Chicago offers plenty to explore, but is it possible your dog is getting tired of smelling deep dish pizza, hot dogs, and giardiniera? Well of course not, but trading in your strolls for some good ol’ fashioned hikes would be greatly appreciated by pup! While the Midwest isn’t famous for any mountain ranges or elevation, there are still plenty of amazing sights near Chicago. Get ready to leash up and let your pup get their sniff on with these dog-friendly hikes.
1. Lakefront Trail
The lakefront trail along Lake Michigan has always been there for us, even if it took a pandemic and shutdown to really make us appreciate it. This dog-friendly hike spans different neighborhoods, so you can explore something new every time. With 18.5 miles of trail, you’ll be sure to get your steps in. Your pup told us that you need ’em after all the Netflix binges from the last few months.
2. Beck Lake – Des Plaines River Trail
Beck Lake is located 30 minutes north of Chicago and is part of the 16-mile long Des Plaines Trail System. But there’s nothing plain about it and its gorgeous pockets of prairie flowers to admire. All you hot dogs can stay cool out there since this unpaved trail is predominately shaded. Also, in case your dog is the more athletic between the two of you, there’s an off-leash dog area to let pup run off some energy afterward!
While the trails are open to all, be sure to check the Cook County Forest Preserve off-leash area rules.
3. Palos Trail System
Bring your best pal to the Palos Preserves, which are less than 30 minutes southwest from downtown Chicago. They have some of the best natural areas, with plenty of sloughs, inclines, and unpaved trails for a “real” hiking experience. We know your dog can hang, but for humans who are a little too used to city life, there are trails of various lengths and ruff-ness with plenty of shade to go around. Country Lane Woods is perfect for hiking newbies, while the trails at Maple Lake are great for more seasoned adventure pups. Leash up and stay alert because cyclists, mountain bikers, and horseback riders also share these trails.
4. Moraine Hills State Park
Located an hour northwest of Chicago, Moraine Hills State Park is perfect for the whole family—pups and human puppies included! The park features a mix of paved and gravel paths with plenty of connecting trails. For our runners, there are even marked routes for a 5k, 10k and half marathon. Don’t furget the picnic blanket and snackies, because you and your bestie will definitely want to spend time hanging out at Defiance Lake!
5. Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie
Have you ever asked the exceptionally niche question, “Where do the buffalo roam?” Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie is the answer, located about an hour southwest of Chicago. With miles of trails through prairieland, it’s a great chance to let your dog stop and smell the native wildflowers. No worries if you have a doggo with a Napoleon complex; the conservation herd of bison live in a fenced-in pasture. Don’t forget you and your pup’s sunscreen and sunnies—there’s not much shade in this prairie.
6. Starved Rock State Park
Is your Chicago dog truly an adventure pup if they’ve never been to Starved Rock? Don’t even let them question it! This state park has so much to see, it’s worth planning a day trip or even camping overnight. The namesake Starved Rock Loop gives you 5 miles of gorgeous views of canyons, rock formations, and seasonal waterfalls—all of which would be the best backdrops for your doggo’s loyal Instagram followers. But don’t spend too much time on your camera phone; there are elevation changes and some areas are prone to being wet or icy (so watch your paws).
7. Swallow Cliff Woods
Technically part of the Palos Trail System, there’s a major road and channel between the Swallow Cliff Woods and the other trails mentioned, so we think they deserve their own section. Known for the views from the gorgeous 100-foot bluff and its mighty stairs, you’re bound to get a workout here. Dogs aren’t allowed on the fitness stairs, so we guess you’re gonna have to go the long way to see the views (we promise they’re worth it)!
8. North Branch Trail
Pupper paws not really in the mood for the ruff and tuff of unpaved paths? Then you’re in luck with the North Branch Trail. This trail is fully paved and spans from Gompers Park on the northwest side of Chicago to the Chicago Botanic Garden (which is 16 puppin’ miles, but who’s counting?). Be alert since the trail is also shared with bikers, but with clear designations and wide paths, there’s plenty of room for all.
9. Chain O’ Lakes State Park
Okay, it’s hard to compete with Lake Michigan, especially because it’s right there, but can we interest you in many lakes at one time? With 3 natural lakes and the Fox River that connects to 7 other lakes, maybe your dog will be bow wowed by the sheer number of options. With 6 miles of trails, it’s the perfect place to meander with your pup and smell the flowers.
What are your pup’s favorite dog friendly hikes in Chicago? Raise the woof in the comments and don’t forget to tag #SidewalkDog in all your adventures on Instagram!
Sidewalk Dog’s mission is to help dog parents spend more time with their puppers by discovering and sharing activities they can do and places they can go—together! Sniff out our award-winning newsletter and Instagram, and join our Dog-Friendly Chicago Facebook Group.