What better way to celebrate National Trails Day on Saturday, the American Hiking Society's annual celebration of the country's trails, than to go out on one?
Here are my top picks for a nice hike, by category:
Beverly Lake: The sign and parking lot are on Illinois Highway 72/Higgins Road just west of Beverly Road. Take the trail on the west side of the lake, but don't take the turnoff to the right that circles the lake; go straight and you will enter the cross-country ski-trail system.
Spring Creek Valley Headwaters: The heavily rutted road to the parking lot is on Illinois 72/Higgins Road just west of Old Sutton Road. Take any trail; I like to head for the tree-covered bluffs in the distance.
Indiana Dunes: I'm partial to the trails at Indiana Dunes State Park, though the National Lakeshore is nothing to sneeze at. Try Trail 8, a 1.5-mile romp up and down three of those remarkable tree-covered sand dunes, and enjoy the dune-top views of Lake Michigan.
Indiana Dunes State Park, in Chesterton, Ind., is 55 miles from downtown Chicago on Indiana Highway 49. For more information, call 219-926-1952 or visit chicago tribune.com/hike-indiana-dunes.
That's "beauty," for those who like your words as long as your hikes. For classic vistas of woods and lakes, head to the Palos Preserves and hike around Tomahawk Slough in Wolf Road Woods. You'll walk about 3 miles and get views of two sloughs and Bullfrog Lake.
Take 95th Street west from U.S. Highway 45 until it turns south onto Wolf Road. Go to the last parking lot, turn right and park at the end. Look for the orange-marked trail head, follow the trail and keep turning right to make a loop around the slough.
North Pond: Walk around this charming lagoon and check out turtles, butterflies, dragonflies, ducks, wildflowers and general serene beauty amid the city. The pond is in Lincoln Park behind the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. The Chicago Park District's North Pond Web page is at chicagotribune .com/hike-northpond.
Convenience/ western suburbs
Want to end your hike with a cool-down through Oakbrook Shopping Center? Just across Illinois Highway 83 from the mall, check out the nearly 1-mile path through the bucolic backyard of Oakbrook Terrace. The path from the Lake View Nature Center to Dorothy Drennon Park follows a stream and is dotted with benches. Add to your walk with a stroll around the small lake near the nature center, which beckons with snakes and turtles.