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.
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.
Distance: 5.65 mi
Total Time: none
Speed: 0.0 mph
Pace: 0:00 / mi
Active Time: none
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Chicago, IL: Chain O Lakes State Park
Points of Interest
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.
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.
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.
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.
Location: 42.457184, -88.196938
Once you reach the park road, turn around and retrace your steps to Waypoint 4 and turn right.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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