Easy Hikes Close to Home Chicago
by Ted Villaire
This slim guidebook presents 18 short hiking trails near Chicago. Each trail description includes an overview, a map, directions to the trailhead, and a more-detailed discussion of the trail. Most of the trails are in northeastern Illinois with a few in Southern Wisconsin or Northern Indiana. All are within a day's drive of Kalamazoo.
The author's website provides more information about the book, including a complete list of the hikes and a few sample chapters.
The trails listed in the book's third section, "South Chicagoland and Indiana" are closest to West Michigan.
Easy Hikes Close to Kalamazoo
1. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore: Bailly-Chellberg Hike
length 3.3 miles
"Get a glimpse of early settlement life in northwestern Indiana by touring the homesteads of two frontier families. You'll also see wooded ravines, rich bottomland forest that grows beside the Little Calumet River, and a curious old cemetery."
directions: from I-94 take exit 22B to US 20, parking is on the left, 4.1 miles.
Indiana Dunes website
2. LaSalle Fish and Wildlife Area Loop
length 5.2 miles
"If you like riverside hikes and sprawling marshlands, you'll find them in abundance on this hike, one of the great undiscovered hikes in Chicagoland." The author also describes this hike in chapter in his guidebook 60 Hikes within 60 Miles: Chicago. See this pdf. [West half closed for hunting season Oct 1 - Dec 1.]
directions: from I-94, go south on US 41 until you reach IN 10 (County Road 1000). West on IN 10 about 2.4 miles to sign for Parking Lot 3A.
LaSalle Fish and Wildlife Area website
3. Thorn Creek Hike
length 2.5 miles
"This lightly used nature preserve is a gem: after exploring the ravines, the pine plantations, the wooded hills, and the streams,= surrounded by bottomland forest, be sure to check out the former country church that now serves as a nature center."
directions: I-94 to I-57. South on I-57 to exit 339 (about 18.5 miles) to Park Forest [I got confused following the book's directions from this point: I'd suggest Google maps or GPS for the last few miles.].
Thorn Creek Nature Center
247 Monee Road, Park Forest, IL 60466
Available from Amazon, other booksellers and libraries.