Road trips from Chicago can take you to a variety of different places, but the best often offer small-town charm alongside the tranquility of the natural world. Around Chicago, you'll find quite a few inviting small towns that offer all the charm you'd expect along with many of the city's conveniences as well. The parks and nature areas you'll find near Chicago are well maintained and offer extensive walking paths. Watersports are especially popular around the Windy City, with numerous destinations offering easy access to lakes and rivers after just a short drive. Find out more about the 10 best road trips near Chicago to plan your next adventure.

    1

    Lake Geneva, WI

    Visit a weekend oasis

    Lake Geneva, WI, is one of the most popular holiday destinations near Chicago, offering plenty of aquatic adventures and a booming food and drink scene. While you're here, you can take to the water in a boat or just hit up the coast for a bit of fishing and relaxation. The food scene here offers diverse dining experiences, with everything from simple and casual diners to fancier sit-down restaurants. Most of the fare on offer is classic Americana with a focus on seafood. You'll find Lake Geneva about an hour and a half northwest of Chicago.

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    2

    Starved Rock State Park, IL

    Explore bluffs and canyons

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    Starved Rock State Park, in IL, is a scenic natural area known for its canyons and its towering bluffs, which often feature sparkling waterfalls and leafy trees. Given the amount of trees and flora in the area, autumn is the most popular season to visit, as you can see the array of red and orange colours all across the park. If you're looking to get active on your trip, you'll find 13 miles of trails amongst the 18 distinct canyons throughout the park. It's one of the most popular parks in all of Illinois in part because it's just 2 hours to the southwest of Chicago by car.

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    Vieta: 2678 E 875th Rd, Oglesby, IL 61348, USA

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    3

    Saugatuck, MI

    Visit the Oval Beach

    Saugatuck, MI, is home to Oval Beach, one of the Midwest's most iconic beaches and a great place to relax on the shore or venture out in a boat. Kayaking and sailing are the most popular ways to explore the waters off the beach, and both are available for rent in the area. Paddleboat rides are available as well. Saugatuck also has a bustling art scene with local artists eager to capture the natural beauty of the area. You can explore all sorts of galleries, with some even offering their works for sale. You'll find Saugatuck in Michigan, just 2.5 hours northeast from Chicago.

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    4

    Elkhart Lake, WI

    Visit a charming and laid-back lake

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    Elkhart Lake, WI, is a quaint hideaway boasting a 292-acre lake that's popular for fishing and an inviting protected park area with nature trails. You can take a kayak or paddleboard out into the water, or you can simply go for a swim in the calm, inviting waters. The surrounding nature trails are quite expansive, especially within the Kettle Moraine State Forest. You'll even find a section of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, a 1,200-mile-long trail stretching across multiple states. You can find Elkhart Lake about 2.5 hours north of Chicago.

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    Nuotraukos autorius: The Osthoff Resort (CC BY-SA 4.0) Pakeista

    5

    Galena, IL

    Find small-town charm

    Galena, IL, offers a nice break from the big city with its cobblestone streets lined with historic mansions and the tranquil rolling hills on the outskirts. The historic district in town has more than 1,000 buildings that are over a century old and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Outside of the town, you'll find walking trails amongst the hills and easy access to the Mississippi River, which is perfect for rafting trips. You can even go skiing on Chestnut Mountain if you visit during the winter. You'll find Galena just 3 hours northwest of Chicago.

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    6

    Richland County, WI

    Enjoy a secluded outdoor adventure

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    Richland County, WI, is the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city, as it offers isolated cabins from which you can enjoy the surrounding fields and hills. The Pine River Recreation Trail and others are available throughout the area, so it's easy to find outdoor fun. The Pine River Recreation Trail is traversable by bike and on foot, and it'll take you past an abandoned railway track with several rustic bridges. You can find it all about 3.5 hours northwest of Chicago.

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    7

    Door County, WI

    Visit the Cape Cod of the Midwest

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    Door County, WI, comprises several little towns on a peninsula that's nestled between Lake Michigan and Green Bay and boasts dozens of beaches and 5 parks. The beaches are quite relaxing, and the crowds are much less intense than they are back in the city. If you're looking for more secluded areas, you'll find everything you need in Ridges Sanctuary with its lighthouse-ridden shoreline. Farming is a fairly prominent practice in the area, and the best restaurants utilise fresh, local ingredients in their offerings. On your visit, you can also tour some orchards and farms yourself and shop around farm stands and country stores. Door County is about 4.5 hours north of Chicago.

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    8

    Traverse City, MI

    Get a taste of luxury

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    Traverse City, MI, is a resort town that features scenic waterfronts and forests along with towering dunes of sand for the ultimate outdoor adventure. Situated along West Grand Traverse Bay and East Grand Traverse Bay, the city offers miles of coastline with plenty of room to relax and explore. Both popular and secluded beaches can be found with conveniences like shops and facilities just a few steps away. This city is also near the M-22, which is one of the most iconic drives in the country, thanks to its stunning views. It's especially powerful when you visit in the fall and see the warm colours that have overtaken the greenery. You'll find this city about 5 hours northeast of Chicago.

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    9

    Shawnee National Forest, IL

    Enjoy some solitude

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    Shawnee National Forest, in IL, is a sprawling protected natural area that's composed of 280,000 acres of forested land with 7 wilderness areas and attractions like vineyards. One of the most iconic locations within this forest is the Garden of the Gods Wilderness, which is known for its impressive geological rock features and scenic views of the expansive forest. The Shawnee Hills Wine Trail is a popular destination for travellers looking to explore the local vineyards. The trail is 35 miles long and features 11 different wineries along its path, and you can explore them all. This forest is about 5.5 hours southwest of Chicago.

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    10

    Vilas County, WI

    Explore the Wisconsin Northwoods

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    Vilas County, WI, is home to the legendary Wisconsin Northwoods, where you'll find the largest collection of freshwater lakes in the world and a massive forest. The area is home to upwards of 1,300 lakes and 73 streams and rivers that are perfect for exploring and fishing. The 661,000-acre Nicolet National Forest features walking and biking trails, fishing lakes, recreation areas, picnicking spots, and plenty of scenic drives. You'll find Vilas County about 311 miles northwest of Chicago.

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