Top 6 places to hike or camp near Chicago

Olivia Griffin, Features Editor

With summer quickly approaching, Chicagoans seem ready for more ways to get outside while remaining safe during the pandemic. Exercising has also become a struggle, as jogging along narrower, sometimes busy sidewalks does not make for a safe running track. An easy way to enjoy the outdoors and maintain good public health practices is camping and hiking. Hiking can be a great change in scenery if you’ve been stuck at home for a while, and camping enhances that outdoors experience even more. 

Nelson Marks, senior, frequently enjoys the simplicity that comes with camping.

“It brings my attention away from something that’s happening halfway across the world,” Nelson said, “and helps me focus on what’s right in front of me.” 

He learned how to camp while he was in North Carolina one summer, and has loved it ever since.

“We were kayaking in the Prince William Sound, and there are quite a lot of glaciers there,” Nelson recalled. “But it was kind of hot, out so we swam and I ended up sitting on an iceberg in my swimming trunks, which is definitely an experience I won’t forget.” 

Even though there are no glaciers near Chicago like there are in Alaska, these are a few camping and hiking sites to consider:


Prairie Camp at Deer Creek

Prairie Camp at Deer Creek is most enjoyable in the summer, and opened its grounds to the public on June 1. Two creeks, Deer Creek and Camp Creek, run throughout the site. Amenities include trailer and tent camping, picnic tables, bathrooms and drinking water. For just $22 per night, campers can explore Prairie Camp along with nearby hiking trails.


Starved Rock State Park

Voted as the number one attraction in the state of Illinois, Starved Rock State Park is a perfect spot for hiking. The Lodge reopened May 29, and since then has seen many visitors. The park has 13 miles of trails and 18 canyons. Though most hikers prioritize visiting the site in the summer, the website notes that the canyons are a worthwhile experience during every season.


Warren Dunes

Warren Dunes is most popular in the summer for its beaches on Lake Michigan, but the dunes always make for a promising hike. There are clear paths to guide hikers along the way, but it’s also just as common for visitors to forge their own way up the steep dunes. The 6 mile hiking trails are open year-round.


Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve 

Though the waterfall is the most popular attraction at the preserve, it is the only site not available to the public during the pandemic. However, with 11 miles of trails open, there is still a lot to see. These trails are commonly used by hikers, bikers, runners and even horseback riders. Along the paths and in the nature scenes, there are about 740 native plant species to see. 


Camp Bullfrog Lake

As one of the best-known campsites in Cook County, Camp Bullfrog Lake has all the essentials for a city getaway. The site’s unique position on the water lets visitors take part in recreational activities on the water including kayaking and fishing. In the wooded areas of the grounds, campers can mountain bike or go bird watching. 


Deer Grove

Deer Grove’s site includes one of Cook County’s first forest preserves. There are over 100 miles of paved paths in these preserves along with over 200 miles of unpaved paths. Throughout the park, there is incredible diversity in the habitats that are present.