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One ring to rule them all! This hike connects over 200 miles of existing trail surrounding the Chicagoland area.

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733' 223 m


580' 177 m


1,684' 513 m


1,684' 513 m



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Max Grade (6°)

Dogs Leashed

Features Birding · Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Spring · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Family Friendly Flat terrain and camping along the route. Stops by several Chicago staples including Lincoln Park Zoo, Brookfield Zoo, Chicago Botanic Gardens, and more!


This hike will take you from downtown Chicago, through beautiful natural habitats curated by the Chicago Park District, along the Burnham Greenway, through the Forest Preserves of Cook County, along the beautiful Des Plaines River Trail into the Forest Preserves of Lake County and back downtown along the North Branch and Lakefront Trails, starting and ending at Buckingham Fountain. See some of Chicago's most popular attractions on foot, and camp at one of the incredible Cook County Forest Preserve campgrounds. You can spend a week hiking the loop from start to finish or you can do it in sections!


Taking advantage of the miles of green space lovingly curated by the Chicago Park District along the lakefront bike path, it is possible to head south from Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park to the Indiana Border, cut across the South Suburbs to the Tinley Creek and Cal-Sag watersheds, then north dozens of miles along the Des Plaines River into Lake County. Again cutting across the northern suburbs on a Rockland Road bike path, one can descend via the Green Bay Trail and North Branch of the Chicago River, traveling some 200 miles around Greater Chicago on an (almost) unbroken green ribbon of parks, Forest Preserves, and pedestrian or bike-walk infrastructure. While camping is available at several locations on this route, there is currently not enough camping to thru-hike the entire route without ridesharing back and forth from the trailheads. Below is a suggested route breakdown for thru-hiking. There are many other ways to segment this hike, but here is what we did.

Day 1:
Grant Park to Steelworkers Park (~16 mi)
Camping: Rideshare to Camp Shabbona Woods or look for lodging service/hotel in South Chicago area.
Highlights: Museum Campus, Burnham Wildlife Corridor, 63rd St. Beach, Jackson Park Harbor, South Shore Nature Center and Sanctuary, Rainbow Beach, Steelworkers Park & Climbing Wall.
Day 2:
Steelworkers to Camp Shabbona Woods (~ 15 mi)
Camping: Camp Shabbona Woods
Highlights: Calumet Park, Eggers Grove, William Powers State Recreation area, Green Lake Family Aquatic Center, Shabbona Woods.
Day 3:
Camp Shabbona Woods to Old Plank Trail Eastern Trailhead (~20 mi)
Camping: Rideshare to Camp Shabbona Woods (or reverse hike this section if you'd prefer to hike into camp)
Highlights: Brownwell Woods, Wilson Woods, Halsted Woods, Joe Orr Woods and Glenwood Woods. Be sure to grab a bite to eat at Gabe's Place in Glenwood.
Day 4:
Old Plank Trail to Flossmoor Road after Bartel Grassland (~ 12 mi)
Flossmoor Road to Camp Sullivan (~12 mi)
Camping: Camp Sullivan
Highlights: Bartel Grassland, Bachelor Woods, Camp Sullivan
Day 5:
Camp Sullivan to Camp Bullfrog Lake (~15 mi)
Camping: Camp Bullfrog Lake
Highlights: Sag Valley & Palos Forest Preserves, numerous side jaunts and trails, Swallow Cliff Stairs, REI Boathouse at Saganashkee Slough.
Day 6:
Camp Bullfrog Lake to LaGrange Park Woods (~ 15 mi)
Camping: Rideshare to Camp Bullfrog Lake or look for lodging service/hotel in LaGrange/Brookfield area.
Highlights: Little Red Schoolhouse, I&M Canal, Metropolitan Water Reclamation area, Chicago Portage National Historic Site
Day 7:
LaGrange Park Woods to Brookfield Zoo, then north to Schiller Woods (approx 15 mi)
Camping: Rideshare to Camp Dan Beard or look for lodging service/hotel in Schiller Park/Franklin Park area
Highlights: Brookfield Zoo, Trailside Museum of Natural History, Russell's Barbecue in Elmwood Park,
Day 8:
Schiller Woods to Alison Woods (~ 18 mi)
Camping: Rideshare to Camp Dan Beard or look for lodging service/hotel in Northbrook/Glenview area
Highlights: Des Plaines River Trail, River Trail Nature Center
Day 9:
Alison Woods north to Old School Forest Preserve (~ 20 mi)
Camping: Rideshare to Camp Dan Beard or look for lodging service/hotel in Libertyville/Vernon Hills
Highlights: Half Day Forest Preserve, Captain Daniel Wright Woods, REI Vernon Hills, MacArthur Woods
Day 10:
Old School Forest Preserve to east Park Ave Libertyville, east to North Branch, South to Melody Farm Nature Preserve, east to Deerpath Road and Lake Forest College ,south past Fort Sheridan and into downtown Highland Park (~ 15 mi)
Camping: Rideshare to Camp Dan Beard or look for lodging service/hotel in Highland Park
Highlights: Middlefork Oak Savanna & the Openlands Conservation area, Fort Sheridan
Day 11:
Highland Park south to Skokie Lagoons via Green Bay Trail, Chicago Botanic Garden and Skokie Lagoons (~16 mi)
Camping: Rideshare to Camp Dan Beard or look for lodging service

History & Background

The trails have been around for a while, but this particular route was piloted in 2018 by members of the Chicago Outerbelt Alliance, a NFP organization with the mission of promoting eco-recreation in a metropolitan environment and engaging diverse communities in outdoor experience.

Shared By:

Emily Anne Leu with improvements by Kathleen Miller

Trail Ratings

  5.0 from 4 votes


in Chicago


  5.0 from 4 votes
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135 Views Last Month
24,962 Since Dec 15, 2018



The trail is full of life and diversity.
Jul 7, 2016 near River F…, IL
American Kestrel
Apr 21, 2018 near Lincoln…, IL
Cedar Waxwing
Nov 30, 2018 near Lincoln…, IL
Scene from the trail
Nov 7, 2019 near Lincoln…, IL
Sunset and mosquitoes!
Sep 13, 2018 near Schille…, IL
Near W Bryn Mawr Ave
Sep 13, 2018 near Schille…, IL


Current Trail Conditions

Add Your Check-In


Oct 26, 2022
Kay Israelite
Harms Woods to E Lake Road bridge, out and back — 1h 13m
Jan 18, 2021
Allison Kallo
I am hiking the Outterbelt loop whenever I can. I love it. Watch the navigation and get out there! https://www.strava.com/activities/4642831004 — 5h 45m
Oct 29, 2020
Don Sun
Jun 27, 2020
Alexandra G
Day 1. Started at Jim and Diane's house. — 2h 18m
May 23, 2020
Sarah Saulnier
Nice 3mi
Sep 23, 2019
Grace Elizabeth