Backpacker Magazine Chicago, IL: Chain O Lakes State Park 

Hike rolling prairies, expansive wetlands, and a peaceful stretch of the Fox River on this easy 5.6-mile hike in Chain O Lakes State Park.


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Author: Backpacker Magazine
Date: 28 May 2008 4:23:01 PM
Activity: Hiking
State: Illinois (IL)
Distance: 5.65 mi  (Change units)
Survey Elevation: Total Gain: 308 ft
Total Loss: 308 ft
Net Change: 0 ft
Difficulty: 2 / 10
USGS Topo Map: Fox Lake
Tags: Chicago, Illinois, Spring Grove
Rating: Unrated   Rate it

The largest state park in northern Illinois, Chain O Lakes is home to prairie, oak forest, and wetlands. This gently rolling hike offers a taste of the park's varied terrain.

Start down the Badger Trail, enjoying views of open prairie and marsh lands. At mile .75, turn right on Cattail Trail for a 1-mile out-and-back that heads into a wetlands area where sandhill cranes nest. Continue south to complete the Sunset Loop before heading north through tallgrass prairie to the Gold Finch Trail. Loop by the peaceful Fox River before returning to the trailhead through an oak canopy.

-Mapped by Ted Villaire

TO TRAILHEAD: From Spring Grove, take Main St./CR A17 east 0.9 mile to Wilmot Rd./CR V44. Turn left; go 1.4 miles to park entrance on right. Go 1.4 miles to left turn for Badger Trailhead.

Position Format: Datum:
Tracks

COL01

Distance: 5.65 mi Points: 157
Total Time: none Speed: 0.0 mph Pace: 0:00 / mi
Active Time: none Speed: 0.0 mph Pace: 0:00 / mi
Chicago, IL: Chain O Lakes State Park

Points of Interest

COL001

Location: 42.466446, -88.190163
From the parking area, turn right on the Badger Trail. First half mile provides numerous sweeping views of the prairie, woods, wetland, and Fox River to the east.

COL002

Location: 42.465141, -88.189194
This is the sprawling mid-section of the park--a large open space dotted with marshes, ponds, prairie, and the occasional oak tree.

COL003

Location: 42.459509, -88.184622
Turn right @ 4-way with Sunset Trail. Cross the park road. Pass one of many picnicking spots clustered in this section of the park.

COL004

Location: 42.457360, -88.185550
Turn right @ 3-way onto Cattail Trail. The Cattail Trail takes you through the wetlands in the mid-section of the park. This is one of the few nesting sites in the region for sandhill cranes, an enormous gray bird with a red forehead.

COL005

Location: 42.457184, -88.196938
Once you reach the park road, turn around and retrace your steps to Waypoint 4 and turn right.

COL006

Location: 42.453814, -88.183329
Cross park road; turn left @ 3-way to finish Sunset Loop. The trail parallels the park road as it takes you by two picnic areas.

COL007

Location: 42.459493, -88.184558
Turn right @ 4-way onto Badger Trail; the trail drops down to a wetland area, and then enters a restored tallgrass prairie fringed by oaks and conifers.

COL008

Location: 42.467823, -88.188425
Turn right @ 4-way with Gold Finch Trail. The terrain flattens as you brush against a large planting of pine trees. In winter look for owls in the pine grove and hawks in the open areas.

COL009

Location: 42.471340, -88.179054
After passing the large cattail pond on the right, the trail arrives at a wild slice of the Fox River. If the weather is warm, have a seat on the grassy bank to revive a pair of tired feet with a bath in the river.

COL010

Location: 42.472542, -88.180565
Heading west away from the river, you'll walk beneath a canopy of oaks; continue ahead through more woods, savanna, and stands of shrubbery.

COL011

Location: 42.468259, -88.189863
Continue straight @ 3-way.

COL012

Location: 42.467835, -88.188495
Turn right @ 4-way to complete the Gold Finch Loop and return to the Badger Loop. Arrive back at the parking area after passing the park office on the right.

Prairie

Location: 42.466272, -88.189573
The first half mile of this hike provides numerous sweeping views of the prairie, woods, wetland, and Fox River to the east. &copy; <a href="http://www.tedvillaire.com">Ted Villaire</a>

Open Spaces

Location: 42.465133, -88.189080
This is the sprawling mid-section of the park--a large open space dotted with marshes, ponds, prairie, and the occasional oak tree. &copy; <a href="http://www.tedvillaire.com">Ted Villaire</a>

Tallgrass Prairie

Location: 42.459838, -88.184574
Restored tallgrass prairie fringed by oaks and conifers in Chain O Lakes &copy; <a href="http://www.tedvillaire.com">Ted Villaire</a>

Fox River

Location: 42.471413, -88.179062
After passing the large cattail pond, the trail arrives at a wild slice of the Fox River. If the weather is warm, have a seat on the grassy bank to revive a pair of tired feet with a bath in the river. &copy; <a href="http://www.tedvillaire.com">Ted Villaire</a>

Oak Canopy

Location: 42.472588, -88.180679
Heading away from the river, you'll walk beneath a canopy of oaks; continue ahead through more woods, savanna, and stands of shrubbery. &copy; <a href="http://www.tedvillaire.com">Ted Villaire</a>

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