Plenty of options for exploring nature on foot, bike

By Kevin Beese Staff Reporter

Getting out for a walk or bike ride may never be more appealing as shelter-in-place orders have many people still working from home and have limited outside entertainment options. But do you really want to walk around the neighborhood yet again?

Using information from local tourism boards, Chronicle Media has compiled a list of potential Illinois road trips to get you back in touch with nature on foot or bike.

The Chronicle will offer potential Illinois road trips, with the help of local tourism boards, weekly throughout the summer, highlighting go-to locations.

So, grab your hiking boots, strap the bike to the back of the car, or both, and hit these noteworthy trails: 


The Fox River Trail offers winding riverside bike paths running through downtowns. The elevation at Saw Wee Kee Park in Oswego provides a challenge for mountain bikers and trail runners. Saw Wee Kee is also one of the first area trails to dry after rains, according to local bikers. If tackling Saw Wee Kee, bring bug spray. You will need it.

Chicago Northwest

Busse Woods is a nearly 13-mile looped trail allowing for hiking and biking on a paved surface. There is a fenced-in elk pasture on the northeast side of the woods. Kayaks and canoes are allowed in Busse Lake in the heart of Busse Woods. Parking lots are temporarily closed weekends and holidays to limit guests.


The Illinois Prairie Path is a 58-mile trail consisting of five trail segments with three main branches that converge at Volunteer Park (West Liberty Drive at South Carlton) in Wheaton. The Prairie Path was one of the nation’s first rail-trail conversions. It passes through downtowns and forests preserves, and over waterways. It intersects with the Great Western Trail, which runs from Canada to Mexico. Both trails are comprised of crushed limestone.

The Illinois Prairie Path is a 58-mile trail, primarily through DuPage County, that runs through downtowns and forest preserves, and over waterways. (TrailLink photo)


The Fox River Trail offers more than 40 miles of paths. It runs beside the Fox River and travels through Elgin, West Dundee, East Dundee, Carpentersville, and South Elgin. The trail is near the Elgin Metra station and free parking garages. Along the route are Pratt Castle, Van’s Frozen Custard, and Hawthorne Hill Nature Center.


Metro East

The Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail meanders for 20 miles between Alton and Grafton. Perched on the edge of the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway, the paved trail runs along the Mississippi River and is flanked by 300-foot limestone bluffs.

Heritage Corridor

The Illinois & Michigan Canal State Trail is a 61-mile route running from Rockdale to LaSalle. It runs along the Des Plaines and Illinois rivers.

McHenry County

The Prairie Trail offers 45 miles of trails throughout McHenry County. Stretching 26 miles from Algonquin to just shy of the Wisconsin state line, the trail connects eight McHenry County communities. Potential stopping points include the Ox River and Larsen Prairie. Main access points are north of Algonquin, along Main Street in Crystal Lake, at Petersen Park in McHenry, and in Glacial Park north of Ringwood.

Individuals check out activity at Busse Lake inside Busse Woods in the Northwest Suburbs. (Cook County Forest Preserve photo)


Rock Cut State Park provides miles of hiking and biking trails within 3,092 acres. Trek through forests areas or circle Pierce Lake in the middle of the park. The park is also open for fishing.

Chicago Southland

The Cal-Sag Trail is a 13-mile route that runs between the I&M Canal Trail (see “Heritage Corridor” above) and Freedom Park in Alsip. It was built along the banks of the Cal-Sag Channel and Calumet River. The 21-mile Old Plank Road Trail was originally a Native American transportation corridor and travels through several suburbs.

North Shore

The Sheridan Road Bike Trail starts in Evanston and goes through Wilmette, past the Baha’i House of Worship, which stands as a symbol of unity. Another three miles leads you to Writer’s Theatre, a theater company in Glencoe.

Bikers take a break at one of the limestone bluffs along the Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail, which runs between Alton and Grafton. (Enjoy Illinois photo)

Want more?

For information on these and other biking and hiking options, check out the Road Trips blog on these tourism board sites: