown Wheaton is about 9 miles away. The Active Transportation Alliance’s Chicagoland Bicycle Map ($8; activetransreg.org/shop) is indispensable for getting around on the region’s bikeways and rail-trails.
GPS TRAILHEAD COORDINATES N41° 58.017' W88° 14.621'
DIRECTIONS From the junction of I-90 and I-290 in Chicago, head north and then west on I-90 for 7.9 miles. Exit left (south) onto IL 59/Sutton Road, and drive 6.7 miles. Turn right (west) on Stearns Road, and proceed 1.7 miles. Turn left (south) on Powis Road and, in 1 mile, turn right to enter Pratt’s Wayne Woods Forest Preserve. Park in the first lot on the left.
Table of Contents
60 Hikes by Category
- Chicago Botanic Garden Hike
- Crabtree Nature Center Hike
- Deer Grove Loop
- Des Plaines River Trail: North Avenue to Chevalier Woods
- Humboldt Park Lagoon and Prairie River Loop
- Jackson Park Loop
- Lake Katherine Hike
- Palos–Sag Valley Trail System: Cap Sauers and Swallow Cliff Loop
- Palos–Sag Valley Trail System: Country Lane Loop
- Palos–Sag Valley Trail System: Little Red Schoolhouse Hike
- South Lakefront Trail
DuPAGE COUNTY AND DESTINATIONS WEST
- Blackwell Forest Preserve Hike
- Danada Forest Preserve Hike
- Dick Young Forest Preserve Hike
- Fullersburg Woods Forest Preserve Loop
- Greene Valley Forest Preserve Loop
- Morton Arboretum: East Hike
- Pratt’s Wayne Loop
- Shabbona Lake State Recreation Area Loop
- Silver Springs State Park Loop
- Tekakwitha–Fox River Hike
- Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve Loop
NORTH CHICAGOLAND AND WISCONSIN
- Adeline Jay Geo-Karis Illinois Beach State Park: Dead River Loop
- Bong State Recreation Area Loop
- Bristol Woods Hike
- Chain O’ Lakes State Park Hike
- Des Plaines River Trail: Old School to Independence Grove
- Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve Hike
- Geneva Lake: North Shore Hike
- Glacial Park Loop
- Lakewood Forest Preserve Loop
- Marengo Ridge Hike
- Moraine Hills State Park Hike
- Ryerson Woods Hike
- Veteran Acres–Sterne’s Woods Hike
- Volo Bog State Natural Area Hike
NORTHWEST INDIANA AND ENVIRONS
- Deep River Hike
- Grand Kankakee Marsh County Park Hike
- Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore: Bailly–Chellberg Hike
- Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore: Cowles Bog Loop
- Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore: Glenwood Dunes Hike
- Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore: Miller Woods Hike
- Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore: West Beach Loop
- Indiana Dunes State Park: Dune Ridge Loop
- LaSalle Fish and Wildlife Area Loop
- Oak Ridge Prairie Loop
- Warren Dunes State Park Loop
SOUTH CHICAGOLAND AND THE ILLINOIS RIVER VALLEY
- Buffalo Rock State Park Hike
- Goodenow Grove Hike
- Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area Hike
- I&M Canal State Trail and McKinley Woods Hike
- Iroquois County State Wildlife Area Hike
- Joliet Iron Works Hike
- Kankakee River State Park Hike
- Matthiessen State Park: Dells Area Hike
- Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie Hike
- Pilcher Park Loop
- Starved Rock State Park: East Hike
- Starved Rock State Park: West Hike
- Thorn Creek Hike
APPENDIX A: OUTDOOR STORES
APPENDIX B: PLACES TO BUY MAPS
APPENDIX C: HIKING CLUBS
About the Author