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Chicago, IL: Chain O Lakes State Park (Blue Loop and Red Loop)

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Explore wetlands and wooded hills in Illinois's largest state park.

With tallgrass prairie to its east, and steep ravines and dense woods to its west, this pristine of loop trails. From the Fox Den camping area, the Blue Loop is an easy 5.5 miles through, dark, lush forest; watch for fleetfooted wild turkeys as the landscape dips and rises. Cross the road to the Red Loop and traverse a wooded ridge beside a pond where waterfowl gather in summer. Camp at Fox Den, then grab your trail map the next day to explore three more loops—Sunset, Badger, and Gold Finch Trails. (Think of beads on a necklace.) Just stay to the right when you come to a junction, unless you want to hike one loop over and over again. This 7-mile outing leads to sweeping views of open prairie surrounded by sprawling wetland. Rest at Fox River, then follow the loops back.

Info: (847) 587-5512; download campsite reservation at dnr.state.il.us/lands/landmgt/parks/r2/chaino.htm

-Hike provided by Ted Villaire, author of 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Chicago (Menasha Ridge Press)

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