Whether you want to escape the everyday hustle of Chicago life (Chicagoland) or you want to hike off the Chicago-style Deep Dish, Stan’s Donuts, Chicago Hot Dogs, Chicago sausage you overate, or you want to exercise, these 7hidden gem hiking trails in Chicago will provide you with the opportunity to feel like you are getting away without getting away, and the ability to walk off those food calories, while experiencing some serene settings, nature trails to enjoy wildlife, a prairie, wetlands, woodlands, a savanna, peaceful walks along the river, a waterfall, opportunity on some great Chicago hiking trails making it perfectly convenient to enjoy hiking the feeling of escaping Chicago albeit a densely populated area even though you never left!
As a Chicago-born and partially raised in Chicago girl, then transplanted into Pittsburgh, I feel best when I am in the heart of Chicago in the mix, but I can relate to the need to feel a bit removed once in a while, and the hidden gem hiking trails in Chicago will help you feel like you escaped even when you can’t (but I can tell you I wish I could escape Pittsburgh because Chicago is definitely where it is!)
While some of these may not be a hidden gems, they are hidden to you if you have not tested them out by adventuring on the trails, walking, or at least going by to see what makes them great spaces within Chicago, but you should go and try them out!
Discover Great Hiking In Chicago
Whether you choose to call your exercise walking or hiking is really up to you.
Chicago hiking trails are plentiful and often use retired rail tracks, but there are more trails in their abundant forest preserves.
Hiking is often defined by non-paved paths and landscape terrain that runs both up and downhill which is traditionally not the typical terrain in Chicago, but getting outdoors feels great and you can get moving and use hiking parks in Chicago to walk and hike and call it what you want!
I personally made sure you could find these great trails using hiking and walking trails as your topic because you’ve got to easily be able to find the resources you are looking for right?
So in other words, what one person might refer to as Chicago walking trails another may refer to as Chicago hiking trails, you get the idea!
#1 Of The Hidden Gem Hiking Trails In Chicago Is Good For Walking And Hiking
Let’s start on a nice adventure going through varying terrains and unbelievably you are not leaving Chicago!
North Park Village Nature Center 1 of The Hiking Parks In Chicago
Welcome to a part of the Chicago Park District boasting a 46-acre nature preserve on the North Park Village Campus, open generally 9-4P daily (except Sunday) with gates locked after those hours.
Here you will feel like you left Chicagoland but you really did not it is an incredible in-city retreat when you need to recenter! You’ll be able to venture through different types of terrains experiencing a prairie, a wetland, a savanna, and a woodland, so kind of all-encompassing and surely a bragging rights kind of hike as well!
Seek out this Chicago hiking trail behind a retirement (senior center) center building so you might have to play ‘seek out the hiking trail at 5801 N. Pulaski Chicago, IL but I assure you it is there.
You’ll Find All Of The Following At This Chicago Hiking Trail
- you’ll walk on uneven terrain and on cement paths, and wood footbridge areas, so it really is a mix of Chicago walking trails and hiking trails all in one.
- plenty of wildlife stops here from incredible bird-watching, squirrels, deer, and geese, and you might even spot a wild fox as well as plenty of deep greenery, shrubs, and wildflowers.
- There is no biking allowed, nor hiking off the trails, and please don’t feed the wildlife here!
- Take a moment to sit at the picnic tables and live in the moment while resting from hiking and enjoying the rare solace.
- Don’t forget to enjoy the waterfall at North Park Village Rock Garden.
#2 Schiller Woods Is Part Of The Chicago Trails For Hiking And Walking
The hiking and walking trails in Chicago in this particular area are part of the Des Plaines Trail, offering you unpaved trails and unending hiking and walking options.
- wooded areas
- remnant prairies
- sedge meadows and wetland
- a pond
- And the wildlife includes ducks, frogs, geese, and deer (lots of hearty deer)
If you are unfamiliar with the Des Plaines Trail system, it is 28 miles long and you can walk a little or hike a lot plus there is a very generous amount of parking so don’t worry about that aspect, just come to enjoy!
One thing you can be assured there are different nooks, crannies, and secluded spots to just hang out in, and you’ll find a new one every time you visit.
Rent out the pavillions, or just come to play in the wide open areas there’s lots of space for those big family and friend football challenge games!
A tip however with reference to all the wild deer, you’ll find lots of deer droppings along the way so watch what you sit in and don’t forget about ticks!
#3 Hidden Gem Hiking Trails in Chicago Include A Two Mile Plus Elevated Unused Railroad Track
Currently open 6a – 11p daily, you’ll want to toss 1600 – 3700 W Bloomingdale Ave, Chicago, IL 60622, 60647 into your navigation system to find the Bloomingdale Trail And Park!
What makes this park stand out is not only its walkable area, but it is above the traffic below (elevated platform), so all the crazy is below you not above! It makes this a fabulous choice for walking and a spectacular restoration of retired and abandoned rail track areas (which is becoming very common)
It is a paved (cemented trail) and no you will see that there is zero car access but plenty of walking space and multiple areas that you can exit and enter from along the way allowing for playtime at different play areas if you have the kids with you on the walking trails.
You can stop along the way there are plenty of seats at the interchanges, many water fountains (if they are on) and if you are hungry you can definitely find food options along the trail!
Along the railings you’ll find blooming wildflowers, which really makes this area pretty and serene, this area is definitely part of the Chicago Walking Trails rather than considered a hiking trail in Chicago!
#4 LaBagh Woods = More Chicago Hiking Trails To Conquer
You’ll find plentiful parking, at least 3 picnic areas, oodles of nature from frogs to deer, butterflies, and everything in between, a horse riding trail along the river bank, and great hiking trails ( North Branch Trail).
- some of the trails are fairly long and you’ll find a mix of paved and unpaved trails
- you’ll experience flat trails and some steeper inclines throughout depending on which trails you take.
- you are hiking in a forest preserve on literal hiking trails (off-road walking trails) or lack of trails (lol)
- The river hiking trail is incredibly calming with lots of wildlife along the way and so picturesque and it runs through the forest alongside the river.
- You also can opt to hike along the Saugnash Trail
- Throughout the different trails, you may find bridges (a few need some maintenance)to walk across, and steps to use
Nature abounds with incredible wild florals and trees with topically exposed roots against the flowing water’s edge and unending photo ops! Follow the stick markers to stay on the marked hiking trails.
Pro Tips For These Chicago Hiking Trails in LaBagh Woods
- If you want to stay within your hiking parameters and not meet any traffic or cross any streets, you can follow the trail from Gompers Park to Central Avenue and you’ll succeed in avoiding all traffic and street crossings.
- The Old Railroad Bridge over the river is fun to hike on, but don’t forget that the area below is steep so consider the weather conditions before slipping while trying to hike!
- Parking is plentiful near the Irene Hernandez Picnic area and there are restrooms there are well.
#5 Seeking Great Hiking In Chicago Go To This Gem In Plain Sight On A Very Busy Neighborhood Street.
What makes this walking and hiking Chicago trail interesting is it is situated right by a very busy neighborhood street, yet when you are there, it is as though the urban area and all of Chicago are not there and you have left to a different place.
Seek out West Ridge Nature Park, a park that provides paved hiking trails (walking trails), and tons of nature from deer, turtles, fish birds, and play areas that kids love!
An honest-to-goodness nature preserve right in a very urbanized area that will satisfy your pang to hike, walk, and be filled with zen!
#6 Another Of the Hidden Gem Hiking Trails In Chicago With Ample Parking And Space to Enjoy
Set your navigation app to seek out the Henry C. Palmisano Nature Park in the heart of your Bridgeport community!
- ample parking and a hidden gem, that is definitely not as popular as some of the hiking parks in Chicago
- It’s a nature sanctuary, featuring a wetland, prairie, and lagoon
- the Henry C. Palmisano Nature Park is situated on 27 acres which includes a fishing pond as well as an athletic track and impressive views of the city so you’ll want to take a few photos too!
- it is an environmental park that was formerly the Stearns quarry and a landfill so it was repurposed for better use giving the Chicago area a place to hike, walk and enjoy the great outdoors while never leaving the city (more or less)
- the quarry area is a great fishing spot (it was made into a fishing spot as Henry C. Palmisano loved to fish!)
- walking trails offer wildflowers
- no alcohol is allowed in the park nor dogs
It is great hiking in Chicago and within you will find stone art, steps to climb for a more elevated view, and better exercise movement in hiking as well as grassy areas and an elevated bridge path.
The park is open daily from 6a to 11p (check the website for operating hour confirmation).
Prop Tip For Henry C. Palmisano Nature Park
Venture here for a later day hike, bring your phone (camera) and get ready for an incredible sunset!
#7 Great Hiking In Chicago on This Out Of the Way Hidden Gem You’ll Want To Seek Out
This is part of the Chicago Hiking Trails the Allison Woods And River Trail Nature Center is fantastic and densely lush, lengthy, and should be a MUST try on your Chicago Hiking Parks.
It’s an Open land so its spaces and nature are protected.
You’ll experience the following on any hike here:
- stocker bird feeders allowing you to enjoy multiple types of birds in their most natural habitat
- hiking through the sugar maple woods (exploring the Des Plaines River by trails)
- a canoe launch (nothing to do with Chicago hiking but if you want to canoe you can)
- inside the nature center, you will find owls, hawks, coyotes,s, etc.
- the hiking trails are groomed and range from unpaved to paved depending on where you are on the property
- there are accessible bathrooms (as long as they are open)
- parking is free and plentiful
- dogs can ONLY be on a leash here
Head Out And Let Me Know How You Love The Hidden Gem Hiking Trails In Chicago
Let me know if I missed any that should be on this feature list of great hiking in Chicago! See you on the trails when I am back in the city ~ Dana XO