There are four ways to find the public land destination you are seeking.
The destinations can be accessed through the Home/Search Page as follows:
1) Search by Destination
This search button will bring you to a list of all 50 locations listed alphabetically, with each linked to the full description for that destination.
2) Search by Distance
The destinations are divided into distances from downtown Chicago.
3) Choose a Map Location
Just click on a Pindrop in the area you would like to explore.
4) Search by Activity
You can click on as many activities as you would like to engage in. Then you will be taken to a page that indicates which destinations meet your activity criteria. If there are too many destinations listed, you can narrow your search by choosing different distances from downtown Chicago. The primary focus of the sites chosen is hiking and biking.
After identifying one or more places you would like to explore, take a look at the brief description and photos in this website. If you are still interested, the links will provide you with more information, including directions, maps and species lists, where available.
REMEMBER, BEFORE MAKING FINAL PLANS TO VISIT A DESTINATION, CHECK THE OFFICAL PUBLIC LAND WEBSITE TO MAKE SURE THE AREA WILL BE OPEN AND TO FIND OUT IF THERE ARE ANY PANDEMIC RELATED RESTRICTIONS.
In general, the public lands agency websites are very helpful in providing you the information you need. Click them and take a look. If there is an on-line brochure link, this can be even more useful.
General Information: The public land sites featured on this website represent the personal preferences of the author who visited each of the sites. All of the photos of the public land sites were taken by the author with a mobile phone camera. Be sure to consult a public land site’s website before traveling there, as the pandemic has resulted in changes and restrictions. For example, some water fountains and water pumps have been turned off, and in some forest preserves, especially in Cook County, Illinois, indoor toilets have been closed and replaced by portable toilets. To save space, the author did not include detailed information on hiking. Alltrails and TrailLink are good sources of information on hiking at most of the public land sites featured on this website.
Biking: Trails that are not fully paved may not be suitable for road bikes especially if the ground is wet. The I&M Canal Trail is not recommended for road bikes. See below under “One-Way Biking/Hiking Options With Mass Transit” for transporting bicycles on CTA trains and Metra commuter rail.
Birdwatching: The author has no expertise in birdwatching. Birds listed as viewable are just a representative sample of birds which have been viewed generally by others at a particular location. For further information the publication “Partnering for Birds”, developed in partnership between the Cook County Forest Preserve District and the Chicago Audubon Society, provides a guide to birds of conservation concern in the area. Other resources include the birding page of the Cook County Forest Preserve District which contains a birding checklist, the birdwatching page of the Lake County Forest Preserve District which contains a guide to where and when to find birds in Lake County Forest Preserves, and the bird page of the DuPage County Forest Preserve District.
Mass Transit: The Chicago Transit Authority (“CTA”) operates the bus and rapid transit train (locally known as the “El”) network in Chicago and some of its inner suburbs. Frequent service is available seven days a week although it appears to the author that schedules are sometimes not adhered to due to staffing shortages. The CTA website features schedules and bus and train trackers that advise when a bus or train will arrive at a particular stop. Google Maps also provides real time transit directions for all modes of transit referenced in this section. Buses have bike racks at the front and allow bicycles at all times. Suburban buses which do not run as frequently as CTA buses are operated by Pace whose website should be consulted for routes and schedules. All Pace buses are equipped with bike racks in the front and allow bicycles at all times. For restrictions on bicycles on CTA and Metra trains please see below under “One-Way Biking/Hiking Options with Mass Transit”. Metra operates the suburban rail network over 11 lines. A number of lines have hourly service during the week and 2-hourly service on weekends and others have less frequent service, some having only rush hour service. Maps and schedules are available on the Metra website. A Ventra card may be ordered online and delivered by mail for a $5 fee which is refunded as transit value. The Ventra card is a digital wallet for fares on CTA trains and buses and Pace buses and can be loaded online. Metra tickets may be purchased online with the Ventra app, at station ticketing offices and onboard with cash (extra fees apply if the applicable station ticketing office is open at the time of boarding the train). Cash is also accepted on CTA buses and trains and Pace buses although tickets must be purchased from vending machines to travel on CTA trains. The South Shore Line is a separate train line operated by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District. It is handy for visiting Indiana Dunes State Park, portions of Indiana Dunes National Park and the Chicago Lakefront Trail. Relevant information is provided on its website here.
One-Way Biking/Hiking Options With Mass Transit: Bicycles are not permitted on CTA trains for weekday journeys starting between 7-9 am and 4-6 pm. For the duration of the pandemic Metra commuter rail has waived rush hour restrictions on bicycles; however, bicycles may not be permitted on trains that are crowded with passengers or already have many bicycles on them. Bicycles are only permitted in designated areas of ADA-accessible railcars and must be secured to seats with bungee cords. The Metra schedules designate certain trains as having one car reserved for bicycles; however, the author scheduled a ride on two of these trains and there were no bicycle cars to be found. During certain special events such as Lollapalooza, bicycles are not permitted on CTA or Metra trains. Metra commuter rail schedules may be found at www.ridertools.metrarail.com/maps-schedules and CTA train schedules may be found at www.transitchicago.com/schedules/. Download the Ventra App to purchase Metra tickets in advance of travel. Please review the following web pages for further information: www.transitchicago.com/bikeandride/, www.metra.com/bikecarprogram and www.metra.com/bikes-and-e-scooters-trains
Eats: The author either dined at or took out food from each of the eateries that are recommended. None of the restaurants or bakeries reviewed have any connection with the author, and none were advised that they were going to be recommended. The author has not received compensation of any kind from any party for making the eatery recommendations. Many of the hikes were completed on Monday mornings when many bakeries are traditionally closed and, as a result of the pandemic, a fair number of restaurants chose not to open, and that substantially reduced dining options. Because indoor dining was either banned or not advisable during substantial periods while the pandemic was ongoing, the experience at many restaurants was limited to takeout, and the recommendations indicate when a meal was consumed on a takeout basis. The author only decided to add eatery photos after completing visits to almost all the 50 public land sites so a substantial number of eatery photos were obtained from the internet. Where feasible photos were selected from the eateries' websites.
Accessibility: All parking lots at the sites had accessible parking spaces, and a majority of restrooms were accessible. For trails not paved with concrete or asphalt, an individual judgment will need to be made about the trail’s suitability for the physically challenged. Trails that seemed clearly unsuitable for the physically challenged are so indicated. Additional information sources are listed below:
Chicago Park District: www.stage.chicagoparkdistrict.com/about-us/departments/disability-policy-office, firstname.lastname@example.org and 312-742-4298
Forest Preserve District of Cook County: www.fpdcc.com/about/accessibility This was the best organized accessibility page with detailed information about each location with accessible features.
Forest Preserve District of Lake County: www.lcfpd.org/about/accessibility/ and contact Mary Kann: mkann@LCFPD.org or 847-968-3214
Forest Preserve District of DuPage County: www.dupageforest.org/about/accessibility and contact Katie Schweiger: email@example.com or 630-933-7537
Illinois State Parks: www2.illinois.gov/dnr/Parks/Accessibility
© 2021 50 Great Public Land Destinations - Chicago and Beyond. All Rights Reserved.
© 2021 50 Great Public Land Destinations - Chicago and Beyond. All Rights Reserved.