With temperatures starting to decline and the leaves beginning to fall, now is a better time than ever to hit the trails. You’d be surprised how many trails are within two hours of Chicago that offer beautiful fall foliage this time of year. Thanks to Jeff Banowetz, here’s a list of six of the best.
1. Palos Trail System
The Palos Trail System is a series of Cook County Forest Preserves located just southwest of the city. There are nine trails to choose from here, all with varying degrees of difficulty. Not only is this a great place for hiking but the multitracks here also allow for mountain biking for all levels of riders. If you want to make this a weekend-getaway, camping is now available.
2. Deer Grove Forest Preserve
Often referred to as “Palos North,” Deer Grove is considered a larger trail system than that of the one in Cook County, with almost 10 miles of off-road trails and several additional miles of paved paths. The preserve, located in Palatine, Illinois, is split into two sections, east and west, with Quentin Road being the divider. The longest trail, a 5.4-mile loop, is found on the west side named the Yellow. If you’re looking for a route that doesn’t have much repetition, the Yellow connects to the Black or the Orange wish can lead you to at least a 10-mile exercise. The east side has a much smaller loop, the Brown, which is 2.6 miles.
3. Knoch Knolls Park
Knoch Knolls Park runs along the DuPage River providing some of the most beautiful fall foliage around. Many of the trails are naturally made leading to there being no real trail map for the park. However, the Chicago Area Mountain Bikers have created a map themselves. The park also connects to a sports complex which has outdoor tennis courts and baseball diamonds.
4. Kettle Moraine State Forest
Even though this park may be the furthest from Chicago, the 22,000+ acres definitely make it worth the drive. There are more than 130 miles of trails for runners and hikers. Mountain bikers can find plenty of miles as well with the John Muir Trails and the Emma Carlin Trails.
5. Rock Cut State Park
This 3,092-acre park is located along I-39, just northwest of Rockford, Illinois, and offers 270 sites for camping. The unique aspect of this park is that it allows night rides for mountain bikers. With 24 miles of trail available for runners, hikers, and cyclists, this park has plenty to offer for a fun family outing this fall.
6. Matthiessen State Park
Matthiessen State Park is known for its impressive geographical features such as the exposed sandstone formations over a mile long formed by water erosion. The trails are tree-covered, and you’re sure to see some wildlife during your adventure through the park. There are plenty of amenities available for runners, hikers, and mountain bikers as well.