The Great Chicago 2020 Quarantine Hiking Quest

Allison, as you may know, beat the crap out of a rare kind of cancer earlier this year called PMBCL. After basically spending 6 months in isolation for her chemotherapy at the end of 2019—during which she was immune compromised and a simple flu could be fatal—we were ready to get back out into the world again! Going to the office! Going out to eat!

We had a good time in January and February 2020 while Allison started her recovery post-chemotherapy. Things were looking up.

Then COVID-19 happened. While Allison is getting stronger every day, she still remains at high-risk… so we are back to quarantining. This time, against the virus.

With the quarantine, it seems there are 2 categories of things you can do: 1) stuff around the house… gardening on the patio, cooking, and watching the entire AFI 100 Greatest Movies of All Time list, and 2) stuff outside… which used to be all kinds of activities like restaurants, bars, museums, concerts, movies, etc. The latter, of course, is now limited to: walking around, either in our neighborhood or at a forest preserve.

At this juncture, hiking is not only keeping us active, but it’s about the best social distancing there is. With a full tank of gas, plenty of snacks, and a wealth of hand sanitizer and surgical masks (the latter two left over from the cancer times)—we’re ready to explore!

So, with hiking being the safest recreational activity during this time, we’ll find all of the hidden gems that I’ve missed living in Chicago for the past 15 years. I’ve spent hours poring over local satellite maps, tracking down little off-the-beaten-path nature sanctuaries/campgrounds/undocumented trails, checking for parking lots, reading reviews and looking at photos on Google.

With all that, here is our list of places we’ll hike in Chicago during quarantine this summer. In this list of places, we’re looking for raw hiking—not paved biking paths or crowds of people, away from roadways—just hiking in the woods, surrounded by nature.

We live “in the City”, so this list radiates out counter clockwise, closest-to-furthest.

The Ultimate Chicago Hiking List


  • Northside Nature Preserves
    • Emily Oaks Nature Preserve ✅
    • North Park Village Nature Center ✅
    • Montrose Point Nature Sanctuary ✅
    • West Ridge Nature Preserve ✅
  • Along the North Branch River
    • Linne Woods ✅
    • Harms Woods ✅
    • Forest Glen Woods ✅
    • Caldwell Woods ✅
    • Clayton F. Smith Preserves ✅
    • Sidney Yates Flatwoods
    • Frank Bobrytzke Forest
    • Watersmeet Woods ✅
  • Evanston / Wilmette area
    • Perkins Woods ✅
    • Mt. Trashmore
    • Elmwood Dunes Preserve ✅
    • Mahoney Farms Preserve

Far North

  • Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve ✅
  • Heller Nature Center ✅
  • Everett Farm Nature Preserve
  • Ryerson Woods Forest Preserve ✅
  • Old School Forest Preserve ✅
  • Rivershire Park and Nature Center
  • Captain Daniel Wright Woods Forest Preserve ✅
  • Half-Day Preserve ✅
  • Middlefork Savanna Preserve
  • Skokie River Nature Preserve
  • Mellody Farm Nature Preserve
  • Gander Mountain ✅
  • Chain O’ Lakes State Park ✅


  • Near Northwest
  • Far Northwest
    • Moraine Hills State Park
    • Volo Bog State Natural Area
    • Glacial Park Conservation Area ✅



  • Greene Valley Forest Preserve
  • Fullersburg Woods, Graue Mill
  • Bemis Woods
  • Salt Creek Woods
  • Herrick Lake Forest Preserve
  • St. James Farm Forest Preserve
  • Waterfall Glen ✅


  • Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie ✅
  • Hickory Creek Preserve
  • Sweet Woods
  • Palos Forest Preserve
    • Cap Sauers Holding Nature Preserve ✅
    • Paw Paw Woods ✅
    • Red Gate Woods ✅
  • Teason’s Woods ✅
  • Tampier Slough ✅

Further Away

Places in Illinois, an hour or more away from Chicago:

  • Starved Rock ✅
  • Matthiessen State Park ✅
  • Mississippi Pallisades ✅
  • Indiana Dunes National Park ✅
  • Devil’s Lake State Park ✅
Stay safe out there!

Is your favorite local hike on the list? Let us know in the comments or message us!

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