25 Best Hiking Trails Near Chicago (Pet & Family-Friendly)

When Chicago comes to mind, you think of The Windy City and the big skyline. This city offers a lot more than its architecture and great food.

It has canyons and bluffs, waterfalls, rivers, lakes, muddy marshes, and forests. If you’re looking for an adventure away from the noisy city, you’ll be sure to find it on one of these great hiking locations near Chicago.  

T&T Tip: Before leaving for any hike, make sure you call ahead to check operating hours and if there are any parking fees. Make sure to pack water, food, sun protection, a map, hiking boots, and food and water for your pets if you plan to bring them.

Top 25 Chicago Hiking Trails To Explore

1. Chicago Lakefront Trail

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The Chicago Lakefront Trail is an easy hike that will take you a little over five hours to complete. This trail is pet-friendly and they may be off-leash in some areas. This is a beautiful trail that will allow you to see the lake flowers, and when in season, gorgeous fall foliage.

You’ll have gorgeous views of Lake Michigan that are perfect for walking, running, and biking. In the evening the trail can become very crowded so we recommend hiking this trail in the early morning. The trail is paved with occasional shade, so make sure you have sun protection on hand and dress accordingly.

Based on reviews, visitors’ favorite part of this trail are the scenic views of the Chicago skyline.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 17.6 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 282 Feet

2. 312 Riverrun Path

Credit: Jon Lauriat

312 Riverrun Path is an easy hike that will take you about an hour to complete. This trail is pet-friendly, as long as dogs are on a leash. This is a nice urban trail that goes along the North Branch of the Chicago River.

If you want to add a little more distance, you can take the pedestrian bridge across. The trail itself is concrete, smooth, and six feet wide. If you plan on bringing the family along on this hike, it is suitable for smaller children.

This River path was developed to provide a pathway for people. It connects three parks one with a bike and one pedestrian pathway.

Along this trail is the River view bridge which opened in 2019. The trail finished production in 2020 and had a continuous trail to Montrose Avenue. Based on reviews, this is a family-friendly hike that is stroller accessible.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 2.9 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 29 Feet

3. Kankakee River State Park

Credit: John Ruberry

The Kankakee River Trail is an easy hike that will take you a little over three hours to complete. This trail is pet-friendly as long as they are on a leash. This hike starts as a gravel trail with the other half being paved asphalt.

There are side trails you can take to the main river and if you’re lucky, can find a good view on the rocks. If you get to this trail around noon, it will already be crowded so make sure you get there early if you want to avoid crowds.

Based on reviews, visitors say this is a flat pathway through a quiet wooded area. The pathway is wide enough to provide a lane in each direction for hikers.

The wildflowers here are gorgeous when they start to bloom. You’ll run into bike riders on this hike, but according to visitors, they seem to be respectful of the rules.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 10.5 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 259 Feet

4. French Canyon Trail

Credit: Pamela Brick

The French Canyon Trail is a moderately challenging hike that will take you around an hour to complete. If you’re hiking during the winter, be prepared for icy conditions on this hike. Make sure you wear a pair of hiking boots that can withstand wintry conditions.

The trail is very well-marked, muddy, and has a lot of stairs for a challenging workout. Make sure to stay on your path because there are a few drop-offs, but the trail is wide enough that you’ll be able to go around. Out and back will make this trail about eight miles total to be sure to bring plenty of food and water.

The area known as Starved Rock features eighteen canyons, many of them with unique waterfalls. The weather will determine if there are any dry canyons or waterfalls.

Based on reviews, visitors say they love the impressive views of the canyon, the trail is well-maintained, and a beautiful waterfall.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 2.5 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 246 Feet

5. Des Plaines River Trail

Credit: Nejdet Duzen

The Des Plaines River Trail is an easy hike that will take you over sixteen hours to complete. The trail is open all year long and is pet-friendly, with dogs allowed off their leash in certain areas. This trail has some muddy areas but is well-maintained.

Even though leaves cover most of this trail, there aren’t many roots or stumps that will make hiking difficult. This hike isn’t very crowded and there’s not much shade so make sure you have sun protection. Since there isn’t much shade we don’t recommend taking small children on this hike as they may become tired in the heat.

The trail is a multi-use trail that goes through most of Lake and Cook County. The trail is perfect for hiking, biking, walking, and biking. Since most of the trail is in the flood plain, sections of the trail can become closed if there is heavy rain.

Though not all sections of this trail directly connect, there is an area of more than thirty-one miles that long runs through Lake County. There is a nature house where the animals from the forest come out for the public to see.

The trail is calm, beautiful, and has gorgeous trees when all of the leaves have turned colors in the fall. The peak time to walk this trail is in October when you can have a picnic next to the river.

Based on reviews, visitors say you may see deer and maybe even beavers. In the cooler months, you’ll get to see the beautiful fall foliage, feel a light breeze, and see some bikers.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 53.7 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 862 Feet

6. Nordic Trail

Credit: Anthony Heflin

Nordic Trail is a moderately challenging hike that will take you a little over one hour to complete. It is pet-friendly, but dogs must be on a leash. On this trail, you’ll see vegetation, pine plantations, and open meadows.

These trails are well-marked and have some great hills to increase your heart rate. If you hike after recent rain, be prepared for muddy conditions, so make sure you have a sturdy pair of water-resistant hiking boots.

You’ll get a good variety of terrain, well-maintained trail, and even a parking area. Based on reviews, visitors say this spot is great for both long and short hikes. Some areas are rocky and the trails are wide.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 3.7 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 219 Feet

7. Skokie Lagoons Inner Trail

Credit: Nicola Patterson

The Skokie Lagoons Inner Trail is a moderately challenging hike that will take you a little over an hour to complete. This trail is pet-friendly, as long as they are on a leash.

The Skokie Lagoons area is eight hundred and ninety-four acres and is unpaved and lightly trafficked. It will take you through the forestland and you’ll be able to view wildlife by the water along the way. This trail will lead you to the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Based on reviews, this trail is muddy and even in some areas could be three inches deep. The only negative that some have complained about is the highway noise.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 4.1 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 55 Feet

8. Waterfall Glen Trail

Credit: Nicola Patterson

The Waterfall Glen Trail will take you a little over three hours to complete. This is a pet-friendly trail, but dogs must be on a leash.

If you plan on hiking this trail, watch out for small children as this is a heavily populated area among families. The limestone path cuts through the forest and leads to a man-made waterfall.

Based on reviews, visitors say their favorite part of this hike is the waterfall. There are also very few shaded areas so make sure to wear sun protection.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 9.3 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 400 Feet

9. North Branch Trail

Credit: Nicola Patterson

The North Branch trail system has paved and unpaved trails that span over twenty miles of the Chicago River. It makes it one of the premier hiking and biking routes in the northern suburbs.

By connecting Chicago to the Botanic Garden, the system has trail loops that pass through restoration sites with an abundance of wildlife.

The North Branch Trail is an easy hike that will take you almost six hours to complete. You can bring pets on this trail as long as they are on a leash.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 19.6 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 328 Feet

10. Deer Grove Yellow Loop Trail

Credit: Eddie J. Rodriquez

The Deer Grove Yellow Loop Trail is a moderately challenging hike that will take you around two hours to complete. This trail is pet-friendly, as long as dogs are on a leash.

The yellow loop is a gravel trail that has many creeks with logs that you will cross. You may run into muddy areas have recent rain, but most areas are passable. The trail is well-marked and well-maintained, and there’s not much traffic which makes that a great hike if you’re not into crowds.

You’ll explore over rolling woodlands that will lead you into curiosity about other loops. The parking lot is located on the westward side that is north of Dundee Road. At this location, you’ll be able to be provided with information on the trail and other rest necessities if needed.

If you have a love of nature, the forest is open and beautiful and well-managed and in the spring you’ll be able to see blooming flowers all around. Based on reviews, visitors say because of its forest area, they recommend that you wear long sleeves or bring bug spray if you can.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 5.7 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 298 Feet

11. LaBagh Woods Loop

Credit: Eddie J. Rodriquez

The LaBagh Woods Loop is an easy hike that will take you around two hours to complete. This is a pet-friendly trail and dogs may be off their leash in certain areas.

The trail is very well-maintained and if you’re a lover of wildlife, you’ll get to see many deer and birds on your adventure. There’s a railroad bridge over the river that you may run into that is quite old so use precaution when crossing.

On the south area of the river, there are steep areas so we highly recommend hiking in a sturdy pair of hiking boots. Following these trails may be a bit difficult due to poor signage so make sure you download a map before beginning your trip.

Based on reviews, visitors seem to find this trail quite pleasant and are happy that it’s not overcrowded like some trails that are closer to the city. They also love the pull-offs and alternative paths that are available for exploring.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 5.7 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 183 Feet

12. Glacial Park Outer Loop

Credit: Eddie J. Rodriquez

Glacial Park is one of Illinois’ most popular sites. Many people visit this area to either hike or go horseback riding. A day trip here may look like going to their visitor center and Sandhill Study for trail maps.

If you’re planning a hike here, you can download the Glacial Park hiking app for a better guide to trails. The Glacial Park Outer Loop Trail is an easy hike that will take you around an hour to complete. The trail is open all year and is pet-friendly as long as they are on a leash.

It has great panoramic views and just enough hills to not make it overly challenging. There are wildflowers, a majestical bridge, and a beautiful overlook to view the sunset. Based on reviews, visitors love the views on this trail and the options of other interconnected trails.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 2.2 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 187 Feet

13. Castle Rock North Trails

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Castle Rock North Trails is an easy hike that will take you around ninety minutes to complete. It is pet-friendly as long as dogs are on a leash. The trails are wide, there is a good amount of uphill action, and they have bathrooms with other park amenities.

This trail is made up of three loops so you’ll get to decide if you want to make it longer or shorter. The bridges can become slippery when cross so take precautions and also wear a good pair of water-resistant hiking boots or shoes.

Based on reviews, visitors love the elevation changes on this trail. Since it’s in the forest it’s mostly shaded and would be great for smaller children.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 3.5 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 387 Feet

14. Lincoln Park Trail

Credit: Eddie J. Rodriquez

The Lincoln Park Trail is an easy hike that will take you around ninety minutes to complete. This trail is open all year long and is pet-friendly with dogs being allowed off their leash in certain areas.

It has the best views of the skyline that are on the jetty on the south end of the trail. The Lake Front path can become crowded so get here early if you want a more enjoyable hike. The trail is paved so along with hiking it’s rollerblading, biking, and stroller-friendly for families with young children.

Based on reviews, visitors love the dedicated bike lane that makes it safer for hikers and joggers. There’s free street parking at Lincoln State Park, otherwise, you’ll have to pay on the lot.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 5 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 85 Feet

15. Montrose Harbor Trail

Credit: Nicola Patterson

The Montrose Harbor Trail is an easy hike that takes around ninety minutes to complete. It is pet-friendly, but dogs must be on a leash. The path is a separate path along a dirt road which then leads into a more narrow, rocky path.

This trail gives you a great view of Lake Michigan and sailboats from the harbor. If you bring your dogs, you can take them to the dog park along the beach.

Based on reviews, this trail is flat and can get very busy so it’s recommended to go earlier in the day. The trail becomes a little rockier between Ohio St. Beach and Oak Street Beach.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 5.4 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 42 Feet

16. Millennium Park Trail

Credit: Nicola Patterson

The Millennium Park trail is an easy hike that will take you around fifteen minutes to complete. This is a short trail with many flowers and the popular Giant Bean. You’ll be able to view the fountain, waterfront, and cloud gate.

Even though it’s a small trail, it links with the city street and sidewalk runs. You can park at the parking garage beneath the park or along the lakefront up north at Montrose Harbor for a long run to the Grant Park area.

Based on reviews, visitors say this trail is perfect if you’re looking for something quick and easy to complete for a day in the city.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 0.7 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 16 Feet

17. Caldwell Woods Loop

Credit: Eddie J. Rodriquez

Caldwell Woods Loop Trail is an easy hike that takes around thirty minutes to complete. This trail is pet-friendly as long as they are on a leash. Most of the route is off-trail, and if the river starts rising the trail may disappear.

There are some downhills and downed trees along the way so make sure to bring a pair of sturdy hiking boots and use precautions. Based on reviews, this is a great family hike but can become very muddy after recent rainfall.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1.3 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 26 Feet

18. McCormick Place Bird Sanctuary

Credit: Eddie J. Rodriquez

The McCormick Place Bird Sanctuary is an extremely easy trail that takes only five minutes to complete. It’s perfect for families with small children if you need something quick and easy for them to stretch their legs.

This trail is pet-friendly as long as they are leashed and is best visited from May to September. It’s a very interesting trail with a variety of plants and flowers.

Based on reviews, visitors say this is a nice small stretch but can get a bit noisy from the roads.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 0.3 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 0 Feet

19. Dan Ryan Black Paved Loop Trail

Credit: Eddie J. Rodriquez

The Dan Ryan Black Paved Loop Trail is an easy hike that will take you around twenty minutes to complete. This trail is pet-friendly as long as they are leashed.

The trail connects to the Major Taylor bike path, and there are fitness steps towards the south if you want a more challenging workout. Based on reviews, if you to do the stair master without paying the gym fee, you can use this trail.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1 Mile
Total Elevation Gain: 6 Feet

20. Sag Valley Yellow Trail Loop

Credit: Nicola Patterson

The Sag Valley Yellow Trail Loop is a moderately challenging hike that will take you around two and a half hours to complete. The trail is open all year long and is pet-friendly.

It has nice, wide, and mostly gravel. It has some hills, has crushed limestone, while other areas have looser rocks and mud holes. If you go after recent rain, bring a pair of water-resistant hiking boots.

If you go counterclockwise the homestretch will be a little tougher than the rest of the hike. The second hill is pretty steep and may slow you down, but keep pushing through!

Based on reviews, the trail is well-maintained and beautiful if you go in the winter with the snow cover.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 7.6 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 410 Feet

21. Dells Canyon and Bluff Trail

Credit: Nicola Patterson

The Dells Canyon and Bluff Trail is a moderately challenging hike that will take you around an hour to complete. This trail is pet-friendly as long as they are on a leash.

The parking lot to this trail is closed and it can become a bit muddy so be prepared for an extra mile and a half of hiking. If you want to avoid the crowd, get there early because it’s a heavily-populated area.

This is a great family-friendly hike and you can even enjoy the waterfall to cool off on a hot day. There are lots of stairs, but they are manageable so bring plenty of water and snacks.

Based on reviews, visitors say this is a great canyon with obstacles navigating the river and streams.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 2 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 206 Feet

22. Buffalo Creek Trail

Credit: Eddie J. Rodriquez

The Buffalo Creek Trail is a moderately challenging hike that will take you a little over an hour to complete. The trail is open all year long and is pet-friendly as long as they are on a leash. It is very well-maintained with four wooden bridges to walk across and give you a view is the ducks.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 4 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 134 Feet

23. Busse Woods Trail

Credit: Eddie J. Rodriquez

The Bussee Woods trail is an easy hike that will take you a little over two hours to complete. It is open all year long and is pet-friendly as long as they are on a leash.

The path is long and winding through the woods and around the lake. Bikers like to go fast on this trail so use precautions during your hike. If you want to take a detour you can go along the Nature Preserve which has uneven terrain and is more secluded.

Based on reviews, visitors like this trail but say it’s a little too noisy from traffic.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 7.5 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 101 Feet

24. Centennial Trail

Credit: Eddie J. Rodriquez

The Centennial Trail is an easy hike that will take you around three and a half hours to complete. It is open all year long and is pet-friendly as long as they are leashed.

The trail is flat with some minimal hills on and off. The marsh is a little scraggly, but it’s not very busy and it connects to other trails. This hike also has a waterfall if you need to take a short break.

Based on reviews, visitors say this trail is well-paved and clean.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 12.2 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 108 Feet

25. Danada and Herrick Lake Regional Trail

Credit: elegeyda

The Danada and Herrick Lake Regional Trail is an easy hike that takes a little over two hours to complete. The trail is open all year long and is pet-friendly as long as they are leashed.

It gives you great access to the wetlands, has nice woods, and is steep downhill with an exposed section. This trail doesn’t have shade so make sure you pack plenty of sun protection.

You’ll get to see beautiful views of Rice Lake, lots of birds, and other types of wildlife. Based on reviews, this trail is well-maintained but can become very busy so make sure you get here early to avoid crowds.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 6.7 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 150 Feet