In the city
The North Branch Trail Discover solitude minutes from the Loop.
A literal escape from the Second City, this trail begins at an urban intersection in northwest Chicago and parallels the river through woodlands, prairies, and suburbs before ending at the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe. The hike/bike route runs for 20 miles through a quiet paradise that somehow escaped the intrusions of urban sprawl. As you wind under a towering forest canopy and pass through the Skokie Lagoons, the occasional overpass or intersection stoplight are rare reminders that this is, in fact, a city ride.
Get There The trailhead is located at Caldwell and Devon Avenues.
Get Info Forest Preserve District of Cook County, (708) 366-9420; www.fpdcc.com
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Hike in a jumbo sandbox.
These 20-story mounds of fine blond sand create a 25-mile playground along the southern shore of Lake Michigan. Start with a hike up Mt. Baldy, one of two dunes where climbing is permitted. After a mile-long slog to the summit-two steps forward, one slip back-you’ll be rewarded with views of the lake, then the giggle-inducing sensation of sliding down. Next, head to Cowles Bog, where in 4.5 miles you’ll pass through marshes, forested dunes, and a stretch of white-sand beach.
Get There The main visitor center is located 3 miles east of IN 49 at the intersection of IN 12 and Kemil Rd.
Get Info Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, (219) 926-7561, ext. 225; www.nps.gov/indu/home.htm