The open spaces of the Midwestern landscape have always been crucial to the quality of life in our region. The Chicago Wilderness Region boasts many different and superb ways for people to be connected with nature. Openlands believes these spaces ought to be protected and enjoyed by all.

Photo: DJ Glisson

Openlands Lakeshore Preserve

Visit the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve about 25 miles north of Chicago in Lake County, free to the public and open every day.

Paddle Illinois Water Trails

An interactive guide to the Northeastern Illinois water trails system, which encompasses 10 waterways, ranging from creeks that flow through densely wooded forest preserves to the skyscrapers of downtown Chicago as seen from Lake Michigan and the Chicago River.

Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge

Located an hour’s drive from the 12 million residents of the metropolitan areas of Chicago, Madison, Milwaukee, and Rockford, the newly-designated Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge is the first such refuge within 100 miles of Chicago.

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

Since the early 1990s, Openlands has worked to establish, restore, and protect the Chicago region’s largest conserved open space, Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in Will County, Illinois.

Deer Grove

Deer Grove Forest Preserve is home to almost 2,000 acres of open prairie, towering oak woodlands, and wetlands that are full of life.

Regional Trails

Utilizing trails is the easiest way to enjoy our region’s natural landscape. Find peace and solitude or share an experience with family and friends while you run, bike, or hike in natural serenity!

More Recommendations

Openlands’ ‘Have You Discovered’ blog series highlights some of the region’s best places to get outside.