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No Gym, No Problem! Best Outdoor Running Trails In Chicago

Love keeping fit but can’t get to a gym? Want to remain active while enjoying the outdoors? There could be multiple reasons why you decide to opt for outdoor running in Chicago as your chosen way to keep active. Some of you may just prefer being out in the fresh open air, while others like enjoying the views of surrounding sights as they run. Luckily Chicago is a great city for those who love outdoor running, with plenty of trails and running paths across different terrains and surfaces to choose from.

 

Whatever your reasons are and whether you prefer city trails or park runs, we’ve got you covered. Check out the list of our favorite outdoor running trails in Chicago:

Chicago Lakefront Trail

Set between the famous Lake Michigan and Lake Shore Drive, you’re going to enjoy many sights as you run along this 18.5-mile trail. There’s a great view of the Chicago skyline for most of it. The length of the trail runs from the South Shore area to Lakeview, taking runners past a range of parks, beaches, and harbors. You’ll also spot Chicago landmarks such as the Navy Pier or the Shedd Aquarium as you pound the pavement here. The large number of amenities here make it a major attraction for tourists and locals alike, and some may find it too crowded for their outdoor running tastes, especially on warmer days.

 

Chicago Riverwalk

If you’re a lover of architecture, this may be the best outdoor running trail in Chicago for you. In fact the entire run could actually be compared to an architecture tour of the city. The Chicago Riverwalk is under Wacker Drive and takes you past the downtown part of the Chicago River. There’s a great buzz and lively atmosphere to soak in as you run here. And if the sight of water as you run helps you feel good, this could be the ideal outdoor running trail for you.

 

Lincoln Park

Many Chicagoans consider this the best part in the city. And there’s certainly a lot going on. With the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Chicago History Museum, and the North Pond Nature Sanctuary among other attractions here, you might find that that the outdoor running trail can get a little bit crowded at peak times. But there’s also a lot of positives to using this spot for an occasional run. You can take in the spectacular skyline views and lush natural scenery. There’s also plenty to do and see in the surrounding area if you feel like it before or after your run.

 

Grant Park

Moving on to another famous Chicago park, Grant Park has been around for a long time.  Grant Park is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the city, but try not to be put off by that. This park covers a whopping 319 acres of space, leaving you plenty of room to find a serene outdoor running spot. There are plenty of running trails to explore and work your way through here. The park is also home to many well-known attractions such as Buckingham Fountains and the Art Institute among others.

 

North Shore Channel Trail

Though it’s located pretty much downtown, the amount of greenery surrounding this outdoor running trail makes you feel far removed from the city. It starts at the Foster and Lawrence junction and stretches towards Evanston. You will enjoy river views as you run along the North Branch of the Chicago River and the North Shore Channel. This running trail is a great choice for you if want to enjoy a bit of natural serenity in the city.   

 

Northerly Island

With a view out into Lake Michigan, this man-made peninsula is our personal favourite outdoor running spot in the city. It spreads over 91 acres, and despite its central location near the museum Campus it has a surprisingly tranquil atmosphere. The native prairie of the island has been carefully restored. It makes a stunning set against the spectacular Chicago skyline. If you haven’t tried running here before, we’d highly recommend giving it a go.

 

Humboldt Park and Boulevards

Over the 219-acre Humboldt Park, you will find plenty of outdoor running tails, restored prairies and fantastic city views. Even as you leave the park to head into the surrounding trendy neighbourhood, you’ll find a few dirt paths to run in the nearby boulevards such as Humboldt Boulevard and Kedzie Boulevard.

 

Bloomingdale Trail (The 606)

This concrete trail runs over 2.7 miles from Ridgeway Avenue to Marshfield Avenue.  The Bloomingdale Trail is part of the 606 park system, and is an elevated ‘rail-trail’ in northwest Chicago. You’ll be running almost 20 feet over some of the city’s most hip neighbourhoods, including Wicker Park, Logan Square, Bucktown and Humboldt. You’ll need to run up an access ramp from the street to get here, and it’s easy to get to. If you enjoy elevated views of the city, this one’s for you.

 

Fox River Trail

This trail features 43 miles of asphalt, concrete, and crushed stone surfaces to run on. It may be a better fit for outdoor runners who have been training for a while, as it can occasionally be a little challenging. You will see some impressive scenery along the way though, and there are also views of the beautiful Fox River. Many locals come here to bike and hike as well as to enjoy cross-country skiing in the winter.

 

Palos Trail System

This 25-mile trail system is made up of several different forest preserves within the Cook County Forest Preserve System. It makes a great choice for those of you who like your outdoor running off-road. There are nine trails to explore here with varying levels of difficulty, and also plenty of hills if you want to enjoy a good hike. It takes only about 30 minutes to get here from downtown, but you’ll feel completely removed from the city.

 


Waterfall Glen

If you’re a lover of wildlife or nature, this could be just the outdoor running trail for you. The Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve trail system runs around the entirety of the park. The preserve itself has gorgeous natural scenery, such as ravines and rock ridges carved with glacier. The 700-acre forest is home to many rare plants and some very beautiful oak and maple trees. The trail is made of a limestone surface so is fairly easy to run on. It makes the perfect choice for those who want a retreat into nature in the city.

 

Salt Creek Trail

Covering almost 27 miles, the Salt Creek Trail takes you from Brookfield Zoo to the Busse Woods Forest Preserve. It is connected to many other woodland areas as well as other county forest preserves. Though some parts of the trail have a paved surface, it sometimes transitions into a limestone surface. Though there are plenty of signs throughout, make sure you don’t get lost at one of the many junctions.

 

We hope you enjoy trying out some of the Chicago outdoor running trails on this list. Even if you’ve found a running spot that you love, it can be fun to mix it up a little and explore new spots from time to time so you don’t find yourself stuck in a running rut. Happy running!