Chicago may be the third largest urban market in the country, but it’s increasingly known as the home for active and fitness-oriented people who like living in a world-class city that enables them to pursue their outdoor passions.
Trails: The Chicago area is fortunate to have a strong forest preserve system surrounding the city, offering additional recreational activities outside the urban environment. The gem of the area is the Palos Trail System, which offers challenging singletrack for mountain bikers, impressive trail running opportunities and plenty of hiking options for those looking for an urban escape. Located just 30 minutes form downtown in the southwest suburbs, Palos features more than 25 miles of trails targeted at all level of user.
In the northern suburbs, the Deer Grove Forest Preserve offers a smaller, but still impressive, way to hike, ride and run through the forest within a short drive of the city. Those willing to venture a bit further out to southern Wisconsin can discover the Kettle Moraine State Forest, which has the region’s best mountain biking, endless trail running and the area’s best cross-country ski trails.
Water: Lake Michigan may dominate the city, but the Chicago River has become a popular spot for urban paddling. The river was once so polluted that city planners actually reversed the flow of the river to keep the water out of Lake Michigan, the city’s source of drinking water. Times of changed, and while the river still isn’t what one would call pristine, opportunities abound for paddlers to take an amazing trip among the city’s skyscrapers. A night paddle out to Navy Pier for fireworks in the summer has become a popular trip.
For a more traditional outdoor setting, the Des Plaines River, the DuPage River and the Fox River are all worth paddling.
Rock: While rock climbing in Chicago is definitely an indoor activity, climbers can find some outdoor options when they want to get out of the gym. Starved Rock State Park, the state’s most popular, doesn’t have traditional rock climbing, but the sandstone bluffs and canyons make for a hike unlike any other in the state. For more traditional rock climbing, head to Devil’s Lake State Park in Wisconsin, which is the area’s Mecca for climbers looking for outdoor adventure.