We don’t know quite how to break this to you, but it’s come to our attention that Illinois is rather, um, flat. But hey, what we lack in mountain ranges we make up for in literally everythingelse, and we’re home to more than enough natural wonders to suppress that occasional and unsettling urge to climb a steep incline. Here, seven of our favorite places to channel our inner green goddess.
Starved Rock State Park
With 18 canyons formed by glacial meltwater, you’ll never run out of eye candy to swoon over at this beloved state park. The Illinois Canyon Trail, a 9.4-mile round-trip, is the ideal day hike. We especially love it in fall, when you can catch both the turning leaves and the tiny waterfalls scattered throughout.
Distance from the city: 90 miles or about a 2-hour drive
Listen, you don’t even have to leave the city to explore your outdoorsy side—Palmisano Park is located right in the heart of Bridgeport. Twenty-seven acres of verdant hills and a fishing pond mean you have plenty of opportunity to become one with nature. Just don’t be surprised when you go to quench your thirst and tiny birds flutter down to lift your canteen to your lips. P.S. Make it to the park’s highest point, dubbed “Mount Bridgeport,” which offers killer views of the city skyline.
Indiana Dunes State Park
Nicknamed the “Grand Canyon of the Midwest,” the Indiana Dunes State Park is so worth the drive, even when there is a bit of a nip in the air. The foamy breaking waves look all the more majestic while you’re wearing a wool sweater and sipping an apple cider, so head over there to get some glimpses of an autumn you might miss if you keep to the city.
Distance from city: 51 miles or about a 1-hour drive
West Ridge Nature Preserve
The 21-acre West Ridge Nature Preserve is a relatively new addition to the outskirts of the city. It boasts paved trails, a pond and the wide expanses that are often hard to find in more bustling parts of Chicago. We recommend you get your fill of nature, then fill up on pumpkin beer at Lincoln Square’s Chicago Brauhaus.
Castle Rock State Park
Sandstone bluffs, red-bellied woodpeckers and six miles of hiking trails—what doesn’t Castle State Park offer? If you’re immediately thinking, WI-FI, duh, then all the more reason to head out there and get some fresh air. The area is also home to top-notch cross-country skiing paths, meaning a fall trip could be just the beginning for you and yours.
Distance from city: 103 miles or a 2-hour drive