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Date Created: 01/17/2012 Hits:

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Recreational Resources

The great outdoors can be found within and beyond the city limits. Chicago has one of the best urban park systems in the world, an immense forest preserve, and Lake Michigan with its 15 miles of bathing beaches and 18 miles of trails for walking, jogging, biking, or in-line skating. If you want to explore farther afield, here are some ideas.

Regional parks

Chicago Park District
Web: www.chicagoparkdistrict.com
312-742-PLAY
Chicago's parks are not run by the city, but by the Park District. Those near the campus and those along the lake are wonderful.

Cook County Forest Preserve
Web: www.fpdcc.com
800-870-3666 (general information)
Palos Hills, Waterfall Glenn, Bemis Woods, Springlake Forest Preserves, and many others are part of a large group of parks and forest preserves throughout the Chicago area. They offer thousands of acres of wooded land for hikes, mountain-bike rides, and picnics. Several offer sledding, cross-country skiing, and a toboggan slide.

DuPage County Forest Preserve
Web: www.dupageforest.com
630-933-7200

Hiking and Camping

Gebhard Woods State Park
Morris
815-942-0796

This small park is used mainly by cyclists on the Illinois and Michigan bike path. Buggalo Rock, Starved Rock, and several other state parks are also found along the I & M Trail.

To get there:
Take I-80 west to Morris.

Illinois Beach State Park
Zion
847-662-4811

To get there:
Take I-94 north to Route 173 east to Zion.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
Porter
219-926-7561 x225

Indiana Dunes State Park
Chesterton
219-926-1952

Your biology class may have gone on a field trip to Cowles Bog, named after Professor Henry C. Cowles, an early-twentieth-century botanist who used the Indiana Dunes and adjacent wetlands as his laboratory. It's also a great place to swim, fish, hike, and camp.

To get there:
Access U.S. 20/Indiana State Highway 12 off I-94 or the Indiana Toll Road. Or take the South Shore Line commuter train to the Miller, Portage/Ogden Dunes, Dune Park, or Beverly Shores station.

Moraine Hills State Park
McHenry
815-385-1624

Offers hiking, bike trails, and canoeing. Ten miles of the Moraine Hills Bike Trail wind through the park.

To get there:
Take U.S. 12 from Lake Zurich to McHenry.

Rock Cut State Park
Loves Park
815-885-3311

Camping, scuba diving, hiking, snowmobiling, and more are offered on more than 3,000 acres with two lakes.

To get there:
Take I-90 to U.S. 51 north.

Shabbona Lake State Recreation Area
Shabbona
815-824-2106

Nearly 1,600 acres of rolling prairie offer camping, 8+ miles of hiking and cross-country ski trails, and a 319-acre lake.

To get there:
Take I-88 to U.S. 30 in Shabbona.

Shawnee National Forest
Harrisburg
800-699-6637

The only national forest in Illinois, Shawnee has more than 275,000 acres of hiking trails and backcountry camping, as well as climbing spots, equestrian trails, and rivers and streams for fishing.

To get there:
Take I-57 south for five hours to Marion, then take Route 13 east to Harrisburg.

BikingMountain and road biking

City of Chicago Bicycle Page
Web: www.chicagobikes.org
This site includes maps of all the bike routes in Chicago and a detailed map of what you see along the popular lakefront bike trail.

North Branch Bicycle Trail
Cook County Forest Preserve
800-870-3666

The North Branch Bicycle Trail begins around the Jenson Slides at 6358 West Devon, near the intersection of Devon and Caldwell. You can ride all the way up to Highland Park's Ravinia and Chicago Botanic Garden. Connect to the path from the Lake Shore Drive Trail at Bryn Mawr (follow the green bike trail signs.)

Illinois and Michigan Canal State Trail
Morris
815-942-0796

This 61-mile route following the Illinois and Michigan Canal encounters numerous state parks, restored historical sites, and wildlife beginning at Channahon and running along the old towpath to LaSalle, beside the DesPlaines and Illinois Rivers.

To get there:
Take I-55 south to Channahon.

Illinois Prairie Path
Web: www.ipp.org
630-752-0120
One of the first rail-trails in the country, the prairie path spans 55 miles in a pitchfork shape through the heart of Chicago's suburbs. It is an unpaved hiking, biking, equestrian, and nature trail in Cook, DuPage, and Kane Counties, stretching from Maywood to Wheaton, where it splits into four spurs that lead to the Fox River in Elgin, Batavia, Aurora, and Geneva.

Kettle Moraine State Forest
Eagle, Wisconsin
262-626-2116 (northern unit)
or 262-594-6200 (southern unit)

Trails in this 50,000-acre forest are open to hikers and mountain bikers. Camping and water activities are also available.

To get there:
Take I-94 west to Route 50 west to Route 67 north to Eagle.

Lake Front Bike Path
Running almost 20 miles along the Lake Michigan shore, this bike path passes right by the heart of downtown. The path tends to get crowded, so watch out for pedestrians and in-line skaters.

Palos Forest Preserve
Its varied terrain, great single track, and proximity to the city make the Palos Forest Preserve a favorite riding spot. It's located at the intersection of I-294 and I-55.

Rock climbing
Web: www.devilslakewisconsin.com
Devil's Lake State Park
Baraboo, Wisconsin
608-356-8301

With up-to-100-foot cliffs bordering its 360-acre lake, this site is a favorite of climbers all over the Midwest. There are also canoeing, hiking, and camping. Located about one hour from Madison.

To get there:
Take U.S. 12 to 136 to Baraboo.

Hidden Peak
Web: www.lakeshoreacademy.com/hiddenpeak/
937 North Chestnut Street
312-563-9400

This bouldering gym has 24-foot-tall walls with six to eight roped climbs and about 3,600 feet of overall climbing surface.

Kayaking and canoeing

For information on water sports, check out the Web site of the Illinois Paddling Council at www.illinoispaddling.org

Chicago Area Sea Kayaking Association
Web: www.caska.org
777-1489
The Kayaking Association features evening paddles on Lake Michigan and occasional trips. A newsletter includes opportunities for Chicago-area kayakers.

The Chicago Whitewater Association
Web: www.chicagowhitewater.org
With over 300 members and a strong winter pool training/education program, the CWA offers spring trips to major rivers in Illinois and Wisconsin.

 

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