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Choose your Own Dog Walking Adventure

white Cavapoo on an adventure dog walk with tall grasses in the background

Our Favorite Dog Walking Adventure Trails

Back in August, we launched a new dog walking service: Urban Tailz Adventure Walks. It’s quickly become one of our fastest growing services––and for good reason! Our Adventure Walks provide pups with tons of exercise (we put in #work), but they also provide dogs with positive mental stimulation. 

Mental stimulation plays a huge role in a dog’s overall health. It’s in their nature to explore, to hunt a scent, to socialize, so it’s important to give them opportunities to do so. (For a great listen on how dogs use their sense of smell, check out this Fresh Air episode.) Our Adventure Walks are full of new sights, new smells and new friends. They allow city dogs to fully lean into their wild sides, whether that’s by tracking deer, horses or buffalo (yes, buffalo), swimming in the lake or forming packs with their new BFFs. One of the craziest things has been to watch the hounds go into full-on hunting mode. As soon as we get to the woods, their instincts kick in. They’ll track down deer in minutes and then alert the pack with these crazy howls we’d never before heard them make in the city.

As a result of this mental and physical workout, dogs come home happy and exhausted (which we hear is super helpful for folks working from home 😉). Our recurring clients have even told us how stoked their dogs get on their adventure days, with “adventure” becoming the new w-a-l-k word in the house. 

a small brown dog sleeping during the car ride home after an exciting adventure dog walk
The sign of a good walk: car ride home is snooze city.

With the weather warming up again, we wanted to share some of our favorite trails and gear in case anyone else wants to get out and explore. To start, we highly recommend the AllTrails app. It’s free, and you can load maps into the recorder so it’s easy to follow paths.

Forest Preserves

3-hr Adventures:  

Country Lane Woods: This is our favorite 3-hr adventure. It’s southwest of the city near the Palos area. It’s beautiful, somewhat hilly, and quiet most of the time. After parking, cross the highway you drove in on and start the trail heading north on the straight-away. There will be two paths that you will come to on the right––the first will pop up about a mile into your walk. Both lead back to the way you came. The first path is shorter. The second path is great if you have more time on your hands.  Difficulty: 2 out of 5 

Explore Country Lane Woods | AllTrails

Half Day Forest Preserve: This is a really pretty area with multiple trails north of the city near Deerfield. The yellow trail is the longest and goes around the entire property. The red and blue trails cut through the middle and meet up with the yellow trails. This trail is busy on weekends. Difficulty: 1 out of 5 

Explore Half Day Forest Preserve | AllTrails

Palos Orange Trail: This is off-roading! This is another trail southwest of the city near the Palos area. It’s a fun trail with many twists, turns, and elevations. We only go here when it’s been dry for a few days, as this trail can get super muddy. (Maybe the future site for an Urban Tailz tough mudder?) Also, make sure you are good with following the trail because there are other trails here, and you can get lost if you don’t stay on the right path. This is the toughest trail that we do. Difficulty: 3 out of 5  

Explore Palos Orange Trail | AllTrails

Waterfall Glen Near the Waterfall: Waterfall Glen is a well-known trail southwest of the city off 55. It tends to be busy. We like to park away from the main entrance and start our adventure near the waterfall, as we think it’s the prettiest part of the trail and far less busy than the main area of the trail. It’s a pretty and easy walk. Difficulty: 1 out of 5

Explore WaterFall Glen near Waterfall | AllTrails

Midewin Buffalo Viewing Trail: This is a further drive than the other trails (over an hour), but you get to see buffalo! It’s south of the city and in the middle of nowhere, so if you want a day away from city noises this is what you’re looking for. It’s a quiet trail that’s easy to walk, but don’t go on a hot, sunny day because there isn’t a ton of shade. Difficulty: 1 out of 5 

Map of Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie Trails | AllTrails

2-hr Adventures:

North Branch – Yellow and Tan Loop: This is our favorite 2-hr adventure loop. It’s really pretty, and we’ll almost always get to see deer and horses from the nearby stable! Park on the street just before the stop sign at Beckwith and Austin. The park entrance is on the southwest corner of the intersection. Take the dirt trail to the right––NOT the paved path. Difficulty: 2 out of 5

Explore North Branch: Yellow and Tan Loop | AllTrails

North Branch Red Paved Trail: This is just down the street from the North Branch Yellow and Tan Loop. You can do both on the same day if you’re feeling ambitious. It’s an easy walk along a paved trail with lots of deer to see. We usually walk to the bridge and then turn around, but you can cross the bridge if you want to continue on a much further walk. Park at Wayside woods just north of Dempster and then cross Dempster to get to the main path of this trail. Difficulty: 1 out of 5 

Explore North Branch Red Paved Trail | AllTrails

Fullersburg and Graue Mill Loop Trail: This is another really pretty trail with a few different paths you can take. The main issue with this trail is it can be BUSY. We do not recommend doing this trail on a weekend. A river runs through the majority of the trail, and there’s a cool waterfall for Insta pics (looking at you, UT influencers). Difficulty: 2 out of 5 

Explore Fullersburg and Graue Mill Loop Trail | AllTrails

Schiller Woods: This is probably our second favorite 2-hr adventure loop. There are tons of deer here, and they aren’t afraid of anything. We quite literally get within feet of them. It’s also on the flight path close to the airport, so you get to see planes up close and personal (it’s not too loud though). The path is along the Desplaines river for most of the walk. The park inside is usually busy, but the outer path is relatively quiet. Difficulty: 2 out of 5

Explore Schiller Woods River Loop | AllTrails

Skokie Lagoons Inner and Outer Trail: The inner trail is a dirt trail that feels like you’re walking deep in the woods with great views of the lagoons. Only do the inner trail when it’s been dry for a few days because it’s a hot, muddy mess if it’s wet. The outer trail is the paved path that also has great views of the lagoon. However, one side of the outer trail is close to the highway, so it can be a little loud. Difficulty: 1 out of 5 

Inner: Explore Skokie Lagoons Inner Trail | AllTrails

Outer: Explore Skokie Lagoons Outer Trail | AllTrails

Salt Creek: This is an easy trail to get to. It’s just southwest of the city near the Brookfield Zoo. It’s a paved, down-and-back path and a very easy walk. It tends to be busy though, so we recommend going on weekdays, if possible. Difficulty: 1 out of 5 

Explore Salt Creek | AllTrails

Lakefront Adventures

Jackson Park: This is our all-time favorite lakefront adventure. You can walk through the park (which is beautiful), and then cross under Lakeshore Drive to access the lakefront. There are also areas for the dogs to dip their toes into the lake, making it perfect for a hot, sunny day! We like this spot because the South Side lakefront tends to be less busy than the North Side lakefront. Plus, there’s free parking near the driving range (past the paid parking lots) Difficulty: 1 out of 5 

Explore Jackson Park | AllTrails

South Side Lakefront: This is a beautiful walk with great views of the city from the South Side. We park near the bridge, and then cross over the bridge to access the lakefront. Head north once you get on the lakefront. It’s peaceful with great views, and it’s a really easy walk. Difficulty: 1 out of 5

Explore South Side Lakefront | AllTrails

Evanston Loop: This has beautiful views of the lake, but it tends to be busy so we don’t recommend doing it on a weekend. Park near Centennial Park and then walk north on the path. It will take you on a little island that weaves its way around the Northwestern campus. You might also see the Northwestern football team practicing on the practice field. Difficulty: 1 out of 5

In our next post, we’ll share some of our favorite adventure gear, so stay tuned!