Backpacking in Chicago
Experience the joy and the freedom of being self-sufficient, whilst relying entirely on the contents of a backpack. Chicago offers a world of interesting and entertaining experiences for the keen backpacker, and is a great introduction for the novice.
Get to Know the Right People
The so-called ‘Windy City’ is very backpacker-friendly. In Chicago there are local organisations that bring together those who are already seasoned backpackers and those who are newcomers to this special travelling experience, with regular meetings for backpackers undertaking similar journeys, networking events and occasionally off-the-beaten-track trips such as camping out in cabins for winter weekends or day hikes across scenic autumnal landscapes.
Look out for Chicago magazines aimed at backpacking enthusiasts, which cover great destinations both in the city itself and also in the wider state of Illinois. Both groups and magazines can be found on the Internet and it is worth taking advantage of help and guidance from people ‘in the know’.
What to Bring
Successful backpacking means having the right gear and equipment for the planned journey. Clothing should be appropriate to the season and to the terrain. Choose waterproof and breathable fabrics for maximum comfort and boots, rainwear and backpacks that suit the trip.
Bedding should be warm, yet light, whether camping outdoors or staying in a cabin. Tents should be strong and lightweight, and camp stoves reliable. For navigation, a good map or GPS system is essential – bear in mind that in certain places signals might be erratic or non-existent so a printed map and a good magnetic compass are always useful.
There are trails around Chicago that are easy to moderate, particularly in the low-lying areas. To the east there is good hiking along the sand dunes on the shoreline of Lake Michigan; to the west of there is much more challenging terrain at the Rock Island State Trail and the Sand Ridge State Forest. Generally, the countryside becomes more mountainous when travelling farther west from Chicago, so hiking and biking becomes more challenging.
Waterfall Glen offers leafy forests, bubbling waterfalls, and wonderful views over the Des Plaines River among many other sights along a ten-mile loop. Deer Grove Forest Preserve is just outside Chicago in Cook County and provides an opportunity to explore an extensive forest area with streams, ravines and wetlands during a trail some 13 miles long.
One of the most exciting adventures when visiting Chicago is to embark on some or all of the 500 miles long Grand Illinois Trail, which can involve biking through archetypal Chicago neighbourhoods, visiting charming small towns and lively cities, hiking along the Lake Michigan shoreline and tow-paths and experiencing the magnificent Mississippi River.
Where to Stay:
Chicago Cheap Hotels have a lot to offer, high quality budget accommodation across all parts of the city. In addition to city centre hotels located near the harbour, there is plenty of accommodation close to the airport. Cultural attractions and restaurants are mainly in the downtown area and many hotels provide free on-site parking and/or free Wi-Fi Internet.