Weekend hikes near Chicago

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of October 19-26, 1995

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Weekend hikes near Chicago
Q: I am carless and live in a paved environment. I need trees! And hills, mountains, creeks, etc. I would like to go hiking and camping on my weekends. Where do you suggest I go within train/rental car distance?
Kathy Valladares
Chicago, IL
[email protected]

A: Don't despair! Relief in the form of untrammeled hiking trails and crowd-free campsites can be yours if you're willing to spend a few hours in the car. Head up to Grant County in Wisconsin's Upper Mississippi Valley, just four and a half hours northwest of Chicago. With more than 50 miles of Mississippi riverfront running through it--not to mention miles of cyle-friendly backroads and bald eagles galore--Grant County is the perfect weekend wilderness fix. Your first stop should be Wyalusing State Park--2,600 acres of wooded bluffs, meadows, and river bottom six miles south of Prairie du Chien off U.S. 18. Choose from more than 24 miles of shorter hikes or string together connecting trails for a full-day trek. From Point Lookout, hike on stretches of the Indian, Sentinel Ridge, Sugar Maple, Turkey Hollow, Walnut Springs, Sand Cave, and Bluff trails for some seven miles, climbing on and off the ridgetops twice before reaching Lookout Point. Take a break here and savor the area's best view: the confluence of the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers some 500 feet below. At night, reserve a site at Wyalusing's drive-in campground (608-996-2261) for $9 per night, or--if you've brought your canoe--pitch your tent on one the many sand bars and islands on this stretch of the mighty Mississippi; there are no fees, reservations, or permits--just keep your eye on the high-water line. From Chicago, it's a straight shot northwest on I-90 100 miles to Beloit, where you'll pick up Wisconsin 81/11 west and take this another 100 miles to U.S. 61. For more Grant County details, check out "4.5 Hours to Freedom" in our June 1993 issue.

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