Snowball fights, snowmen, skiing, and sledding—there are so many things to love about the snow. We might grumpily mutter “bah humbug” when the temps drop, but there’s a magic to snow that brings us to a winter wonderland. Chicago’s skyline makes for a great snowglobe, but if you’re looking for more of a hike, try some of the best snow hikes around Chicago. Also, once you’re done trekking through the snow, stop by a hot tea spot to warm up!
1521 S Linn White Dr, Chicago, IL 60605
Northerly Island is a 119-acre natural area and park along Chicago’s Lake Michigan shoreline. The park isn’t exactly an island per say, but more of a man-made peninsula.
Right on Museum Campus, Northerly Island is easy to access and a close option for city dwellers who want to go on a mini hike within downtown. The park has prairie grasslands, a 5-acre pond, strolling paths, and rolling hills with a view of the city skyline. The island offers free Polar Adventure Days during the winter, where you can see Husky teams sled, encounter birds of prey, make nature-inspired winter crafts, and even explore the park on snowshoes if there’s snow.
4100 IL-53, Lisle, IL 60532
The Morton Arboretum is a public botanical garden and research center that spans 1,700 acres in the western suburb of Lisle. With 16 miles of hiking trails, there’s a lot to explore at the Arboretum. Hike or snowshoe through the grounds and don’t forget to visit some of the Arboretum’s popular spots, like its award-winning Children’s Garden and Maze Garden.
Admission is free for members and infants under 2, or $16 for adults, $14 for seniors, and $11 for children ages 2-17. Wednesdays offer discounted fees.
2678 E 875th Rd, Oglesby, IL 61348
Less than a two hour-drive from Chicago, Starved Rock is a popular hiking spot for city folk. It’s a no-brainer to visit Starved Rock if you’re looking to explore nature in the winter. There are 13 miles of trails and 18 canyons to trek through.
Winter visits to the park give you the opportunity to see majestic bald eagles and breathtaking frozen waterfalls. Starved Rock Lodge offers guided winter hikes throughout the season at $15/person.
2500 IL-178, Oglesby, IL 61348
Just a few miles south of Starved Rock is Matthiessen State Park, so you can easily do a double feature if you’re up for it. There are canyons, streams, prairie, and forest in the park as well as five miles of marked hiking trails.
If you also want to indulge in some cross-country skiing, the park has six miles of ski trails with ski rentals available weekends from December through March.
2343 S River St, Batavia, IL 60510
Explore more than 40 acres of lush forest and wildlife habitat along the Fox River. The Red Oak Nature Center is where you can have fun and learn all about the wonders of nature. With five hiking trails, an observation deck overlooking the river, boardwalk, cave, and more, there’s a lot to enjoy at Red Oak.
Red Oak offers snowshoe rentals at $5/pair from December through March if there is more than three inches of snow on the ground. Therefore, they definitely have some of the best snow hikes around Chicago that’s perfect for a family outing.
6705 State Rte 31, Ringwood, IL 60072
Glacial Park has over 3,400 acres of ground to cover, five miles of trails, and a diverse mix of prairie, wetlands, and glacial kames.
The glacial kames, which are what you immediately see as hills, were formed when glaciers melted long ago, leaving behind sand and gravel deposits in depressions that settled as mounds. Thousands of years later with soil gradually covering them, grass growing, and erosion, the kames gave Glacial Park a hilly landscape in otherwise flat land.
As the gem of McHenry County, the park is visited by more than 64,000 guests annually for hiking, canoeing, fishing, horseback riding, and more. Hikes at the park are categorized as fairly easy with the best views along the Deerpath Loop Trail. Rent snowshoes for $10/pair once five inches of snow or more hit the ground.
14548 Beaver Dam Ln, Royal Lakes, IL 62685
Beaver Dam State Park offers approximately eight miles of hiking trails all around the 59-acre Beaver Dam Lake. Hiking the area gives you a great view of all the park has to offer. There are upland and bottomland woods, farmland, open fields, and a marsh to discover on your routes.
When there’s enough snow coverage, cross-country skiing and sledding are permitted. Ice fishing and skating are also allowed when conditions are right.
515 Old Timber Rd, Monticello, IL 61856
With seven different trails at varying difficulties and distances, Allentown Park is perfect for all levels of hikers and has some of the best snow hikes around Chicago. The Brown Trail is the longest trail in the park at 2.6 miles along the Sangamon River.
Along the trails, you’ll find various sculptures, structures, and gardens, like the Fu Dog Garden featuring 19th and 20th century lapis-lazuli-blue ceramic Fu Dogs.
Featured Image Credit: Illinois Dept of Natural Resources