The best way to see the natural wonders of the area is on foot. Luckily, northern Illinois is home to hundreds of miles of trails for various abilities and interests. So grab your hiking boots and hit one of these top local trails.
Dick Young Forest Preserve, Batavia
With stretches of prairie, wetlands and woodlands, this ecologically complex park is considered a window into the origins of the region’s landscape. This has caused a rich diversity of flora and fauna to thrive within the park. The Nelson Lake Marsh on the east side of the preserve lies in a depression caused by glacial ice that existed on the site millenia ago. Explore all the area has to offer on the intertwining trail system. Nelson Lake Trail is an easy 2.57 miles of mowed trail that circles the marsh. Hikers will enjoy the site’s peaceful beauty, ever-changing surroundings, and opportunities to spot rare and endangered creatures.
Saw Wee Kee Park, Oswego
This extensive natural area comprises 134 scenic acres with a plethora of wildlife, including deer and bald eagles. The park’s compact trail system meanders through out the hilly terrain. One popular trail is the Saw Wee Kee Park Trail that skirts the Fox River for 5.8 miles. Though the trail is considered moderate, hikers should be ready for the rugged terrain. The curvy dirt trail has plenty of ups and downs, rocks and roots, making it popular with mountain bikers.
Illinois & Michigan Canal and Trail, Lockport
History buffs and nature lovers alike will enjoy a stroll along the I&M Canal Trail. The almost 80-mile trail follows the banks of the I&M canal, an old canal towpath that runs from Lasalle to Lemont. The LaSalle trailhead is located near a historic canal lock and hikers will find markers explaining the history of the canal at nearly every mile of the trail. You’ll also pass by several notable local sites, such as the Marseille’s railroad depot, Joliet Iron Works Historic Site, Lemont’s limestone quarries, the M. J. Hogan Grain Elevator, and several state parks. Visitors should note that there’s a gap in the trail near Joliet.
Moraine Hills State Park, McHenry
With an abundance of wildlife and rare plants, Moraine Hills State Park is a lush, ecological treasure situated by the Fox River. The park, named for the geological phenomena where an accumulation of boulders is left by a glacier, is intertwined with 10 miles of trails that separated into four unique routes. The 3.7-mile Lake Defiance Trail will take hikers on a scenic route around the 48-acre lake. One of the few glacial lakes in the state that’s still largely undeveloped, Lake Defiance is a pristine place to spot the wide array of creatures that live in the wetlands.
Glacial Park, RIngwood
The most popular park in the county, this pristine open space is home to rolling prairie, oak savanna, a flowing creek teeming with wildlife, and 40 state endangered plant and animal species. The park also features more than eight miles of hiking trails, including a stretch of the Prairie Trail that hugs the park’s eastern border. If you want to explore the interior of the park, try the two-mile Interpretive Nature Trail along the Deerpath Trail loop. Stop by the Visitor’s Center to pick up a guide book; choose from Plant Communities, Wildlife, History of the Land, and Geology. Or download the Prairie State Hike App for an audio tour through the park.