Get Outside at These 6 Chicago Spots to Walk and Hike

Make the most of Chicago’s warm, sunny weather, whether your workout routine involves easy strolls, watersports or pedaling along the lakefront. Intersected by trails and bike routes, there is also green space galore. The Chicago Park District operates more than 8,800 acres of green space, making it the largest municipal park manager in the nation. In fact, 99.6% of Chicago residents are within a 10-minute walk of a park. So, yes, there’s an outdoor activity to suit every manner of outdoor enthusiast. Here are a few that should not be missed.

Everyone — for good reason — knows about the scenic Chicago Riverwalk and 18.5-mile Chicago Lakefront Trail. For a more local experience, however, those in-the-know head to The 606, a  2.7-mile urban hiking trail elevated 17 feet above four of the city’s hippest neighborhoods. Running east–west along an abandoned railway, it extends from the Bloomingdale Trail (1800N), between Ashland (1600W) and Ridgeway (3750W) on the northwest side of Chicago.

Tucked behind Soldier Field, the Shedd Aquarium and McCormick Place is Northerly Island, a hidden treasure originally built for the 1933 World’s Fair. The former home of city airport Meigs Field — infamously bulldozed overnight by Mayor Richard M. Daley — today, the 91-acre man-made peninsula hosts summer concerts from major artists. Its real draw, though? The picturesque walking paths and panoramic skyline view.

Starting in Gompers Park at Foster and Kostner Avenues on the city’s Northwest Side, the fully paved, mixed-use North Branch Trail skirts the north branch of the Chicago River, snaking 22 miles up through the LaBagh Woods and the Skokie Lagoons to the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe. From there, it links to the Green Bay Trail, continuing up the North Shore.

Historic, 337-acre Washington Park (5531 S. Martin Luther King Dr., boasts plenty of beautiful paths for walking and running. It’s also the site of Lorado Taft’s famed Fountain of Time sculpture. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the park’s scenic landscape and tranquil lagoon give way to nearby, 500-acre Jackson Park, site of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Venture a bit further for a stroll through the University of Chicago campus.


Of course, when it comes to great outdoor spots, these are the tip of the iceberg. Read up on some other Chicago outdoor experiences.

Leave a Comment