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Quick Escapes: 10 Trails Near Major Cities

The perfect metro-area trail: close, wild, uncrowded. Here are 10 major city options.

Phoenix | San Diego | San Francisco | Boston | New York | Philadelphia | Chicago | Seattle | Los Angeles | Austin

Chicago, IL
Paddle to solitude on the Windy City’s big river.

The lakefront is great for people-watching, but local paddlers know that the city’s sweetest escape is the Chicago River, whose willow- and maple-lined banks provide habitat for muskrats, blue heron, cormorants, and snapping turtles–and plenty of mellow water for canoes and sea kayaks. For a quick getaway, put in at the 3400 N. Rockwell launch (just west of the soccer field) and cruise north through a verdant channel. You’re heading toward Lake Michigan, but you’ll be paddling upstream; engineers reversed the river’s flow in 1900 to divert polluted water away from the city. Turn around at the dam at mile 2.3. Looking for a longer adventure? Put in at the Skokie Lagoons (20 miles from downtown) and explore seven miles of interconnected pools and marshes. Note: Avoid paddling right after heavy rains, when the Chicago River can contain high levels of bacteria.

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