Where to Find Nature Near Chicago
There are so many great parks within the city of Chicago. We have an abundance of green space in our city and it’s one of my favorite things about it. That being said, sometimes you need a little more nature than Chicago can offer. Luckily, there are a ton of really great areas that are close to the city in which you can soak up all the nature you need. All of the places I’ve chosen to find nature near Chicago would make for great day trips or weekend trips if you’re really in need of some fresh air and hiking and are all within 100 miles of the city.
- Starved Rock State Park & Matthiessen State Park: These two state parks are so close to each other that I counted them as one. Both of these parks are so pretty, I wouldn’t be able to choose a favorite, but luckily, they can be paired together for a weekend of excellent hiking. Starved Rock has a ton of trails for all levels of hikers, with waterfalls, high flying views of the Illinois River and a beautiful lodge that’s perfect for staying the night or grabbing a meal. Matthiessen also has gorgeous waterfalls and really fun hiking trails with interesting, obstacle-like features.
- Rock Cut State Park: Located near Rockford, IL, this park is HUGE and has any sort of outdoor activity you could want. It’s very close to the city, but would also make for a great weekend of camping. There are beautiful hiking trails, 40 miles of trails, to be exact, equestrian trails and mountain bike trails. throughout the park. We enjoyed their lake, Pierce Lake, and the scenery around it as we paddle-boated our way through.
- New Buffalo, MI: While there are plenty of amazing places to enjoy Lake Michigan, New Buffalo is, in my humble opinion, the prettiest. The beach there is pristine and uncrowded, includes a lighthouse, and the best skipping stones. Behind the beach are paths that wind up the dunes, through the tall grass up to a vantage point that shows the entire beach and most of the town. Nearby, the Galien River County Park boasts beautiful hiking trails and other outdoor activities.
- Glacial Park: This little known park is located near my hometown in Northwestern Illinois. It has such a diverse landscape, featuring prairies, wetlands, tall hills and subsequent valleys. It’s a nature preserve home to numerous endangered plants and animals. The hiking there is top notch. When I was young, I used to go to a summer camp there and we would spend all day running through the park, learning about the landscape and the species that lived there. I loved it so much, that I always want to visit the park when I’m home and we have some spare time.
- Columbus Park: Columbus Park is perhaps the closest one on this list to the city of Chicago. It’s just a town away, in Oak Park, which technically makes it a part of the Chicago Park District. It’s about a twenty-five minute drive from the city. Columbus Park includes a sportier line up of activities, such as a small golf course, baseball diamonds, basketball courts and an outdoor swimming pool. It’s also a gorgeous event venue, with a lovely view of the pond behind it and a short hiking trail just beyond.
Where do you find nature near Chicago? What is your favorite park near your hometown?