Five Reasons to Hike the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie was established in 1996, making it the first national tallgrass prairie and the closest federally protected outdoors area to Chicago. It is less than 50 miles from Chicago down Interstate 55.

And yet, despite this, many Chicagoans have not heard about it.

Illinois used to be covered in tallgrass prairie. This is why it is called the “Prairie State.” In 1870 there were 22 million acres of prairie land. By 1978, only 2,300 acres of true prairie remained. This is less than 1%. Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie is trying to restore and preserve over 20,000 acres of land, so people can enjoy and see what Illinois used to look like over 100 years ago.

There are an astounding 34 miles of trails in Midewin. 12 miles are hiking only and the rest are multi-use. You will rarely see other hikers at Midewin, especially once you hike a few miles away from the trailhead.

Start at the Iron Bridge Trailhead a few miles north of the Visitor’s Center on Highway 53. The Group 63 Loop is the first trail one comes across, and it is a nice loop with interesting views of the former ammunition plant bunkers. Hikers are allowed to walk cross-country at certain places. This is much easier to do in the spring when the grass is short.

Here are five reasons why you should go for a hike on the prairie this summer…


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