Any Airedale Terrier owner will tell you, exercise is the key to a happy dog and an intact home! Lucky for Bailey, I happen to love hiking. As much as I thrive on the hustle and bustle of the city, I also crave an escape to the woods for nice long hikes to clear my mind. We lived in Chicago for many years, and fortunately most forest preserves and trails in the area are dog-friendly. Over the years, we found some of the best dog-friendly hikes in the Chicago area. Here are a few of our favorites:
Located about 90 miles from downtown Chicago, Starved Rock State Park is a series of sandstone canyons and waterfalls along the Illinois River. It is a very popular Chicago day trip, so if you are able to hike mid-week, I highly suggest avoiding the weekend crowds.
Starved Rock is a great destination in every season – winter brings ice-falls and bald eagles on the river, spring boats flowing falls and blooming forests, while fall offers a great show of autumn colors on the trees.
There are many trails to choose from, and most are “out-and-back” from the lodge, so you can turn around whenever it suits you. The Sandstone Point & Overlook trail takes you into several of the canyons via a series of trails, boardwalks, and staircases. And there are usually plenty of places your pup can splash around in the streams and pools.
In the northern suburbs, Deer Grove Forest Preserve is one of my favorite Chicago-area dog-friendly hiking spots. Once you are in the woods, you will never believe how close you are to nearby commercial areas! It is conveniently located along Dundee Road in Palatine, with easy access from several parking lots and has well-marked, interconnected trails.
If you’re looking for a longer hike in the Chicago area, check out Waterfall Glen in the southwest suburb of Darien. At 9.5 miles, it has the longest loop trail I know of in the area, and many people come here to train for longer hikes. Along the crushed gravel trail, you’ll pass several streams and of course, a few waterfalls.
You might wonder why a dog park is on a list of dog-friendly hikes, but Lakewood Dog Park in the northwestern suburb of Wauconda is an excellent place for off-leash hiking! Once you leave the large fields where most dogs and their humans hang out, you can hit the trails in the woods. The park covers 66 acres, so there’s lots of room to explore!
For an urban “hike” right in Chicago, the Lakefront Trail is your best choice. There are 18 miles of pathway to walk, jog, bike, or skate along the Lake Michigan shoreline. I love the stretch from Oak Street Beach (shown below) south to the museum campus, which offers panoramic views of the city skyline. Along the way, there are parks and cafes, so you can turn this urban hike into an all-day event. A few steps off the path, Navy Pier, Lincoln Park, and Grant Park, each offer a unique view of Chicago.
Those are our favorite dog-friendly hiking spots in and around Chicago. Do you have a favorites you’d like to share?