11 Best Fall Hikes Near Chicago

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Lace up your boots and discover the hidden gems waiting to be explored on these exhilarating hikes near Chicago.

As the leaves begin to change color and the weather gets cooler, hiking is the perfect activity to enjoy the best of fall. Chicago is lucky to have many beautiful nature trails nearby.

As a mom and professional, sometimes a walk will help clear my head. So, I am always looking for the best hikes near me.

Looking for a beautiful hike near Chicago? Ready to surround yourself in the beauty of changing foliage and crisp autumn air? Try one of the best fall hikes near Chicago.

Places to Hike Near Chicago

Starved Rock State Park

Discover hidden waterfalls, breathtaking viewpoints, and enchanting wildlife habitats on the awe-inspiring hikes near Chicago.

Starved Rock State Park is about 95 miles from Chicago and is one of the most popular hiking destinations in Illinois. With over 13 miles of trails, there’s something for everyone. The trails wind through canyons and lead to waterfalls and interesting rock formations. Fall is a great time to visit because of the changing leaves.

Distance: 2 hours southwest

Matthiessen State Park

Matthiessen State Park is about 60 miles away. This park has 4 miles of trails that pass by waterfalls and cliffs. The highlight of the park is definitely the Devil’s Kitchen, a large ravine with interesting rock formations. The fall colors make this hike even more beautiful.

Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a beginner looking for an outdoor adventure, the diverse range of hikes near Chicago caters to all skill levels.

Distance: Southwest, 2 hrs

TIP: Hotels stays before the holiday weekends book very fast!

Indiana Dunes National Park

Indiana Dunes National Park is about 50 miles from Chicago. It has over 15 miles of trails that take you through forests, dunes, and wetlands. The views of Lake Michigan are especially beautiful in the fall.

Get your dose of fresh air and exercise as you traverse the invigorating hikes near Chicago, rejuvenating both body and mind.

Distance: 1.5 hours southeast

North Branch Trail

This trail is only about 25 miles from downtown and has over 20 miles of trail paths. There are a lot of bikers and rollerbladers on the trail and it’s a popular path during summer. It’s especially nice in the warmer season because the paved trails are next to the river.

If you access the trail from 1000 Lake Cook Road in Glencoe (and have extra time), you can visit the Chicago Botanic Garden for more time amongst nature. 

Escape the city bustle and embark on a peaceful journey surrounded by nature’s wonders on the serene hikes near Chicago.

Distance: Northwest, 35 min

Hidden Lake Forest Preserve

The Hidden Lake Forest Preserve is only about 25 miles from Chicago and has over 390 acres of nature. This preserve is great for a stroll, fishing, or a picnic. With 2 miles of trails, this forest preserve is a great destination for hikers, joggers, birders and other wildlife watchers.

Capture stunning photographs of nature’s beauty as you traverse the photogenic trails on the captivating hikes near Chicago.

Distance: West, 1 hr

Volo Blog State National Area

Volo Bog State Natural Area is about 60 miles from Chicago. This wetland is one of only a few remaining bogs in Illinois and it’s a great place to see rare plant life. There are 3 miles of trails that take you through woodlands and wetlands. The autumnal colors make this hike very scenic.

Distance: 2 hours northwest

dead logs

606 Trail

This elevated trail is about 7 miles from downtown. On this trail, you’ll find one of the best bike trails near Chicago, walkers, joggers, in-line skaters…even strollers. The trail is almost 3 miles long and was once an industrial train line.

The 606 is a trail through the neighborhoods west of the river and was once an abandoned rail line. There are multiple points of entrance and exit making it easy to start or end your hike. You can also find restaurants nearby at select exits. 

Distance: 1/2 hour west

Morgan-Monroe State Forest

The trail is rated rugged but not difficult. You’ll find some steep sections and elevations. Hiking poles will be your best help on trails like this. You might also want to bring a change of shoes and socks so that you don’t have to worry about getting your vehicle muddy.

Trails vary from short to a few 10-mile loops. There are a ton of butterflies and wildflowers along the path but watch out for wildlife (snakes) in summer the season.

Whether you’re seeking solitude or a memorable adventure with friends and family, the hikes near Chicago promise unforgettable experiences in the great outdoors.

Distance: 4.5 hours southeast

Champaign County Forest Preserve District

This forest preserve is located 140 miles southwest of Chicago and has more than 3,800 acres of natural space. There are drinking fountains and restrooms, so be sure to bring water bottles to stay hydrated.

This is a great trail to see the colors changing! The Covered Bridge at Lake of the Woods is a nice photo spot. 

Distance: 3 hours southwest

North Park Village Nature Center

The nature center is 12 miles from the Chicago loop. It is filled with awesome dioramas of local wildlife and terrain. While inside walking the trails and climbing the trees, it’s easy to forget you’re in a huge metropolitan city. 

It’s a beautiful place, lush and quiet with striking lily pads and vibrant color. In winter, North Park is nice for walking snow-covered trails in boots, and it is incredibly peaceful and beautiful.

Distance: 45 min northwest

Kettle Moraine State Park

Kettle Moraine State Park is 141 miles from Chicago and is home to two of the best mountain biking trails in the state. As with most or all state parks, dogs are allowed but must be kept on a 6-foot or less leash at all times.

Scuppernong Trail is a great system of a few hikes amongst the pines. The moderate path had some steep uphill and downhill points as well as rocks, gravel, and sand. You can get by with trail running shoes if you don’t have hiking shoes. 

Distance: 3 hours northwest

Final Thoughts on Best Fall Hikes Near Chicago

Get out and enjoy the fall weather with one of these great fall hikes near Chicago (or enjoy the gardens of Chicago during summer)!

Finding hikes near Chicago are easy because there are plentiful parks and forests within reasonable distance. Hiking is a good thing to do in your past time for several reasons:

  • Physical Fitness: Hiking is a great form of exercise that engages your entire body.
  • Mental Well-being: Spending time in nature and disconnecting from the demands of daily life can have a positive impact on mental well-being.
  • Connection with Nature: Hiking provides an opportunity to immerse yourself in the beauty of natural surroundings.
  • Exploration and Adventure: Hiking allows you to explore new trails, discover hidden gems, and embark on exciting adventures.
  • Solitude and Reflection: Hiking also offers the opportunity for solitude and introspection.
  • Escaping the Routine: Going on a hike breaks the monotony of daily routines and offers a change of scenery.
  • Adventure and Fun: Above all, hiking is an enjoyable and adventurous activity.
  • Sense of Achievement: Reaching the summit or completing a challenging trail can give you a sense of accomplishment and boost your self-confidence.

Happy Trails!

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