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With many summer activities postponed or canceled due to COVID, the people of the Chicagoland area are searching for new ways to have a fun, socially distanced summer. While people typically pack the riverfront on Lake Michigan and other busy areas, the search for new walking trails without all the people is the mission of many this summer.
The Western suburbs of Chicago offer many under the radar gems that provide the perfect scenery for a nice walk, a nice view, and plenty of space to experience all that Illinois landscape has to offer.
The Fox River trail, a Western suburb classic, offers more than 40 miles of walking and biking trails. Good for families and hikers of all levels, the riverfront paths can give you an up-close view of the Fox River along with, what feels like, an endless amount of things to see from start to finish. The path runs from Aurora all the way to Algonquin and has many different entrances including one of the most popular ones in Downtown Elgin.
There are points all along the path for different activities including parks and playgrounds to play on, fishing areas, and paddle boats and kayaks for rent. Depending on where you start and which way you travel, you can run into many safe and fun outdoor activities that make summer feel like summer! This path is the whole package for people looking for some fun in the sun.
Over 2500 acres, Waterfall Glen is an underrated day hike that includes endless trails and a beautiful waterfall as the attention-getter of the forest preserve. Considered one of the most diverse and impressive forest preserves in northern Illinois, Waterfall Glen has over 11 miles to walk, bike, and ride horses.
According to dupageforest.org, “Waterfall Glen’s prairies, savannas, and oak-maple woodlands contain 740 native plant species, 75 percent of all the plants known to grow naturally in DuPage County. As a result of this rich variety, more than 300 species of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, and reptiles and another 300 of invertebrates use the forest preserve either year-round or during their migrations”. A great place for a picnic, to bring your dog to play, or to practice your photography skills on the many different types of plant life, this is a bucket list location that you cannot miss this summer.
One of the most well-known attractions of the Western suburbs, the Morton Arboretum is a garden trail spanning over 1700 acres that features an outdoor museum, library, herbarium, and many programs that help maintain and conserve plant and wildlife species in Illinois. The popularity of this attraction makes it a place you must reserve and buy tickets in advance, so plan ahead!
The Arboretum is not only great for a calm, serene, walk but for a plethora of other outdoor summer activities that can provide a great environment for family fun. The Arboretum is also known for its unique events, and despite COVID, this summer is no different. Coming up in the next few weeks they have events such as Aerial Tree Yoga, Family Play and Exploration in Composting, and Tails on Trails where visitors bring their dogs to join in on the fun. The Morton Arboretum is an upgraded walking trail that provides one of the most beautiful garden views in the state.
Slightly more south but not to be left out, the Messenger Woods Nature Preserve in Homer Glen is a 441-acre preserve that boasts its excellent walking trails. With just under 2 miles of trails, it’s the perfect length for a leisurely walk with excellent surroundings that are a rare find in Illinois such as prairies, savannas, wetlands and a section of Spring Creek.
As an added bonus, the preserve also features biking, geocaching, and other safe activities making it the perfect place to spend the day.
In the heart of the Western suburbs is Busse Woods, an absolutely massive forest preserve that spans over 3,500 acres of land. Busse Woods is known for its well-mapped walking and hiking trails that show you just how many different parts of land there are and what you might discover.
If you’re looking for a spot to picnic, Busse Woods South has 12 picnic areas, and if you’re looking to fish, the Woods also features a boating center to encourage visitors to experience the diverse wildlife lurking just below one of the 40 small bodies of water that you can find within. With paved and unpaved trails this is the perfect place for a miniature hike or walk without having to travel too far.
The trails listed here, along with many others in the Chicagoland area are a great reminder to appreciate the outdoor spaces our communities have to offer and to take advantage of these activities that can be visited safely while socially distancing during COVID-19. Whether you are looking to walk, hike, picnic, or sit and enjoy the view, you cannot go wrong with the terrific options that scatter the western suburbs.