Accessible things to do outside near Chicago

Group of friends hiking in the fall
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Wheelchair Accessible Outdoor Activities Near Chicago

Chicago is known for many things: attention-grabbing tourist attractions like Willis Tower and The Bean, a world-class culinary scene and more.

Despite all Chicago has to offer, nature might not be top of mind when you think of America’s third-largest city. This can be especially true if you’re a person with a disability who enjoys spending time outside, but outdoor enthusiasts with limited mobility will be pleasantly surprised by the array of accessible activities available in the Chicago area.

Here’s what you should know about wheelchair-friendly outdoor activities near Chicago.

 

Accessible campgrounds near Chicago

There are plenty of options around Chicago for campers with disabilities to get closer to nature. These are some of the wheelchair-accessible campgrounds near Chicago.

Camp Bullfrog Lake
This site features two accessible tent campsites, two accessible RV/tent campsites, two accessible large cabins, two accessible small cabins, an accessible canoe landing with boat rental and an accessible fishing area.

Camp Dan Beard
Newly renovated and rustic cabins await visitors at Camp Dan Beard. Campers may check out free Camping Adventure Backpacks that include binoculars, field guides, a compass, activity sheets and more. Visitors with accessibility needs should rent the large cabin on site.

Camp Reinberg
Camp Reinberg has plenty of accessible accommodations including two accessible tent campsites, two accessible RV/tent campsites, two accessible large cabins and two accessible small cabins. Explore the oak woods around the campsite, enjoy the dining hall or meet other campers at the outdoor gathering areas at Camp Reinberg.

Camp Shabbona Woods
This campground has two accessible cabins to rent as well as two accessible tent campsites for those who prefer a DIY approach to camping. Sand Ridge Nature Center is a short distance away when you feel like exploring the surrounding woodlands.

Camp Sullivan
You’ll know you’ve reached Camp Sullivan when you see the red barn that greets campsite visitors. Choose your own adventure with lodging options including two accessible tent campsites, two accessible RV/tent campsites, an accessible large bunkhouse, two accessible small bunkhouses and two accessible small cabins.

Explore more accessible campsites.

 

 

Accessible fishing areas near Chicago

You may be surprised at the diverse mix of marine life you can find around Cook County. The county’s accessible fishing areas include accessible parking, a paved path to the shore, a hard surface along the shoreline with railings in at least some areas, with access to accessible bathrooms for all or part of the year.

Busse Forest West
Busse Reservoir is one of the largest fishing and boating waters in Cook County. Explore 457 acres and six fishing walls, complete with a wheelchair-accessible fishing area.

Busse Lake Beisner Road Access
There’s plenty of shoreline to fish at the Ned Brown Preserve, known locally as Busse Woods, including a wheelchair-accessible area.

Busse Forest Main Dam
Located in Elk Grove Village, this wheelchair-accessible fishing area may include species including trout, walleye, bass, and catfish, to name a few.

Maple Lake Boating Center 
The 60-acre Maple Lake is one of Chicagoland’s most popular fishing spots and offers more than 8,000 feet of shoreline, including wheelchair-accessible fishing areas.

Explore more accessible fishing areas.

 

 

Accessible boat launches near Chicago

Spend a day on the water thanks to accessible boat launches. These boat landings include accessible parking and a paved path to the landing. The slip-resistant surface is stable and firm for those with mobility concerns. Canoes and kayaks are allowed at canoe landings.

Busse Lake Boating Center
Busse Lake features two trailered boat launches, including an accessible canoe landing. Visitors can use kayaks, canoes, rowboats, sailboats and boats with electric trolling motors. Boat rentals are available.

Camp Bullfrog Lake
Kayak rentals are available at the accessible boat landing for campers staying on-site.

Explore more accessible boat launches.

 

Paved hiking trails near Chicago

If you’re looking to get out on the trail near Chicago, these options offer an opportunity to immerse yourself in nature. While all these trails aren’t specifically rated as accessible, they are paved and without much elevation.

Busse Woods Trails 
This paved loop stretches almost 13 miles around Busse Reservoir, with shorter trail segments branching out for extra adventures.

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center 
In Willow Springs, this family-friendly nature center features an accessible garden and trail, featuring raised flower beds, a sensory water feature, signage with Braille and ASL translations and an ADA-compliant concrete walkway.

Old Plank Road Trail 
Find tranquility on this asphalt trail, including more than 20 miles of pathway surrounded by oak trees, wildlife, prairie grass, waterways and more.

Cal-Sag Trail 
If you’re looking for an adventure, the Cal-Sag Trail features more than 26 miles of paved trail that connects Chicago Southland, Indiana, the Chicago lakefront and more.

The Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park
Surround yourself with art on this two-mile hike, featuring a fully accessible trail that traverses the picturesque sculpture park.

 

Accessible picnic shelters near Chicago

Accessible picnic shelters are available from May 1 to Oct. 31. These public outdoor spaces all include accessible parking, curb cuts, an accessible path to the picnic area and nearby accessible indoor and portable bathrooms. Here are a few of the places where you can find wheelchair-accessible picnic shelters around Chicago.

Arrowhead Lake 
Arrowhead Lake is part of the Tinley Creek Trail System, a 27.3-mile system of paved loops that go through rolling hills, prairies, forests, wetlands, and ravines.

Blue Star Memorial Woods 
Stop by the Blue Star Memorial Woods as you wind your way through the North Branch Trail System, which offers more than 20 miles of paved and unpaved trails with views of the Chicago River.

Busse Forest South
The Ned Browne Preserve, which includes Busse Forest South, is home to ancient upland trees, one of the largest fishing and boating areas in Cook County, 13 miles of paved trail and an elk pasture. Along with the accessible picnic grove, there is also an accessible canoe landing.

Harms Woods North 
Restoration efforts have brought back a variety of native wildflowers to Harms Woods. The area is divided in two by the Chicago River. To the east of the river, visitors can connect with the North Branch Trail System, and to the west folks can explore unpaved trails full of wildflowers, butterflies and birds.

Palos Park Woods North
Located southwest of Chicago, Palos Park Woods provides visitors with a variety of paved trails for activities like walking, biking, cross-country skiing and even equestrian parking for those interested in exploring the area on horseback.

Potawatomi Woods 
Enjoy fishing, model boating, walking and biking trails and cross-country skiing at Potawatomi Woods. Designated model boating areas are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and events with more than 25 participants must obtain a permit.

Tampier Lake West
Tampier Lake is a must-see destination for aquatic adventures. There are opportunities for visitors to fish, ice fish and boat at this recreation area. It features several accessible bathrooms at the boating center, greenway family picnic area and West Lake near Orland Park.

Explore more accessible picnic shelters.

 

Accessible transportation near Chicago

Access the Chicago area’s various outdoor areas via public transportation. Explore wheelchair-accessible transportation options, including Pace Suburban Bus Service’s ADA Paratransit or ADA-accessible taxis and ride-sharing services.