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Starved Rock State Park, IL.
Photograph: Daniel Schwen Starved Rock State Park, IL.

Hiking trails for the whole family

Explore the great outdoors as a family with these scenic, kid-friendly hiking trails just a short drive from the city

By Samantha Lande

Being a city kid comes with the obvious perks—access to great museums, plenty of playgrounds, tons of events—but sometimes you might feel like you're missing out when it comes to experiencing nature. Just think of all the wildflowers you could see. Luckily, you can pack up the kids and become one with nature by exploring these great hiking trails and wide, open spaces, all within a few hours' drive or less. From sand dunes in Indiana to waterfalls in DuPage County, here are some of the best spots to hike as a family.

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Hiking trails for the family

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
Photograph: Jeff Manuszak

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, West Beach

Things to do

This beach is the most southern point of Lake Michigan and is a beautiful spot for fishing, summer swimming and bird-watching. The whole family will also love knowing there are 70 miles of hiking trails to explore.

 Northerly Island
Photograph: Northerly Island

Northerly Island

Things to do Museum Campus

Although much of it is under construction currently, once it's done, Northerly Island will be an urban escape, complete with hiking trails, places to camp, wetlands and beautiful plants abound.


Waterfall Glen

Attractions Forests Suburbs

For natural beauty just 25 miles from the city, head to this waterfall oasis. With plenty of hiking trails, bike paths, places to picnic and camp, Waterfall Glen makes for the perfect nature getaway with or without the family.

Des Plaines River Trail, Illinois
Photograph: sfgamchick

Des Plaines River Trail

Attractions Sightseeing Suburbs

Part of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County that makes up more than 69,000 acres of natural land, the Des Plaines River Trail runs along the Des Plaines River and is a perfect place to explore from River Forest to the Wisconsin border. Young ones will appreciate the River Trail Nature Center in Northbrook to learn about the trail through fun and interactive displays.

Starved Rock State Park, IL.
Photograph: Daniel Schwen

Starved Rock State Park

Attractions Forests

One of the most beautiful attractions in all of Illinois, this state park is a must for those who love the outdoors. Thirteen miles of trails, waterfalls, boating, trolley tours and more is some of what you'll find here. Make a weekend of it and stay at the Starved Rock Lodge.

Photograph: Rock Cut State Park

Rock Cut State Park


With more than 40 miles of hiking trails, 23 miles of mountain bike trails and even 14 miles of equestrian trails, you'll find something for everyone at this state park. Fishing, boating and plenty of kids' activities round out this worthy day or weekend trip from the city.


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