11 Amazing Snowshoeing Destinations Near Chicago
Strap in for smooth trails, rugged ungroomed terrain, and scenic strolls over the dunes.
Today, snowshoeing is widely considered a leisurely winter activity, but 4,000 years ago, that same footwear was essential for hunting and gathering during the snowy months. Regardless, snowshoes then and now essentially serve the same purpose—to get you from frosty point A to frosty point B. Aside from skiing, ice skating, and all the other winter-wonderful things you can do in Chicago this time of year, snowshoeing is another local favorite. And one of the best parts of snowshoeing is that it requires very little skill or equipment to achieve a fun full body workout. Once you’ve layered up, buckled in your boots, and packed your hiking essentials, you’re all set to trek atop the snow rather than slog through it. Here are 11 awesome, snow-dusted trails near Chicago complete with onsite gear rentals for a perfect sunny afternoon spent taking in the great outdoors.
Distance from Chicago: ~35 minutes
When a quick wintery escape is on the docket, the Morton Arboretum is the ideal destination for a scenic walk. Four inches of snow is all it takes for the Arboretum to invite snowshoers to explore endless groomed trails amid its 1,700 acres. Afterwards, grab some grub at Ginko Restaurant, which features two aptly named beers—Arbor Oak Amber Ale and Joy Path Juniper Saison Ale. Pro-tip: Snowshoe rentals are first come, first served ($15 for adults, $13 for kids) and you must reserve your timed entry ticket ahead of time, so keep refreshing your weather app and pray for powder.
Distance from Chicago: ~1 hour
Located along the Fox River just west of Chicago, this nature refuge in the heart of Northern Aurora offers bargain-priced $5 snowshoe rentals. Roam across 40 acres of snow-packed trails and once you’ve had your nature fill, drop off your gear and warm up with a visit to the Welcome Center’s 500-gallon turtle and fish setting plus habitats housing frogs, snakes, salamanders, and more.
Distance from Chicago: 1 hour
Indiana Dunes National Park might be known as a summertime hotspot, but the incredibly diverse landscape is also spectacular during the winter months. Free of charge, visitors can pick up a pair of snowshoes inside the Paul H. Douglas Center for Environmental Education before setting out on the multi-terrain expanse that makes up Paul H. Douglas Trail inside Miller Woods. If you’re a snowshoeing pro and own your own pair, options widen to include 15 miles of the Glenwood Dunes Trails (all levels), and three miles of the Tolleston Dunes Trail (advanced). Wait for four to six inches of snowfall before heading over, or call the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center for updates on conditions at 219-395-1882.
Distance from Chicago: 1.25 hours
All five miles of hiking trails on this 3,439-acre northern Illinois conservation area are open for snowshoeing during the winter months. Once five inches of snow blankets the ground, Glacial Park is a fantastic place to journey through the rugged terrain, while the Nippersink Creek meanders alongside you. Snowshoes can be rented at the Lost Valley Visitor Center for $10 a pop, and are first come, first served from 10 am to 2:30 pm.
Benton Harbor, Michigan
Distance from Chicago: 1.75 hours
Perched on Michigan’s southwest border, the Sarett Nature Center sports five designated snowshoeing trails winding through 1,000 acres of snowy forest, sprawling prairie, and frozen wetlands. If you’re a beginner, you’re in luck, as the terrain is mostly flat. Adults can rent snowshoes for $5 while kids’s runs just $3, and on the weekends, fire pits are onhand to warm you and the crew up pre- or post-adventure.
Distance from Chicago: ~2 hours
The hiking paths over at Havenwoods State Park remain ungroomed throughout the winter, which is a big win for snowshoers looking to literally blaze their own trails. Tucked inside the surprisingly charming city of Milwaukee, this state park covers a modest 237 acres with six miles of stunning trails. And as long as the nature center is open, snowshoe rentals are free of charge.
Distance from Chicago: 3 hours
Once you’ve stomped through its 20 miles of paved nature trails, you might as well stay the night. Cozy up in one of the 80 guest rooms at Eagle Ridge Inn, or rent your own fully furnished home or villa onsite. After your workout, defrost and recharge at the Highlands Restaurant Complex or wind down at the spa, which offers custom treatments to fit your needs. Plan ahead and catch their Winter Carnival, featuring a fire and ice balloon glow, ice carving, a winter ice bar, ice skating, and other fun activities from February 18 through 21. Snowshoe rentals go for $30 per adult and $20 for kids and sessions run four hours each.
West Olive, Michigan
Distance from Chicago: ~3 hours
Pigeon Creek Park and Hemlock Crossing Park sit within five miles of each other, and together offer 521 snow-dusted acres tailor-made for winter festivities—it’s basically a two-for-one snowshoeing experience. Nature-seekers will love getting lost amid the pine-covered trails along the Pigeon River, which slices through each park. Check the website before embarking to find out where the designated snowshoe trails are along with trail conditions and equipment availability. Snowshoe rentals will set you back $8 for a three-hour session.
Distance from Chicago: ~3.5 hours
Nestled on the edge of Lake Michigan, Muskegon State Park’s Sports Center comes in hot with all things winter, including cross country skiing, luge, ice skating, and, of course, snowshoeing. Four loops range in difficulty, from flat cruises through forests to diverse routes atop snow-covered sand dunes with spectacular views of the lake. Rentals are $8, complete with poles, plus an additional $10 access fee. If you’re looking for a twilight session, headlight rentals are available, too.
Distance from Chicago: 4.75 hours
Explore 1,200 acres of serene winter trails through the snow-covered prairie, beneath 500-foot bluffs, and (carefully) along the meeting point of the Mississippi and Trempealeau Rivers at Perrot State Park. There are several designated snowshoe trails to choose from, each with their own level of difficulty and length, and all with glorious panoramas. Pick up your snowshoes at the park headquarters for $5 and gear up for a good time.
Distance from Chicago: 45 minutes
A hidden gem lurking just outside of the city limits, Lincoln Marsh Nature Area is a year-round recreational destination stocked with two miles of trails great for a quick snowshoe excursion. The even-keel route is great for newbies, leading novices through flat yet invigorating woodlands and prairie. Fido is also welcome to come along, granted you keep him on the leash. Drop by the Lincoln Marsh Office Mondays through Thursdays or the Northside Park Shelter on the weekends to snag $7 snowshoes for your three-hour session. Note that reservations are required, so make sure to email firstname.lastname@example.org before suiting up.