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Chicago, IL: Morton Arboretum East Side Loops

Link Morton Arboretum’s gently rolling east side loops for a 3.4-mile tour cruising ornamental rhododendrons, an autumn rainbow of beech, and 500 acres of oak and sugar maple woodlands–a veritable smorgasbord for tree lovers.

Rating

This 3.4-mile loop in the Morton Arboretum starts at the Big Rock Visitor Station and makes a single counter clockwise loop that links the park’s four shorter loop trails. Beginning on Loop 3, the route cruises a damp ravine–look for moisture-loving trees, such as red oaks, basswood, and green ash. Before turning joining Loop 2 and cruising the Appalachia collection. Loop 1 dips south through a tidy collection of azaleas, rhododendrons and a collection of Korean native plants–look for the eastern redbud tree’s prolific pink flowers near the stone platform at mile 1.1–before tuning west and rejoining Loop 2 to wrap around the Bur Reed Marsh. The south side of Loop 3 cuts through a savanna and woodland containing 43 oak species from around the world. The last 1.1 miles of this route follow Loop 4 through the natural woodlands known as the East Woods. You may see controlled burns and volunteers removing invasive plants alongside the trail as part of the arboretum’s active restoration efforts in the 500 acre native space.
Use caution where the wide, chipped-wood trails cross the arboretum road, though traffic is light, you’ll cross the road several times following this route. Also, be prepared for the per-person entrance fee (except on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Arbor Day when it’s free) and consider the arboretum as a winter destination as well. The trails are open to skiers and snowshoers when snow covers the trails.
-Mapped by Ted Villaire
 

To Trailhead

From Chicago, drive 13 miles west on I-290 and continue west on I-88 for 10.6 miles. Exit onto IL-53 and drive 0.7 miles north. Turn right into the park entrance and follow the Main Route East Side approximately 3.5 miles to the Big Rock Visitor Station on your right.

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